Is A Collie A Good First Dog? (For A New Dog Owner)

Collies are usually not a good first dog, since inexperienced dog owners may be easily overwhelmed with collies’ unusually high requirements for training, exercise, and mental stimulation.

Collies are some of the most common breeds in animal shelters due in part to new owners not being prepared for the vast amount of time and effort required to look after a collie.

In spite of this, collies are a very rewarding breed to live with, and could be a great first dog for an owner who knows what they are getting in to and who has the time to properly train their new collie.

If you’re thinking about getting a collie for your first dog, it’s important to consider their high requirement for mental stimulation and physical exercise and ask yourself honestly if you have the time to look after them. It’s more work than you think, even for older collies!

In this article, we’re going to look at exactly what it takes to look after a collie, and what type of person a collie is suitable for. We’re also going to look at some of the training and exercise requirements for collies and think about what that means for a new dog owner.

are collies good for people who have never had a dog before?

Collies are not a great choice for people who have never had a dog before. Collies are high maintenance and require a vast training and exercise commitment to prevent behavioral problems, however even for new dog owners if you’re willing to put in the work collies are extremely rewarding dogs to look after.

Unless you are sure you have enough time to commit to exercising and training a collie then stay clear of this breed or be prepared for them to make your life a misery as they find the most outrageous (often highly destructive) ways to release their masses of excess energy.

Collies are difficult dogs to live with an need a lot of training and exercise. They will not be happy with a 10 minute walk in the park to then come home and be expected to rest. Collies are constantly on the go and need an owner who can keep up with them!

Collies require a minimum of two hours off leash exercise every single day and lots of mental stimulation too. This is because they are such an intelligent dog breed that they need to keep their minds focused on a task or else it will lead to undesirable, often destructive behaviors.

Luna slotted right into my outdoor lifestyle and truly made a perfect first dog.

What makes a good first dog?

A good first dog should be highly trainable and have a naturally friendly temperament towards other dogs and people.

A good first dog should fit with your lifestyle. There is no point getting a lap dog if you plan to take it hiking. Equally, there is nothing worse than owning a working breed if you are just looking for a companion for casual park walks. Take time to research a breed to ensure its characteristics will fit with your lifestyle.

For new dog owners it may be a shock to learn just how much of a commitment a dog requires as you are responsible for their health, happiness and general wellbeing. Making sure you choose the right breed of dog for your lifestyle is important.

High energy working breeds like collies may develop separation anxiety if you work long hours and they are left alone often. This is a problem that first time dog owners won’t appreciate when they are trying to get to grips with all the other responsibility and commitments of owning a new dog.

Why are collies not good first dogs?

Collies really are not an ideal dog breed for first time dog owners, unless your lifestyle is already suited to a collies requirements. Lets explore a few reasons below why collies generally don’t make good first dogs.

1: Collies aren’t easy to care for

Collies are high maintenance dogs. They need hours each day just dedicated to them and nothing else. Without providing adequate exercise and mental stimulation a collie will cause chaos and wreak havoc in your life.

2: Collies are accident prone

Collies have an ability to focus (almost neurotically) on the one thing. There is a reason this breed of dog is used for herding, because they have the ability to concentrate fully on the task in hand to herd sheep no matter what is going on round about them.

This all sounds great until the task in hand is chasing a ball. Picture the ball going through a barb wire fence…now picture your collie also charging through the fence.

The result is a pricey trip tot he vet. Think that will never happen? Ok, picture hiking with your collie…now picture your collie dropping their ball down the side of the hill and rampaging after it, tripping over rough terrain and straining or worse, breaking a leg.

Sometimes collies are just too focused for their own good and run after their much loved ball with no regard for their own wellbeing.

The result, you have an accident prone dog who may make several trips to the vet over their lifetime. These vet trips will be costly so you will want to invest in some good insurance for your collie to help cover the costs.

Luna will soon have a loyalty card at the vets with all of her mishaps….

3: Collies need lots of mental stimulation

Collies need to keep their minds busy and occupied or else they will find other (often destructive) ways to entertain themselves. Collies need lots of puzzle toys and one on one time spent learning tricks or developing their training with their owner. Check out our ‘Mental Stimulation Ideas For Collies‘ article for some top tips.

4: Collies are prone to compulsive behavior

Collies are more likely than other breeds to develop compulsive behaviors because they are naturally quite obsessive dogs. This can include chasing flies, chasing shadows, or even incessant licking!

These behaviors generally develop because a collies needs are not being met and can reduce the quality of your collies life. So, you must ensure you will be able to meet a collies demanding needs before deciding they are the right dog breed for you.

5: Collies need loads of exercise

Think 30 minutes walking in the pouring rain is bad? Well collies need at least 2 hours of off leash exercise every single day come rain or shine! Without adequate exercise your collie may develop behavioral problems. Read our ‘Guide to Exercising With Your Collie‘ for some fun ideas how you and your collie can exercise together!

6: Collies can’t be left alone

Collies are prone to suffering separation anxiety and can become distressed if left alone for long periods. This makes collies a challenging breed to own for people who work long or irregular shifts. Read more about this in the ‘How To Prevent Separation Anxiety in Collies‘.

Are collies good for inexperienced dog owners?

Collies are not good for inexperienced dog owners, since they require a lot of training and exercise, and they can be prone to behavioral problems which have to be carefully managed. Collies are exceptionally demanding dogs to live with and have a lot more needs than other dog breeds.

Collies require a specific positive training approach and they can suffer from traits that are difficult to train out of them without in depth knowledge of the breed, such as chasing cars and nipping.

A cute dog on the beach
Collies demand a lot of exercise, more than any other breed. Before you get a collie, seriously consider whether or not your lifestyle is a good fit for them.

Are border collies a good first dog?

For the average person, Border Collies are probably not a good first dog. Border Collies require at least two hours of off-leash exercise every day and lots of daily mental stimulation to keep their minds healthy and avoid behavioral problems. The amount of training Border Collies need can be overwhelming for a new dog owner.

However, if you are an outdoorsy individual who regularly goes hiking, camping, running or even cycling then a collie could be your perfect first dog.

Collies love to spend time outdoors so if your hobbies already lend themselves to an outdoor lifestyle then a collie could be a perfect option to tag along with you on your adventures.

Border collies require a lot of training but with this training they really can be perfect companions. You must ensure you have a few hours spare each day to invest into training your collie so if you work long hours and like to hit the gym or grab a few drinks at a bar after work then a border collie will not be a good first dog for you.

Are Rough Collies a good first dog?

Rough collies require at least two hours of off-leash exercise every single day and lots of daily training and mental stimulation to prevent compulsive or destructive behaviors. In addition to all of that, rough collies have a long coat that can be quite tough to maintain and might be more work than an inexperienced dog owner would expect.

Do you have the patience to wash and dry your rough collie after every muddy walk? Their coats require substantial time and effort and mud easily gets stuck to their long fur which can become matted if not groomed regularly.

If you do not want to spend a minimum hour per day simply maintaining a dogs coat, then its best to stay clear of rough collies.

Unless you really do have several spare hours each day and are willing to invest this time into walking, training and grooming then a rough collie is not a good first dog.

However, if you lead an active lifestyle and regularly go hiking, running or cycling and can spare some additional time for grooming then a rough collie could just be your perfect first dog.

About the author:

About the author:

Hollie and Border Collie

 Stuart MacPherson

Colliepedia Editor

 Stuart MacPherson

Colliepedia Editor

I'm an experienced collie owner from Scotland. I started Colliepedia to share everything I know about collies. All the pictures you see on colliepedia are of my beloved collie Luna

Learn More about me and Luna's story on the about page!