Choosing between a border collie vs. a golden retriever is tricky because both are among the most intelligent and friendliest dog breeds.
Goldens and collies have a lot in common but also several important distinctions that make them better suitable for specific purposes.
Consider whether you’re looking for a family pet, hunting companion, protection, or working dog. There’s no dog bad or good, but there are dogs that fit or don’t fit your needs and lifestyle.
The primary differences between border collies and golden retrievers lie in temperament, shedding, barking levels, and potential behavior problems.
Both breeds are worthy of your attention, but you should be ready to invest the time and effort into training, grooming, and exercise because they aren’t low-maintenance dogs.
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Size & Weight
Golden retrievers and border collies are medium-sized dogs, but collies are slightly shorter and leaner. Golden retriever males weigh 65-75 pounds and are 22-24 inches tall, whereas females are 21-22 inches tall and weigh 55-65 pounds.
Border collie males weigh up to 45 pounds and reach 22 inches in height. Females don’t exceed 21 inches in height and weigh about 42 pounds.
Golden retrievers are among the most shedding dogs, which may be problematic for people with allergies and those who do not have time for frequent cleaning.
Golden retrievers have double coats – a dense, fluffy undercoat that makes them water-repellent and a long overcoat. Twice a year, they completely change the undercoat, so shedding becomes nearly unbearable.
Border collies are moderate shedders. They, too, have a long coat, so the shedding is noticeable, but they don’t have the fluffy undercoat of goldens. Still, twice a year, they go through an intense shedding phase.
Golden retrievers are friendly, active, affectionate, outgoing, and confident dogs. They want to be friends with everyone they meet and love to explore new terrains. These dogs make excellent family pets and are responsive to training.
Border collies are equally friendly, affectionate dogs that love to be in company. They are eager to please the owner and suffer when their favorite human isn’t around. Collies are perfect family dogs.
Overall, border collie and golden retriever temperaments are alike, but collies tend to be more aloof with strangers and protective of owners.
Golden retrievers and border collies get along with children very well. However, while golden retrievers may sometimes be overly goofy and unintentionally knock over a young child, collies are gentler and calmer.
While collies have excellent ethics, their herding instinct may be problematic because they may attempt to chase or nip on a child.
Both breeds are better suitable for older kids who know how to behave with a dog. Kids aged over six are guaranteed to become best friends with either dog.
Golden retrievers are a common choice of families with other pets because of their lovely personalities. They have a low prey drive and are unlikely to chase smaller animals.
Border collies also get along with other pets, including dogs, cats, and rabbits. But because of their relatively high prey drive, they require proper training to prevent confrontation with smaller pets.
Remember that the relationship between pets depends on both, so if another pet is aggressive, the dog will have to defend itself. Aggression is common among intact male dogs.
Barking is certainly a point to consider when choosing a dog breed. Golden retrievers are among the quietest dogs. Although they can bark loudly (the Guinness world record for the loudest bark belongs to a golden), they don’t do it often.
Border collies are notorious barkers. They are easily stimulated and can bark virtually for no reason.
This trait isn’t surprising, considering that collies are a herding breed, but it may be problematic for people living in apartments of parents of young kids.
Intelligence & Trainability
According to canine researcher Stanley Coren, Ph.D., golden retrievers are the fourth smartest dog breed among 138 participants. That’s an impressive result, but border collies excel in terms of intelligence, ranked the first.
Herding sheep requires special intelligence based on creative thinking and problem-solving. The world’s smartest dog is a border collie that knows over 1,000 nouns.
Both breeds are obedient, eager to please, quickly memorize commands, and have excellent problem-solving skills.
They are easy to train and can learn by observing other dogs and the owner’s behavior. Golden retrievers and border collies regularly win obedience championships.
Common Behavior Problems
Golden retrievers and border collies require plenty of physical activity, mental stimulation, and proper training. Otherwise, they may develop behavior problems.
The most common golden retriever behavior problems are separation anxiety, phobias, jumping on people, pulling on the leash, and destructive behavior involving chewing, digging, and whining.
Border collie behavior problems are primarily related to their herding instincts. They may chase and nip on people or other animals. Some collies engage in destructive behavior out of boredom.
Golden retrievers aren’t suitable for a couch life. These dogs have immense energy levels and require at least an hour of exercise daily. Border collie exercise needs are even higher, at least two hours daily.
Golden retrievers need to be brushed daily and bathed at least once in four weeks to maintain the beauty and health of their fur. They don’t need haircuts, but feather trimming will help prevent tangling and keep the fur clean.
Border collie grooming is pretty standard but must be done regularly.
Owners should brush their dogs every several days (more frequently during shedding seasons) and bathe when necessary. Collies also don’t need haircuts but will benefit from light trimming.
A golden retriever’s lifespan is 10-12 years, which isn’t much but adequate for a dog of this size. Border collies live slightly longer on average, for 12-15 years. Note that with proper care, a dog may live longer than expected.
Golden retrievers are susceptible to several inherited and acquired diseases, including progressive retinal atrophy, hip and elbow dysplasia, cancer, obesity, hypothyroidism, ear infections, epilepsy, and sub-aortic stenosis.
Border collies are more prone to seizures, progressive retinal atrophy, hypothyroidism, osteochondrosis, patent ductus arteriosus, hip dysplasia, and collie eye anomaly than an average dog.
Golden retriever puppies from a reputable breeder range from $1,000 to $3,000, although some puppies are available for under $800, and show-quality puppies may cost over $5,000.
Border collies are cheaper, ranging from $700 to $1,800, but puppies with champion lineage may cost several times the amount.
Rescue dogs typically don’t cost over $500, while service dogs exceed $20,000 regardless of the breed.
Suitability for Inexperienced Dog Owners
Golden retrievers are among the best breeds for first-time dog owners. They require plenty of grooming, training, and exercise, but all it takes is time.
Grooming a golden retriever is simple, provided you do it regularly, and so is training because goldens are eager to please.
Border collies may be a bit too intense for inexperienced dog owners. They are crazy smart, so not every owner can find an approach to training and require twice the amount of exercise a golden retriever needs.
Suitability for Apartments
Golden retrievers and border collies can live in apartments if the owner dedicates enough time to exercise the dog. The apartment’s size isn’t the problem, but the location may be. These dogs should have access to open spaces where they can run freely.
Suitability as Service Dogs
Golden retrievers make perfect service dogs. They are friendly to strangers, easily trainable, have excellent problem-solving skills, and are loyal. Furthermore, they are strong and can perform tasks smaller dogs can’t.
Border collies, too, make wonderful service dogs because of their intelligence, loving nature, and willingness to please. However, they must get enough exercise and mental stimulation, or they may become hyperactive in public.
Suitability as Guard or Protection Dogs
Golden retrievers weren’t bred to serve as guard dogs. They are strong and have scary barks, but they are gentle giants who will happily let a stranger pet them. However, they can be trained to be guard dogs from an early age.
Goldens are loyal dogs who will never let anyone hurt their owner and make good protection dogs, particularly for children and disabled people. But these dogs are very affectionate and cannot live outside as guard dogs.
Border collies are more effective guard dogs because they are barkier and more aloof to strangers. They have a higher prey drive and can scare away an intruder before they come close.
Suitability as Hunting Dogs
Golden retrievers were bred to hunt and have everything a great hunting companion needs: intelligence, obedience, athleticism, high stamina, and loyalty. They are best suited for retrieving prey.
Border collies can also become excellent hunting dogs because of their trainability, intelligence, high energy levels, and prey drive. They can also serve as retrieving dogs because of their love for fetch.
The golden retriever is the second most popular dog breed in the U.S., so finding a puppy isn’t a problem.
Collies range from 35th to 38th position on the American Kennel club popularity rank, so they aren’t particularly rare but aren’t as common either.