Trying to choose between a Golden Retriever vs. a Border Collie?
Both of these breeds are intelligent dogs, historically bred to work closely and cooperatively with their humans.
But they also have traits that make them very different from each other, so you’ll want to look closely at what makes both Goldens and Border Collies unique.
First, we’ll start with at an overview of each breed, then we’ll go through some important categories that can help you make the best decision on which dog is right for you, including:
- Energy levels
- How much they bark
- How good they are with kids
- How good they are with other dogs and other animals
- And much, much more!
Golden Retriever Overview
Golden Retrievers are friendly, happy dogs who thoroughly enjoy the company of their human companions.
Historically, they were bred to retrieve shot birds as a hunting partner, so they are genetically wired to form a close, cooperative bond with their owner.
While there is variety within every breed, Goldens are known to have that “never met a stranger” vibe and a “just happy to be here” attitude towards life.
They are an active breed, so they will need plenty of physical and mental exercise so they can settle nicely around the house.
Goldens learn quickly and thrive off positive attention, while exuding stable, trustworthy energy.
Border Collie Overview
Border Collies are extremely smart dogs who are very energetic, alert, and enthusiastic about their job, whether it’s herding sheep or doing some impressive tricks.
Widely known as the most intelligent dog breed, Border Collies were traditionally bred to herd sheep on farms, which requires them to work in tandem with their owner who instructs the dog on how to move the flock.
Many Border Collies today are still working farm dogs, fulfilling their original purpose, but others do great in dog sports, such as agility, obedience and disc, or as active companions.
They come in both a smooth and rough coat, and many color varieties, including black and white, red and white, and merle.
As a herding breed, they come with an innate desire to control moving objects, and it takes a dedicated owner to ensure their instinct and intelligence are properly channeled.
Border collies need lots of exercise and mental stimulation in order to feel content.
They tend to bond tightly with their family, but can be reserved toward strangers.
They are complex, highly aware dogs that can truly astound you with their abilities.
Most Golden Retrievers do well with about an hour of exercise per day.
Walks, hikes, or playtime in the yard are all excellent outlets that most Goldens love.
They really enjoy time spent outside in nature.
This is typically enough to satisfy their exercise requirements so that you can enjoy a nice, calm dog around the house.
Border Collies are more energetic, requiring more exercise to feel content.
Two hours a day should hit the spot for most Border Collies.
They also enjoy walks, hikes and playtime, but might also need some more interesting activities.
This is a breed that often thrives in dog sports, so enrolling them in a class such as agility, obedience or nosework can help meet that need.
You have to be careful though, as Border Collies will often ask their human, “Okay, that was fun, but what’s next?” and you can easily create a monster that needs constant activity.
You’ll want to balance all the fun, high energy exercise, training and games with teaching them how to simply settle and rest around the house, as it doesn’t always come naturally.
Both breeds need committed owners who can provide adequate exercise daily.
They both love time spent outdoors with their owner and are definitely not couch potato types.
But exercising a Border Collie can be a little bit like a part-time job.
While a nice, long neighborhood walk is probably enough to tire a Golden out, that’s just a warm-up for a Border Collie.
With either breed, you’ll want to be careful about fetch; it can be a great outlet, but it can also create obsessive behavior due to the repetitive nature of the game.
Golden Retrievers shed a lot, year-round, and also shed more during certain the spring and fall.
They have double coats, so they’ll need routine brushing (every 1 to 3 days) to keep it under control.
Border Collies also shed, but it’s not as profuse as the Golden Retriever.
The amount of shedding can depend on the type of coat they have (smooth coats are single, rough coats are double), with the rough-coated variety shedding more.
Just like Goldens, they shed year-round, with heavier shedding seasons a couple times a year, so they’ll need regular brushing (1 to 2 times a week).
No matter which of these two breeds you land on, shedding will be part of daily life.
Buy lots of lint rollers, a good vacuum, and match your furniture to your dog’s color, if the fur will bother you.
Investing in the right grooming tools can also make grooming much easier, and help you remove a lot of the dead fur.
Goldens do shed a bit more than Border Collies, and are also larger than Border Collies, so that also means even more fur to deal with.
Goldens are smart dogs who are very people-oriented.
This means they usually catch on quickly and are easy to train.
There’s a reason Golden Retrievers are so popular as service dogs — they are very intuitive and intelligent.
Border Collies are the brainiacs of the dog world.
Seriously, they are major overachievers, and need an owner who can find appropriate outlets for their intelligence.
(Watch this incredible video of Chaser the Border Collie who knows the names of over 1,000 individual toys!)
They are fast learners and absolutely love training with their human.
A genius dog might sound like it would make life easier, but in some ways it can actually make your life harder because they can sometimes outsmart you, and need a lot of mental enrichment.
Both breeds are highly trainable.
Both of their historical purposes required them to listen closely to their humans and work cooperatively together, so this works in your favor when it comes to training.
Golden Retrievers are probably simpler to train, from an owner perspective.
Border Collies are crazy smart, which can sometimes make them a bit more complex when it comes to training, especially for a less experienced owner.
So even though Border Collies tend to learn faster than Golden Retrievers, that doesn’t always make them easier to train.
A big brain means more work and responsibility for you as the human.
They might vocalize when a package is delivered, or if they see a squirrel out the window, but on the whole, they are a fairly quiet breed.
Border Collies tend to be barkier than Golden Retrievers.
Overall, Border Collies are just more intense than Goldens and so they tend to bark more.
Every dog is a unique individual, and you’ll find very quiet and very barky dogs from both breeds.
But generally, the Border Collie is going to be more of a loudmouth than the Golden Retriever.
How Are They With Other People?
This is a breed that is known for being highly social.
They generally love meeting new people and getting attention from new friends.
Golden Retrievers should be confident and friendly around other people that are not their family.
Border Collies tend to adore their family, and are often more reserved with people they don’t know.
Once they get to know the person, they are affectionate and sweet.
They usually have no issue being around people, but may not want to interact with them in the way that a Golden Retriever does.
The Golden Retriever is more of a social butterfly and is happy to engage with people outside of their family.
Border Collies are certainly not aggressive, but are usually much more affectionate with their family than with strangers.
Are They Good with Kids?
Most Goldens excel as family companions.
They are good-natured, even-keel dogs that make a great friend for kids of all ages.
Because they are large, happy dogs, they can sometimes accidentally push smaller kids over, so it’s always a good idea to have adult supervision when the dog is with kids.
Border Collies can make good family dogs, but their herding instinct can sometimes be activated by children.
It’s not uncommon for them to nip at kids in an attempt to herd them.
This is not aggressive behavior, but it can still be problematic.
They are loyal and can enjoy playing fun games with kids, but will need training and supervision to prevent issues with nipping.
The Golden Retriever is more of a natural fit when it comes to a nice, family dog.
It’s not that Border Collies can’t make excellent companions for families with kids, but the Golden Retriever is better suited for this role.
No matter which breed you go with, kids need to be educated on how to politely interact with dogs, and adults should always supervise to make sure everyone is safe and happy.
How Are They With Other Dogs?
Goldens usually get along well with other dogs and enjoy playing together.
Sometimes they can get over-excited about other dogs, and might be a bit rambunctious during play.
Every Golden Retriever is unique, so there will be some that prefer to keep to themselves, but as a whole, they are a very friendly breed when it comes to other dogs.
In a survey we did recently, we found that 31.6% of Golden Retriever owners have more than one dog and 57% of those people have a Golden plus another breed.
Most Border Collies are more interested in their human than in other dogs.
Typically, they can coexist well with other dogs, they just might not be up for a lot of playing.
Sometimes Border Collies can be controlling of other dogs, which stems back to their herding instincts, and so dynamics will need to be managed by you as their owner.
Again, each dog is unique, so there will be a range of dog sociability among Border Collies, but as a breed, they are less social than Golden Retrievers when it comes to other dogs.
Neither breed is known for being aggressive with other dogs.
If you have a multi-dog household, sometimes Border Collies can try to herd the other dogs, or take it upon themselves to control their movement around the house.
Within Golden Retrievers, resource guarding toys and bones is unfortunately common, so this is something you will want to manage as well.
Generally, Goldens are more easy-going and social than Border Collies.
How Are They With Other Animals?
If properly introduced, Golden Retrievers can get along well with other pets such as cats.
Some Goldens may have a desire to chase smaller animals, but training can help with that.
Many Goldens form close bonds with other species, and can be playful and cuddly.
In the survey we did, we found that 25.3% of people who own a Golden Retriever also own a cat.
Border Collies generally coexist quite well with other animals.
This breed has low prey drive, which means they usually are not inclined to chase and grab smaller animals.
They might try to herd a cat though, so a proper introduction and training are necessary.
Both breeds can do well with other animals in the home, but the Golden Retriever is probably a better fit if you have cats or small critters around because of the Border Collie’s herding instincts.
Even still, you will need to train them how to act around other animals to avoid any conflicts or harm.
Goldens are beloved for their sweet, even-tempered personalities.
They are playful, silly and really just want to be your best friend.
Some can be a bit sensitive, but not overly so.
A well-bred Golden should be a nice, stable dog who is confident and pleasant to be around.
It’s been said that Border Collies are humans in dog suits.
They are high-drive, complex dogs who can have big feelings.
Border Collies are incredibly devoted and eager to please their owner.
They are an interesting mix of sensitive and tenacious, and are also extremely perceptive of their surroundings.
Border Collies are intense workaholics, but with a soft, loving side.
Goldens and Border Collies have very different temperaments, so it’s important to understand what really makes them tick before you commit.
While both are responsive and attentive to their humans, the way that is expressed looks pretty different for each breed.
Overall, the Golden Retriever is more laidback, while the Border Collie is more intense.
While they might thoroughly enjoy spending time in the great outdoors, Golden Retrievers are a very adaptable breed.
If you can ensure their physical and mental exercise needs are met, they can do well in a house, condo, or apartment in a variety of settings from a ranch to suburbia to a metropolitan city.
Their easy-going nature helps them acclimate to the different sights and sounds of their environment.
Because Border Collies can be more sensitive, not all will thrive in a busier environment such as a city or even a boisterous house.
All the commotion can be quite stressful for them, and they can feel very out of their element.
Some can adapt just fine, but they generally do better with a quieter, more spacious lifestyle.
No matter the breed or your lifestyle, it’s important to socialize a puppy from an early age to help them feel okay about novel stuff.
If you’re a city-dweller, or your home environment is a bit chaotic, the Golden Retriever will be the better fit.
If you’ve got more space, and your home is fairly quiet, either breed will mesh well with your lifestyle.
The American Kennel Club gives the following ranges for female and male Golden Retrievers:
Females: 55 to 65 lbs, 21.5 to 22.5 inches tall
Males: 65 to 75 lbs, 23 to 24 inches tall
There are certainly Goldens who are smaller or larger than this range though, and size can vary a lot even among related dogs.
For Border Collies, the American Kennel Club gives the following size ranges:
Females: 30 to 55 lbs, 18 to 21 inches tall
Males: 30 to 55 lbs, 19 to 22 inches tall
Again, there are definitely Border Collies that fall outside this range.
Goldens are not hypoallergenic, so if you are allergic to dogs, there is a chance you’ll be allergic to this breed.
Allergies are complicated though, and so there is no guarantee that you’ll be allergic to one dog or another.
It’s possible to do just fine with one Golden Retriever, but a different one gets your allergies going.
Just like Goldens, Border Collies are not hypoallergenic, and it’s possible they could activate your allergies.
If you’re dead set on one of these breeds, but you are allergic to dogs, you can talk with your doctor about allergy medications that will allow you to live happily with your hairy companion.
According to the American Kennel Club, Golden’s life expectancy is 10 to 12 years.
The American Kennel Club states that Border Collies’ life expectancy is 12 to 15 years.
While it’s never enough time, the Border Collie life expectancy gives you a few extra years of love and companionship compared to Golden Retrievers.
PetMD lists the following as common health issues for Golden Retrievers:
- Hip and elbow dysplasia
- Sub-aortic Stenosis (SAS)
- Mast cell tumors
- Eye disorders
- Skin issues
PetMD lists the following as common health issues for Border Collies:
- Progrssive Renal Atrophy
- Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA)
- Hip dysplasia
- Collie eye anomaly (CEA)
- Compulsive behavior
Both Goldens and Border Collies have health issues, some minor and some major, so it’s very important to talk to breeders and understand the health of their dogs.
The Golden Retriever Club of America recommends that breeders do certain tests on any dog they intend to breed, so you can request test results from a breeder to ensure their dogs are healthy.
The Border Collie Society of America also has recommendations for breeders to follow, which you can ask to see.
Breeders should be tracking the health of their own dogs, as well as the dogs they produce, and good breeders will be forthcoming with this information.
Routine veterinary care, quality food, and healthy lifestyle habits can also contribute to the overall health and longevity of your dog, no matter the breed.
Even the lovable, happy-go-lucky Golden Retriever can experience behavior issues such as:
- Sound sensitivity or phobias
- Resource guarding
- Jumping on people
- Counter surfing
- Destructive Chewing
- Grabbing things with their mouth, such as the remote or your arm
- Pulling on leash
- Separation Anxiety
Border Collies can experience behavior issues such as:
- Compulsive behavior
- Behavior associated with herding
- Destructive chewing
- Resource guarding
- Separation Anxiety
No breed is perfect, so it’s important to set them up for success with proper training and socialization to try to prevent these behavior issues from cropping up.
Neither breed is known for aggressive behavior, but it can happen.
Just as with health issues, behavior issues can be genetic, so it’s critical to do thorough research and ask questions of the breeder.
If you’re able, meet the parents of the litter and related dogs before you commit to getting a puppy so you can see what they’re like in real life.
A good breeder should be honest with you about any behavior issues their dogs have, and can even connect you with folks who have gotten a puppy from a previous litter so you can see how their pup is doing.
Behavior issues also tend to arise when the dog’s needs are not being met, no matter the breed, so it will be important to ensure their needs are met to avoid dealing with problematic behavior.
Golden Retriever puppies range in price from $1,000 to $3,500 depending on the breeder and geographical location.
Border Collies generally start at about $600 and go up to $1500, though puppies with certain lineage may cost three or four times that amount.
While the Border Collie might be cheaper, that should be the last point of consideration when making a decision on which breed of dog to get.
It’s also important to find a breeder that really prioritizes health and temperament, rather than buying the cheapest puppy you can find.
Remember that the cost of the puppy is only the first of many expenses when it comes to dog ownership.
Golden Retrievers and Border Collies are two very different breeds and will provide you with two very different dog ownership experiences.
A Golden Retriever is more likely to fulfill the more classic expectation of life with a dog: up for anything so long as it’s with you, whether it’s fetch in the yard, a walk at the park, a hike in the forest, or cuddles on the couch.
Of course, they will need plenty of exercise and training, but they tend to fit more seamlessly into the average family’s routine.
Goldens are generally social and get along well with other people, dogs and animals.
Owning a Border Collie, on the other hand, is a lifestyle in itself.
They require more thoughtfulness when it comes to their care, so that they remain balanced.
Their intelligence and energy is both awe-inspiring and a little crazy-making at times, so it’s important that you teach them how to relax.
Border Collies can be a bit more sharp and sensitive.
They’re both very loyal dogs, who will give you many years of love and great memories.
The key is to be realistic with your lifestyle and what traits are important to you when making the decision.
Think about what kind of life you can provide to a dog, and then which breed would be happiest with that life.
When your dog is happy, you’re happy!
Have any questions about Golden Retrievers vs. Border Collies?
Have you had one of these two breeds?
Let us know down in the comments!
And if you’re still considering which breed to get, check out these other posts:
- Golden Retriever vs. Irish Setter
- Golden Retriever vs. German Shepherd
- Golden Retriever vs. Golden Doodle
- Golden Retriever vs. Labrador
- Golden Retriever vs. Beagle
- Golden Retriever vs. Husky
- Golden Retriever vs. Rottweiler
- Golden Retriever vs. Bernese Mountain Dog
- Golden Retriever vs. Australian Shepherd
- Golden Retriever vs. Great Pyrenees
To learn more about whether or not a Golden Retriever is right for you, take the Golden Retriever Quiz!
And if you’ve decided on getting a Golden Retriever, check out this article on how to raise a Golden Retriever puppy.
- 500 Golden Retriever Name Ideas
- 23 Facts About English Cream Golden Retrievers You Probably Didn’t Know
- 8 Types Of Golden Retriveers (With Pictures)
About the author:
Alisa Healy is a professional dog trainer in the Chicago suburbs, with a wide range of training experience from shelters to in-home training to dog sports. She is a Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner and is passionate about helping people and dogs live fulfilling, harmonious lives together.