Borador

Stuart Fitzgerald
Dr Stuart Fitzgerald (MVB MANZCVS, University College Dublin)
 
Photo of adult Borador
kennykunie / Flickr.com

Boradors are highly energetic, medium to large dogs that are gaining hugely in popularity, both as pets and as very capable service dogs. With two skilful working parents, the Labrador Retriever and Border Collie, the Borador is a highly intelligent dog that is easy to train. The sweet, gentle temperament inherited from the Lab is often complemented by a protective instinct from the Collie, and these traits combine to produce a wonderful family dog that will shower affection upon children while keeping them safe from danger. Boradors need lots of exercise, both because of their high energy levels and their tendency to gain weight if sedentary. They are best suited to active households where they will be given the opportunity to walk, run, or swim for more than an hour daily.

Unlike many of the other popular hybrids, the Borador has a coat that sheds fairly heavily, but it does not require a great deal of grooming. It is generally a very healthy dog, and has a good life expectancy of 13–15 years. Skin allergies are quite common in this cross-breed, and prospective owners should make sure that the Labrador parent, in particular, is free from developmental joint diseases. This can be ascertained from hip and elbow scores that can be provided from the British Veterinary Association, which should be available from the breeder on request.

About & History

The Borador appears to have originated in the United States in the recent past, in perhaps the last 10 to 15 years. The combination of two intelligent, working parent breeds lends this hybrid a huge array of talents, and it is noted for its intelligence, keen nose, herding prowess, and protective instincts. Such a range of abilities has led to a surge in demand for Boradors as service dogs, and they are increasingly employed as police drug and bomb detection dogs in search and rescue, and as guide dogs for the blind. They also tend to do very well in competition, and may be seen in agility, obedience, and tracking trials.

Appearance

Borador Large Photo
kennykunie / Flickr.com

Hybrid dogs, such as the Borador, can often resemble one parent more strongly than the other, and within a litter of Borador pups, one would expect to find one or two at each end of the Lab–Border Collie spectrum. However, most tend to be somewhere between, and Boradors generally look like very sturdy, large Border Collies, as the Collie’s coat colour and markings tend to overwhelm the Labrador’s solid colouration. The head is quite broad, as is the muzzle, and the jaw is strong. Like the Border Collie, the Borador has intelligent, expressive eyes that are usually brown, although they can be quite light in some dogs, especially those with merle colour markings.

The coat is short, reasonably coarse, and usually very glossy. The range of markings and colours seen include the following:

  • Black
  • Brown
  • Tan
  • White in combination with one of the colours above
  • Blue merle
  • Chocolate merle
  • Red merle

The neck and back are sturdy and broad, and the limbs are well-proportioned and muscular with strong bone structure. Most Boradors have the webbed feet of the Labrador, and can be great swimmers given the chance. The tail is reminiscent of the Lab’s, being extremely thick at the base, and tapering gradually. On average, they weigh between 18 and 26 kg (40–57 lb), and are around 50–57 cm (20–22 in) in height, though these ranges should be thought of as only a rough guide, as very small Border Collies and very large Labrador Retrievers abound, and size combinations in individual matings can vary.

Character & Temperament

Although I am solidly opposed to anthropomorphism, it’s sometimes hard not to see human traits in Boradors. These dogs are capable of a huge range of moods, behaviours, and emotions, and can adapt to changing circumstances and owner demands with ease. Although they tend to be clumsy, excitable, and impulsive as puppies, Boradors mature into adults that can be found at various times of the day lounging on a sofa with the children, closely following every move in the kitchen for a dropped treat, chasing the postman from the driveway, or attentively listening to a conversation for a hint at what is being planned.

This is a dog for the whole family, and it is as devoted to the youngest child as to the adults in the home, having something different to offer to each. They are incredibly gentle with youngsters and other pets, although some retain the Collie’s instinct to herd, and may be inclined to herd children by nipping at their ankles. Though this shouldn’t be interpreted as aggression, it does need to be stamped out lest it cause injury. Most Boradors are keen watchdogs, and will put on a good show of barking and posturing to deter strangers. However, they are very rarely aggressive, and quickly warm to newcomers once they have been introduced.

Trainability

The Borador is keen to learn and eager to please, and is capable of learning just about anything the owner desires, as reflected in its success as a working service dog. Basic obedience training should start from eight weeks of age, and this can progress to teaching tricks, or giving the dog a job to do, very quickly. In keeping with their Labrador Retriever heritage, Boradors will do anything for food, so a supply of low-calorie treats is a useful incentive during training sessions.

Health

Serious health problems are uncommon in Boradors, which is not to say one should be lackadaisical when researching the purchase of a new pup. Breeders, even (or especially) of hybrids, should always be willing and able to provide health certificates for the puppy’s parents. In the case of the Borador, hip and elbow scores certified by the British Veterinary Association should be requested for the Lab parent.

  • Allergies – Both skin disease and hay fever-like symptoms are manifestations of allergy that are often encountered in Boradors. Skin problems, in particular, can be very debilitating if not managed properly, and may require lifelong treatment to prevent discomfort and itch adversely impacting on the dog’s quality of life.
  • Collie eye anomaly – A congenital defect of the retina that is inherited from the Border Collie. Although it is not common in cross-breeds, pups should undergo a thorough eye examination by a veterinary surgeon who is willing to certify they are free from the problem.
  • Elbow dysplasia – Developmental abnormalities of the elbow joint. Reasonably common in Labradors, and may be inherited by their pups. Although pups cannot themselves be assessed for elbow dysplasia, the Lab parent should be x-rayed and scored to prevent those affected from passing the problem to the next generation.
  • Hip dysplasia – Similar to elbow dysplasia, in that it is an inherited, developmental problem of the hip joints. Signs do not become obvious until at least five months of age, so, again, it is vital that the parents are hip scored before breeding.
  • Hypothyroidism – Under-activity of the thyroid gland resulting from immune-mediated destruction of glandular tissue in middle-aged dogs. The symptoms can be vague, with weight loss being one of the more obvious changes. Unfortunately, as the Borador is prone to weight gain, this alone cannot be used to diagnose the condition. Hair loss and lethargy are also very common.
  • Progressive retinal atrophy – A condition causing blindness in adult dogs through degeneration of the retinal nerve cells responsible for transmitting light signals to the brain. Common in many pedigree breeds, including both the Border Collie and Labrador.

Exercise and Activity Levels

Boradors should always be viewed as working dogs – they just happen to also be great pets. Without lots of exercise and mental stimulation, they will not only rapidly gain weight, but also become bored and restless. A young, healthy Borador needs a minimum of one hour of vigorous activity every day, and will enjoy much more than this when possible.

Grooming

The short coat is easy to maintain, with once-weekly brushing being all that is needed for most of the year. The Borador has two very heavy moults, in the spring and autumn, when more regular brushing may be warranted to prevent huge deposits of hair being left around the house. Bathing is very rarely necessary, as this type of coat is almost self-cleaning. As Labradors have exceptionally waxy ears, Boradors may also need their ears cleaned with a suitable oily solution once a fortnight to prevent build-up of debris within the ear canal.

Daily tooth brushing should be a part of every dog’s routine, and is easiest to introduce during puppyhood, when dogs are generally more willing to accept new experiences and inconveniences. Similarly, nail clipping, which is required occasionally in most dogs that are not constantly walking on paved surfaces, should be carried out with care in young dogs to ensure this is less stressful in adulthood.

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