Both of these breeds are pretty intelligent dogs, but they respond to this problem in very different ways.
Some people are commenting that because the border collie is faster in its retrieval, it therefore must be the more intelligent animal.
But look what’s going on here.
The golden retriever is being very judicious and deliberate. It’s that same sort of behavior that would allow a golden retriever to bring in a wounded pheasant or duck without giving it further damage.
Border collies are great Frisbee dogs. Golden retrievers almost always suck at it. They just aren’t as nutty about jumping up and grabbing things.
Border collies have been bred to move things and make things move. If a border collie needs to use its teeth on stock, it is allowed to– though this is faulted in the border collie NASCAR events. Border collies are a very much a sporting dog that have been bred for almost neurotic behavior. Everyone knows that border collies are smart, but they have another side to them, which actually makes them almost entirely unsuitable for general family pets.
I think one of the byproducts of breeding for a soft mouth is that you get a dog that is deliberate in how it relates to the world. This is why golden retrievers, even those from working lines that have a lot more energy than most family dogs, still make very good pets as well as working dogs. This is why both Labrador and golden retrievers and the crosses between them have proven to be the ultimate assistance dogs. They are biddable and intelligent, but they are deliberate and gentle as the work.
Border collies are geniuses, but they have not been bred with the same sort of “nous” or “sagacity” as a retriever.
And I should note here that as much as I complain about how breeding for a particular conformation in bulldogs has essentially ruined them, breeding for extreme behavior in border collies has had almost the same effect.
The border collie is just too much dog for the typical dog owner– and it’s also why I don’t think the solution to the dog fancy’s problems is to adopt the solution that working border collie people have embraced.
A trial that rewards extreme behavior and popular sire selection is just going to produce a dog that is just as genetically compromised as the show dogs and is going to have behavioral problems that are just as questionable as the bulldog’s health problems.
Now, if border collies were bred more like English shepherds, things might be very different. English shepherds are a real farm dog landrace– not a sporting dog at all. They vary in temperament, but many of them are sort of golden retrieverish in temperament. Others are are more like Chesapeake Bay dogs that are docile and intelligent, but they are good guards.
But they are not trial dogs. A better term for an English shepherd would be “generalist collie.” Because they were always used to do a lot of different things on the farm, they were intentionally bred for sagacity.
And border collies might be canine geniuses, but in some ways they are very limited in their utility.
They have almost gone down the bulldog path, but they have gone along a side road.
This is the over-selection for an extreme temperament in order to win a particular kind of sheep dog trial.
American trial Labradors have undergone a very similar selection, which is one reason why some might prefer a golden retriever or British working Labrador for general gun dog work. In the end, the best retrievers are a balance between docility and sagacity and a strong working drive.
Border collies are all drive and biddablity but are often lacking in docility and deliberation.
That’s why they aren’t my kind of dog.
I don’t care how smart they are.