.I am not biased in any way but you cannot go past a Border Collie. With the woods down the road he will be in his element, especially if you train him to retrieve tennis balls.
I do agree though that trying the rescue groups is a better idea than the shelters. The local Border Collie rescue in your area will usually have a very good idea of what temperament the dog will have and may well be able to produce pedigree papers, an indication that the pups risks of genetic issues may have been checked by the breeder
I would tend to steer you – as a first time dog owner with younger children – away from border collies, unfortunately. My girl is good with children with considerable training and management, but she easily gets overstimulated. She LOVES kids, but her natural tendencies to herd and react to motion/sound/emotion make it hard for be around them when there’s kid craziness. Kids can get her very riled up when they’re playing.I LOVE the border collies, but heard that they often try to herd the kids? Do children make them nervous? What is their energy level like as well?
My girl requires consistency from every member of the family in order to maintain good behavior in the home and in public. She’s smart enough to get away with certain misbehaviors with certain family members. Even on a bad day, she gets 2-3+ hours of intense physical and mental exercise– jogging, fetching at the park, makeshift agility, trick training – and she’ll still harass you with a toy indoors to play all day if you let her.
Border collies, in my experience, are not as bullet-proof as other breeds. By that I mean, inconsistencies in training and irregular exercise may not “ruin” a lab, but it could easily lead to a neurotic, reactive, and highly problematic BC. When you’re a first time dog owner, you make mistakes. It’s natural. My border mix was my first dog. It only worked because I am a perfectionist who did my homework and worked my butt off to get everyone training her on board. I also made changes to my lifestyle to accommodate her. Was it worth it? Absolutely. But not everyone could handle a dog like my Gypsy.
I don’t wish to totally chase you away from the breed. If you think a BC is right for you, go for it. In that case, a rescue might be the way to go to match you with the perfect dog. You might even find a lower key BC at a rescue, if that's what you want. I just think it’s important for people to understand that BCs, on average, are very different from a lab or a standard poodle. They end up in shelters a lot here because they’re too much work for folks.