A lot of the answers I have can only really relate to Quinn, I don't have a lot of experience with BC's in person but I'll add my .2c.
1. How are BC's with smaller dogs, in your experiences? Jackson is 16lbs, so not "tiny" but still small. He has no DA/DR and is pretty much chill with almost every dog he meets and highly enjoys playing with other dogs. Running/chase is probably his favorite game.
Well Quinn is pretty timid of all dogs, even half size yorkies. She can play rough but I think thats mostly because she's been raised in a house of rough playing.
2. With a BC, is it really as important to give sooo much exercise as people say, or is just dependent on each dog?
Quinn does need SOMETHING everyday. But I've been short on time the last week, combine that with her being on heat and the coldest, wettest most miserable weather I have seen in years and she hasn't got out much in the last few days. She's a bit more hyper but okay, today all she got was a 15 minute run/play in the paddocks but she's now settled and asleep at my feet.
A few days in the row without getting a good solid run and something for her head and she's a pain in the butt, jumping all over the cat, snarking the other dogs or obsessing about the horses through the fence. Her offswitch didn't really develop till she was about 14 months old
3. I want a dog who is reliable with children and other dogs - would it be better to get a young BC puppy or get a bit older one who you may already know it's personality better? Or would it be better to raise them from the start around lots of dogs, kids, etc? I like doing "doggy things" with my dog(s) - going to dog events in the area, dog park, bringing them with me on vacation and travels, etc.
I think this is up to you. Quinn is very timid in nature so she doesn't really interact with other people or dogs much but despite this, she's still easy to take to crowded areas.
4. Breeders - can anyone recommend breeders around my area (Maryland). I'd be willing to ship or travel if needed, but I think it'd be nice to have a breeder close by so I could meet/interact with dogs. Also, differences between show lines, working lines, etc? I'm really not interested in having a "show" BC, but I also don't want a dog who is just "omg-never-stop" bred for sports or whatever either. I just want a nice active pet. But I'm really oblivious to the different lines, etc.
Can't help you with sepcific breeders but as for different lines. I will always go for either working, sport or a good mix of the two. I have no interest in confo BC's. They're structure and overall look doesn't appeal to me and IMO, they are missing the vital edge that defines BC's.
6. Coat... smooth or rough... and everything in between? What do you think is the easiest to take care of... does one shed less than the other? How often do you brush a BC and how often do they shed in general?
SMOOTH, SMOOTH, SMOOTH!!! I used to want a medium rough coat but since Quinn I amm so in love with smoothies. Its so easy care, the mud just falls off her, she doesn't really smell, she sheds moderatley but nothing extreme and I don't think I've ever brushed her.
They are such a winning breed to me. But I think the two things thats stand out to me after owning one that I didn't relise before I got Quinn.
A. They are crazy smart and quick. I know this is a given but I always tell people "I was expecting a full on dog and she still surprised me" I think working with Quinn may have helped me train better more than anything else I've done. She needs clear direction. She doesn't generalise well, she's very black and white which can be a blessing and a curse. My mum struggles with her a bit because of how respnsive she can be - but you can use it to your advantage once you get used to it. She's so in tune with me I'm still getting used to it.
B. BC's quirkyness. I didn't hear much about this till I already had Quinn but now I hear about it and I relise all the things I thought were behavioral issues starting are just her odd bits and I LOVE it. Quinn is on the timid side of what I think a good BC should be but she still has some little quirks that crack me up.
For example - opening the fridge the other day, we had a bunch of beetroots on the bottom shelf that Quinn just flat out didn't trust. Even after getting a good look at them, every time I opened the fridge for the rest of the day she came over to keep an eye on them with me.
She doesn't like the car, for no particular reason, she's improved but only begrudgingly gets in now.
She doesn't like harnesses, she acts like they feel disgusting.
She is DR in one particuar town and I don't know why. Its a town 100km away, we go there every week for herding. At the herding facility she's fine with all the dogs but if she see's a dog if we go into town she barks and grumbles at them. Its the only place I've seen her like this and it seems to be all types of dogs (from rotties to kelpies to a little maltese last week)
I can't talk BC's up enough though. They are just these incredible dogs - intense, driven, trainable and super responsive.