Formerly bred in England for sheep herding, Border Collies are energetic by nature and require plenty of mental stimulation, entertainment and exercise. Most Border Collies, however, are no longer considered to be “working” dogs. They have taken on the role of companion and need to be kept busy to avoid them from developing unfavorable behavior. In other words, Border Collies need more than just a daily walk – they require daily excitement and entertainment to stop Border Collie boredom!
Below, we have listed 4 creative ways to entertain your Border Collie, including some indoor activities when going outside is not possible. Keeping your Border Collie mentally stimulated is so important, and can help reduce the likelihood of destructive behaviours and biting and nipping.
1. Scatter Feeding and Toy Stuffing
Scatter feeding and toy stuffing is excellent for mental stimulation. For scatter feeding, start with placing dry kibble or treats into a toy dispenser and let them try to get it out. Border Collies are very bright, however, and you may need to make the game a bit more challenging by hiding their treats around the house instead. Make it incrementally more difficult to keep them engaged and interested.
To do this, the only command you really need to have perfected is “stay” as you go and hide a treat for them to seek. With our Collies, they took to the game and understood it pretty much instantly. We’re quite competitive by nature so end up hiding treats in the most random of places (like the bathtub) and they have yet to lose a game!
One thing that we find works brilliantly when you’re not quite up for playing a game of treat hide and seek are these foraging snuffle mats from Amazon. They’re relatively inexpensive and are a really simple way of making a little lunchtime snack just that extra bit interesting for our Collies.
Toy stuffing also works great if you are looking for something less active, but that will still keep your Collie busy. For example, you can smear (natural) peanut butter on the inside of a Kong toy and let them lick it out. Kong toys are popular among dog owners as they have a unique design that allows for an unpredictable bounce, and they are available in various sizes. During the warmer months, you can also freeze different things inside Kong toys (we’ve even tried homemade soup!). This is a great way to fight Border Collie boredom while helping them to keep cool.
If you do not have something similar to a Kong toy, hiding some treats inside of an old tennis ball also works wonders. You can also freeze treats inside ice cube trays and create a game that requires both persistence and patience as they wait for the treats to melt from the ice.
If your Collie enjoys scatter-feeding or you often play games using treats, a great way to avoid overfeeding your pup is to use a portion of your dog’s daily food intake.
2. Agility and Training
Agility training is a great way to not only burn off excess energy but also teach your dog invaluable obedience skills while helping to keep them entertained. It’s an engaging exercise for both you and your dog, and Collies are well known to excel in agility competitions.
Agility training is beneficial to Collies both mentally and physically. It also gives you the chance to build your bond and create trust between the two of you. As their handler you will be required to guide your dog through the course, developing their off-leash and obedience skills.
If joining a club and formally competing is not for you, you can still enjoy training at home by buying a basic agility course or using everyday household items to create your own. The basic elements of an agility course consist of jumps, tunnels, weave poles, and a pause table. If you’re DIY inclined, these can be easily put together using PVC pipes and palette wood over a weekend.
That said, a few jumps like these ones on Amazon and an agility tunnel will probably give you enough of a taste of agility training if you want to see how you get on.
Agility training is mostly practiced outdoors but you do not need to be discouraged by bad weather. When it’s not possible to go outside you can bring elements of the training indoors by stacking a broom on some books for a make-shift indoor jump!
3. Fetch and Flying Disc
Daily walks are an absolute necessity for keeping any dog healthy, but additional exercise is important when it comes to burning off a Border Collies’ excess energy. Depending on their age an hourly stroll a day will simply not be enough for them.
Teaching your dog to play fetch is simple and easy to learn – it’s just a case of good recall and “drop it.” When it comes to Collies, with all things fetch the farther the better!
There are even toys on the market that can elevate your throwing game such as stick and automatic throwers. These come in handy when you find yourself not being able to keep up with your dogs’ energy levels.
Flying disc is another popular sport when it comes to the fast and agile nature of Border Collies and there are a wide variety of frisbees to choose from that, as we can personally vouch for, go almost supernatural distances with very little effort!
4. Keep Toys in Rotation
Border Collies are incredibly intelligent and could become easily bored if they are not provided with toys and puzzles to keep them mentally stimulated.
One way to beat the boredom and to keep them engaged with their toys is to adopt a toy rotation routine. Rather than overwhelming your Collie with a large collection of toys, categorise them into smaller groups and alternate the days that you allow your dog to play with them.
It is also important to consider the type of toys that you purchase.
For many people keeping their dog busy while they are at work is crucial, so it is worth investing in toys that do not require you to be present all the time.
While playtime is a great bonding experience it is not always possible when we have other responsibilities that keep us from home for extended periods.
Toys such as treat puzzles will challenge them mentally (and are super funny to watch!), while something like a tug-of-war toy that you can tie to a post or pillar will allow them to play independently. We find puzzle toys also work well if your Collie suffers from separation anxiety. Keeping your Border Collie entertained may also help prevent them from digging holes in your garden.
Border Collies truly are one of the busiest and most intelligent breeds in the world so they may outsmart and outplay you at some point. It is therefore important to constantly offer a variety of both outdoor and indoor activities and provide them with opportunities to learn and develop new tricks and skills.
We hope that these four creative ways to entertain your Border Collie have provided you with some food for thought when it comes to keeping your Collie mentally stimulated and occupied.
If there’s one takeaway we’d like any reader to come away with, it is this. Border Collies are simply fab, and while you may sometimes feel that it’s difficult to keep them occupied, just remember one thing: as long as you’re putting in the effort, then you’re unlikely to go far wrong! You may also want to consider taking up jogging with your Border Collie as we’ve found this is a great, time-efficient way to make sure that your Collie is well exercised.