How much exercise do border collies need - puppies and adults

How much exercise do Border Collies need (puppies and adults)

It’s no surprise that border collies are one of the more active dog breeds out there. This is because they are traditionally bred for working purposes and will spend their days out herding sheep and running around farmers’ fields. Naturally, this leaves many Border Collie owners wanting to understand how much exercise their Border Collie needs. This becomes even more of a complex question when talking about exercise requirements of border collie puppies. Luckily, we’ve put together an overview of how much exercise these pooches need at both the puppy and adult stage of life!

Of course, much of this is based on our experience of owning Border Collies (you can see them here if you’re interested); however, it should be relevant to most Border Collie owners out there.

First thing’s first, though, it’s important to understand that when we talk about exercising Border Collies that can mean more than just physical exercise. 

Obviously exercising will help to burn off excess energy, but perhaps an equally if not more important aspect of exercise is the mental stimulation it gives your dog.

So, when asking yourself the question how much exercise do Border Collies need, it’s important to keep this point in mind. A Collie who works out but isn’t mentally stimulated and just walks around the same streets everyday may be well exercised physically but not mentally. 

This becomes especially important when thinking about how to exercise your Border Collie puppy – as you’ll soon see.

Border collie exercise requirements at 12 weeks and younger

When your Border Collie has been vaccinated then that is the time when you’re able to then take them outside to experience the brand new world before them.

However …

Before 12 weeks, give or take, they won’t have gone through the full vaccination process. As a result, exercising your Collie at this age can be a challenge. You can’t run the risk of them meeting random dogs in the street, or nibbling at something they shouldn’t, because they might pick up a nasty illness.

At this age, though, your Border Collie will still need some exercise to help burn off any extra energy and get some all important mental stimulation. 

This can be a frustrating time for owners, because it can feel as though your options are limited. 

Don’t worry – they aren’t! 

At this age, it’s generally not advised to force any exercise on your Border Collie puppy as their joints are in a crucial stage of development. 

Instead, though, you can engage in lots of fun things like play activities (hide and seek with a toy is a great one). You can also teach them commands, which helps to engage them mentally too. 

Sometimes, though, this can get a little tiring for us humans (especially when you have to do other things like toilet train your Collie).

We found that by purchasing a play tunnel, like this one from Amazon, provided Mila with hours of fun when she was little while we relaxed in the garden. Puzzle toys are also great for this too! 

If you’re skimming this article, then the basic rule for Border Collie puppies under 12 weeks is to avoid structured exercises (like walks) and instead engage in active play activities, basic training, and use lots of toys to help keep them mentally stimulated. 

Another key thing to bear in mind at this age is to make sure to give your Collie pup lots of breaks and alone time (particularly if you have some excited toddlers). Over stimulation can lead to them getting over tired and can result in behaviour issues. 

Border collie exercise requirements from 3-months to 5 months.

Once your Collie has been vaccinated, you can start to get them used to walking on a lead and taking them out for some daily exercise.  

Hooray! 

Unfortunately, because puppy joints develop within their first year of age you won’t be able to exercise your Border Collie as much as you would like to. This is because too much running and strain on their joints as a puppy can lead to joint issues in later age.

As a general rule you shouldn’t walk a Border Collie for more than 5-minutes every month of age. 

This is not necessarily a hard and fast rule and you need to use judgement with this. But, at least it helps to provide a general guide about how much fall on exercise a puppy should be getting. 

The 5-minute rule however doesn’t apply to things like playing in the house, or them getting a case of the zoomies!

Using this rule, the exercise requirements for a border collie puppy at 4-months, for example, would be around 20 minutes of walking a day. Similarly the exercise requirements for a 5-month old puppy would be around 25 minutes a day.

A good tip on how to handle Border Collie exercise at this age is to break the number of minutes you’re allowed to exercise them up into smaller chunks. We found this especially helpful with our Border Collie Mila when she was a puppy. 

What this looks like in reality is simply some small 5 or 10 minute walks around your local streets. If you spend this time letting them sniff and explore their surroundings, you’ll find that your border Collie gets a lot of mental stimulation which helps to make things like biting, nipping and chewing easier to control.

During this awkward period of Border Collie puppy ownership you can of course find lots of ways to make sure that they have mentally stimulated at home. This could include everything from playing hide and seek with some of their toys, to letting them sniff and explore the garden (as long as they don’t start digging holes!) 

We have an article about more ways to entertain your Border Collie, if you’re looking for tips. And also another on stopping unwanted Border Collie barking that may come in handy!

How much exercise is needed from 6-12 months? 

Aside from the pre-vaccinated phase, we found that the 6-12 month period is perhaps the most difficult time when exercising your Border Collie. 

This is because the rule around 5 minutes per month of exercise does still technically apply, but by this age your border collie will be much more used to walking off lead and you’ll want to be taking them on longer and more adventurous walks.

After all, there’s only so much lead walking you can do without becoming bored yourself!

The problem however comes from the fact that your border collie will still be developing their muscles and joints so you need to be careful not over exercise them. 

 What we found worked really well for us and our Border Collie was creating a loose exercise schedule for the week.

An example of what this looked like is below:

Border collie exercise table 6-12 months

Basically all we did hear was make sure that there were enough rest days in between longer walls to allow our border collie Mila to recover and not become overworked.

Much like humans do between trips to the gym!

While we didn’t stick to this routine religiously, we found that it gave us a good benchmark for when we were deciding what to do on a weekend with a Border Collie.

So, for example, we would take Mila out on an extensive walk on the Saturday but then for the next few days make sure that she was well rested with some smaller walks and some entertaining mind puzzle toys at home.

Then, as she grew older, and got much closer towards her first birthday, we were able to increase the length of time for each walk in a way that meant that she was getting plenty of exercise.

Fetch is also an excellent way to give your Border Collie the burst of activity they love over a shorter period of time.

How much exercise does a fully grown border collie need?

A fully grown adult border collie typically needs around 2 hours of exercise a day if they’re kept in a typical household environment. 

What this means in practice will obviously vary from owner to owner.

We know of some owners who make sure that their collies are kept really well entertained at home using things like puzzle toys, Kong’s, and games of hide-and-seek. This then means that they can get away with slightly shorter walks on busy days. 

This doesn’t mean, however, that things like puzzle toys replace walking. It just means that provided you’re providing your border collie with lots of stimulation at home, you’ll find that you can vary the amount of physical exercise they get on a day to day basis (e.g. some huge weekend walks, and some shorter weekday walks) 

That said, I know you’re reading this article wanting an actual answer for how long a Border Collie should be exercised for. As a result I’ve put together this quick table to show you our exercise pattern with our Border Collies now that they’re both adults. At this point, a short walk for us is about 30-45 minutes and pretty much involves mooching around our local area with the lead on for most of the time.

Border collie exercise table routine for adult dogs

As you can see, while we do try to stick to the 2 hour rule, where we can, we’ve incorporated some useful hacks to help us manage all of our other commitments as well as exercising our Collies.

A few years ago Matt and I took up running as an attempt to lose a little bit of Christmas weight. Fortunately that habit has stuck and running with our Border Collies has really helped us to ensure that they are properly exercised without it taking over our days.

We also find that scheduling a big weekend walk does wonders for our dogs over the weekend. 

This helps as loads especially as the weekend is the point in the week where we are often out or having visitors over. Making sure that we take our Collies on a mammoth walk on a Saturday morning really helps them to stay calm and relaxed throughout the weekend no matter what’s going on!

Using common sense when with your border collie

Of course there’s only so much information you can read or watch without the question being but will it work for my Border Collie?

This is why we advise all owners and friends who ask similar questions that whilst things like the 5-minute rule are helpful to determine how much exercise your border collie needs, ultimately it’s down to you to judge what is best for your Collie.

If your Collie puppy flops down on a walk and refuses to walk any further, then it’s a clear signal that they are tired and the walk is too ambitious. On the other hand, if your Collie is zooming around the house because you’re sticking religiously to the “5 minute a month” rule, then it might be worth increasing your times slightly, or making your walks more mentally challenging by training them as you go. 

Common sense is perhaps the most important thing here. Give your Collie plenty of recovery time after a big walk, keep things varied and interesting, and if you’re unsure talk to a dog trainer or your vet. 

All the best, and I hope you found this article useful!