Given their boundless energy, Border Collies can make perfect jogging buddies. Yet, you may be wondering, as we did, how do you jog with a Border Collie? What do we need to know in order to safely run with our Collies?
Border Collies have it all: looks, intelligence, and athleticism. And it is this last feature that I want to focus on in this article. They have a strong trait of athleticism because they were bred as working dogs in the region around the Anglo-Scottish border, herding sheep and generally running free across open fields. Of course, nowadays, many Border Collies are living slightly more quieter lives as family pets. However, that doesn’t mean that their exercise requirements are any less and jogging certainly has its place.
Some estimates suggest at least 2 hours of exercise per day is a good guide for an adult Collie. For those who are looking for an all-action dog that is loving and affectionate, Border Collies can make the ideal pets. And, we think, running with your Border Collie is a fantastic way to ensure that they are properly exercised. Making sure that they are can help to prevent unwanted behaviours like biting and chewing, as well as digging in your garden.
What age can you start running with your Collie?
You can start running with your Border Collie when they are around 12 months of age. This does not mean that you can take your Collie straight out for a 10k run as soon as it turns 12 months, however. In general, you will need to build your Border Collies endurance up gradually.
If you get your Collie when they are an adorable pup, the first 8 months or so will inevitably be used to get to know and train the new addition to the family. This of course will involve walking, playing fetch, and other fun activities, but generally nothing that is too strenuous for your pup as their joints are still very much developing.
That said, when your Collie reaches 8 months or older, you can start introducing some more adventurous exercise.
Begin with slightly longer walks around your neighbourhood and pay attention to how your Collie reacts to this exercise.
If you feel that they are struggling in any way, though, obviously do not push your Collie to go beyond what they are comfortable with. If your Collie is handling these increased walks comfortably, however, you can start to gradually increase the distance over time.
How to move from walking to running with your Border Collie
The couch to 5k program is increasingly popular for those of us who want to get fit. It consists of an app that outlines a 9-week program where you go from not being able to run any great distance to running 5k like a pro. The program consists of 3 runs per week, and the intensity of these runs increases each week.
This is what both Matt and I did a few years ago to help get rid of a little Christmas weight, so I can personally say that this works!
Although “couch to 5k” designed for humans, it actually serves as a good guide for jogging with your Border Collie. The nature of the program is great for gradually building your Collies’ (and perhaps your own) ability to run long-distances. Remember and keep an eye on how your Collie is responding to running, however, as you may need to take additional rest days or weeks.
When you first start running with a Collie, you’ll find that they will sometimes become a little unnerved by your movement.
Both of our Collies, for example, used to start barking at us and attempted to keep running ahead. We found the best way to deal with this was to simply start off at a very slow jogging pace, just a little quicker than walking. This got them used to the change in our movements, and once they grew comfortable with this, we then increased our pace.
You can also use treats and incentives to help train your Collie to run continuously for a period of time. Initially, you may find that your Collie stops and sniffs things regularly. By offering a treat or another incentive every time your Collie runs continuously for a few minutes, you can increase their willingness to run for longer distances (although, to be honest, this really shouldn’t be an issue for most Collies!)
Tips and safety advice when running with your Collie
The number one piece of advice I would give you is do not push your Collie to run too hard and too fast. Even though we are all excited when we get a new dog, we have to prioritise their long-term health. If we treat them properly when they are younger, our Border Collies can become running machines when they are older.
If you over-train your Collie when it is still developing and growing however, bone and joint conditions can develop. Hip dysplasia for instance is a relatively common condition in Border Collies. The condition refers to when the hip joint does not fit together perfectly, and it can lead to arthritis. Hip dysplasia can be brought on if a dog is over-worked before it has properly developed.
Also keep in mind the surface that you and your Collie are going to be jogging on. Concrete is much more damaging on joints than grass is, for both you and your Collie. So, where possible, try to avoid running on concrete.
Obviously, depending on where you live, this may be difficult. If you live in the middle of a city, concrete paths may be the only option. Where possible though, try to jog with your Collie in the park or on a woodland trail. This is particularly important when your Collie is young and still developing.
A final safety tip is to make sure to plan your route carefully and think carefully about any potential trip hazards. When running alone, things like tree routes and the odd pothole are easily avoided, but with a Collie running right next to you these sort of things can become much more hazardous.
Use a leash and harness, and bring water
Another important tip is to use a leash, especially when you first start to run with your Collie. Over time, you can obviously get them used to running with you off-leash, but even if you’re confident that your Collie has an amazing recall, do remember that jogging alongside you will be a completely new experience for them.
So, using a leash to help show them what they should be doing is always going to be advisable.
We also think that using a harness instead of a collar is probably an essential thing to do if you’re serious about running with your Border Collie. This is because if you need to quickly change direction, or slow down for a passing car, you won’t end up accidentally putting extra pressure around your Collies’ throat!
Another thing that we use to help make our runs just that little bit smoother are these shock-absorbing, hands-free leashes. We only use ours for running, which means that we can keep everything we need in the waist-pouch and set off for a run without having to spend ages getting ready.
It should also go without saying, but please do remember to pack some water if you’re planning on doing longer runs!
In closing though, remember to have fun when you are jogging with your Border Collie. From personal experience, a few weeks of training your Collie can lead to many years of running motivation!
As long as you follow the basic rules outlined above, and use a bit of common sense, there is nothing stopping you going for a jog with your Border Collie. All you need is your running shoes, a decent lead, harness and some water and you’re set. And after a while, if you’re anything like us, you’ll find that your little buddy will be an amazing mini-motivator to help you to keep to your running goals!