Border Collies are a very popular breed and can make wonderful family pets. They are adorable as puppies and grow up into gorgeous adult dogs, they can be fun, playful, loyal and affectionate.
But it is important to understand the breed and know how to train them to make sure that you get the most out of your Border Collie, and to prevent them developing behavioural issues.
Border Collies were bred as working farm dogs, which means they are extremely intelligent and active dogs. If they are bored and under stimulated this can lead to destructive behaviour and stubbornness.
They might chew on things around the house, show signs of aggression, try to herd people, dig up the garden or chase bikes and cars. This is easily avoidable if you train your dog properly.
Common Border Collie Traits
Border Collies are sensitive, athletic, agile and intelligent. This allows them to be trained for jobs such as herding, scent detection, and search and rescue. They also perform very well in dog contents, especially in agility, obedience and working trials.
If you have a Border Collie as a family pet, you will need to recreate this level of mental stimulation and exercise with reward based training, interactive play, scent games, clicker games, outdoor activities and teaching them new tricks.
You will also need to encourage calm and relaxing behaviours to help them switch off and unwind so they can recharge their batteries.
Due to their sensitive nature, Border Collies are excellent at picking up on small cues. This makes them good at recognizing commands, but can also lead to them becoming overwhelmed or over stimulated.
When they are young, it is important that you socialize them and take them to lots of new environments so they learn to get used to different surroundings without getting stressed.
How To Train A Border Collie
Border Collies can be strong-willed but respond well to someone they respect and see as their leader. This means it is important to assert your authority straight away.
This doesn’t need to be aggressive, just firm and consistent. It can be easy to get carried away when you bring a cute puppy home, but from the very first interactions you need to establish yourself as the pack leader and the dominant party.
One of the easiest ways to do this is to set boundaries when it comes to how your puppy greets you. Don’t let them climb all over you and bite you, simply wait for them to calm down before you give them praise and attention.
Forming A Close Bond
In order to successfully train your dog, you will need to form a close bond with them. If you make yourself the center of their universe, it will be easy to get their attention and they will develop a desire to please you, which will make them more obedient.
Spend plenty of one on one time with your dog doing positive activities like playing together.
Consistency Is Key
Training begins on day 1, as consistency is the key to success, but you need to consider the age of the dog and which commands are appropriate to teach them.
Setting standards for behaviour such as biting and nipping, being on or off furniture, sleep routines, and toilet training can begin right away. Any dog, not just Border Collies, will benefit from clear expectations for their behaviour being set.
You will start to notice when your dog is ready to learn basic commands as they will start developing a better attention span.
More complex tricks should be taught when your puppy is more mature at around 4 to 6 months, as they will have developed the cognitive skills required to follow those commands.
When it comes to toilet training, there are several different methods you can use. Whichever method you choose, the three most important things are observation, quick reactions and consistency.
Keep a close eye on your puppy so you can see when they need the toilet or when they are about to need the toilet. If they have an accident in the house don’t lose your temper, but say ‘no’ firmly and immediately.
If you wait too long they will not associate your disapproval with their behaviour. Every single time they go to the toilet, put them outside.
Even if you didn’t get them outside in time and they pee on the carpet, put them outside straight away. This reinforces the idea that going to the toilet means going outside.
When you start to pick up on their pre-toilet habits, like pacing or sniffing, take them outside as soon as they display that behaviour. Every time they go to the toilet outside, even if it is just while they are playing, give them plenty of praise.
One of the first and most important things to teach your Border Collie puppy is recall. You should always feel confident in being able to bring their attention back to you, even in a busy environment with lots of distractions.
This training begins in the home, with teaching your dog their name and commands like ‘here’ or ‘come’. Whenever your dog comes when called, make sure you give them lots of praise.
You can also keep some treats in your pocket for these occasions throughout the day. Practice the command in different scenarios, like out in the garden when they are playing with a toy or in the kitchen when they are distracted by their food.
When they are old enough to go for walks, incorporate recall into your lead training by letting them walk on a long lead, then calling them back to you. This will set the foundations for when you are ready to let them off the leash.
Teaching Your Border Collie To Sit
Another basic but vital command to teach your Border Collie is to sit. This is a great way to calm them down if they are getting too boisterous, to bring their attention back to you, or just to reset their position and await further instructions.
One of the easiest ways to train them to sit is to have a treat in your hand, bring it to the nose, then lift your hand and push it towards them to encourage them naturally into a sitting position.
As soon as they are in the correct position, say the command and reward them with a treat. Repeat this until you can do it without a treat in your hand, giving them plenty of praise each time.
Eventually you will be able to not use your hand at all and they will respond to the verbal cue alone.
Bed Or Crate Training
Border Collies need a safe and quiet space to relax and recharge after a busy day of playing and learning. Whether you crate train them or get them a comfy bed, make sure it is tucked out of the way so they can get some privacy.
Training them to go to the bed on command is simple – every time they are in the bed you say ‘bed’ and give them a treat, or praise them, even if they walk up to it of their own accord. They will learn that bed is a positive place.