How to train your Border Collie — 5 key steps

January 03, 2023

Border Collies are known for being some of the most intelligent dogs in the world. They originate from Scotland and have worked as sheep herders for centuries.  

Their intelligence can make them easier to train than some other dog breeds. However, they still need patience, consistency, and a dedicated training plan designed from the dog’s perspective.

If you’re not sure where to begin when training your Border Collie, this guide can help. Below, you’ll find five of the most critical steps we feature in our puppy training program to help you set your border collie up for success.

Understanding your Border Collie’s perspective

The first step to effectively training your border collie is putting yourself in their shoes (er… paws) and understanding their perspective.

It’s easy for owners — especially those who are new to training — to only look at things from their own point of view. This common training mistake can prevent you from bonding with your Border Collie, and can make training less effective. 

Remember that your dog does not come pre-programmed to understand specific cues. You might know exactly what you mean when you ask them to “sit” or “stay,” but that doesn’t mean they do.

Think about the dog’s perspective and strive to make the learning process as straightforward as possible.

Whether you’re teaching a basic heel or a more complex trick, break it down into simple steps and reward all progress. If your Border Collie views training as something fun and rewarding, they’ll be more invested and engaged.  Our online training program explains how to train your dog from their perspective, in simple, progressive steps.

Setting your Border Collie up for success in training

Do you remember the last time you tried to learn something new while you were tired or frustrated? It probably didn’t go very well, did it?

Timing matters for your Border Collie’s training, too. 

When deciding what time of day to train your dog, consider scheduling sessions around meal times. If your dog is hungry, they might be more motivated to follow your cues and work for rewards (i.e., their meal). Many people reserve a portion of their dog’s food to use during training sessions, or use the whole meal as treats rather than feeding in a bowl. When training with you leads to something your dog values, you become more valuable too!

Keep in mind that short and consistent training sessions are better than long and sporadic ones. Your Border Collie will have an easier time remembering what you’ve taught them and picking up new skills if you spend 10 minutes per day training rather than an hour once every couple of weeks.

It’s easy to assume that only puppies need frequent training. However, all dogs — including adults — can benefit from the mental stimulation training provides. As an added bonus, training your dog strengthens your connection together as well.

Preventing problems before they begin

When training a Border Collie, or any other dog breed, it’s better to prevent problematic behaviors rather than correcting them later.

Instead of waiting until your dog does something you don’t want them to do (such as chewing on the furniture) and then punishing them, set clear expectations and provide healthy alternatives. Forward-thinking training makes life easier for everyone!

For example, give your Border Collie dog-safe items to chew, like bully sticks or a stuffed Kong. If they regularly have access to things that they can chew — and the stimulation that chewing provides — they’ll be less likely to turn to your favorite pair of slippers.

Remember to be fair in your expectations for your Border Collie, too.

These dogs are intelligent, but they’re not mind-readers. Learning new skills and understanding what you want from them takes time and consistency. Make training a daily habit and you will succeed.

If your approach doesn’t seem to work, reach out to a professional. Skilled trainers — like those at OneMind Dogs — can provide a custom plan to overcome your struggles. Contact us any time, we are happy to help!

Teaching your Border Collie to chill out alone

From the start, your dog needs boundaries to be happy and understand what’s expected of them. These boundaries and expectations should include relaxation and alone time.

Intelligent breeds like Border Collies — that have been bred for hundreds of years to work long days — may have a hard time settling down and resting. You must train chilling out alone the same way you would any other skill.

It helps for your border collie to have a safe space where they can go and relax — especially when visitors arrive or when you leave the house.

Their safe space could be a crate, an X-pen, or a separate room with the entry blocked by a baby gate for example. You can also just use a bed or mat and train your dog to stay there on command and calm down. This is one of the essential lessons in our puppy training app!

Wherever you choose to let your dog chill, reward them for resting quietly in their space. Reinforce the behaviors you want to see, and they’ll eventually become more common.

Mental stimulation

It’s much easier for your border collie to relax and settle alone if they’ve been appropriately tired out and had their needs met.

The key to a tired, satisfied dog is mental stimulation. Playing fetch and running around the backyard is great sometimes, but a smart dog like a Border Collie needs to tire its brain out as well.

There are lots of ways you can work with your dog and provide mental stimulation, including the following:

You can also make their walks more stimulating with simple training. For example, you can work on basic agility skills like weaving between your legs, or you can practice commands like heel, sit, down, and stay.

Start training your Border Collie today

Whether your Border Collie is a young pup or a full-grown adult, they can benefit from consistent, positive, and engaging training. Fill out the form below and take our Magical Connection Week Challenge; 7 days of fun training ideas in your inbox, guaranteed to build a strong connection between you and your dog!

Do you think your dog has mastered the basics and is ready for more advanced training? If so, sign them up for our online agility foundations course today!

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