Training your Border Collie in Dog Agility

Niki
January 15, 2024
Border Collie doing agility weaves

Are you interested in Dog Agility training for your Border Collie? If so, this blog is for you.

Border collies are fun, active and biddable dogs that love having a job to do. Agility training is a great way to mentally stimulate your Border Collie and provide them with the exercise they need to thrive (and to stop barking at the neighbors or chewing things in your house). It’s also an excellent way to bond with your dog and build your connection together.

Read on to learn the basics of agility training for your Border Collie, so you can start prepping yourself and your pup for running your first agility course today.

Look into online Agility Training

It can be hard to know where to begin when it comes to agility training. There may not be any agility clubs near you, or they don’t have space for you and your Border Collie for example. It can also feel a bit intimidating to join a new club and start a new sport, we get it! If you’re feeling a bit lost, check out our resources like our online agility training course and start agility from home!

Online agility training is a great option, especially for busy dog owners who might have a hard time making it to an in-person class.

With an online course, you can work at your dog’s pace and pause or rewind the video as often as you need until you’ve mastered a specific skill.

Online courses are also accessible wherever you are (as long as you have an internet connection), so you can practice at home, at your favorite park, or anywhere in between. All you need is 10 minutes, your dog, yourself and a fun attitiude!

Put yourself in your dog’s shoes (or paws)

Before you start training your Border Collie in agility, it’s crucial to think about things from your dog’s perspective. It’s easy to get wrapped up in our goals and forget that we’re collaborating with a living being with their own thoughts and feelings.

Agility training should be fun for you and your dog. If they start showing signs of stress (head downs, ears pinned back, licking lips, tail tucked, walking away etc.), that’s a sign that you should take a break or try something different.

Don’t get discouraged or frustrated with your dog if it takes them a while to pick up a particular skill, either. Border Collies are brilliant dogs, but that doesn’t mean they can read your mind. 

Take your time and make sure you’re setting them up for success by cueing consistently, giving them time to understand your instructions, and using an upbeat, positive tone, like in the video below.

Master the agility basics

Training your Border Collie in Dog Agility starts with mastering some basic foundation skills. Here are some beginner-friendly tricks you can begin teaching your dog today to set them up for more advanced ones:

Attention and Focus

As a Border Collie owner, you know how intelligent your dog is and how sensitive they are to sounds, sights and other potential distraction. Their intelligence and sensitivity are great traits, but they can also make training feel difficult. 

Before you progress to more challenging tricks, it’s important to work on your dog’s ability to pay attention to you. The key to success here is to make yourself more interesting than what’s going on around you and your dog.

Start with a handful of your dog’s favorite treats broken into tiny, pea-sized pieces. Say their name, and when they look at you, mark the behavior with a cheerful “yes” (you can also use a clicker) and reward them with a treat. 

Repeat this process, rewarding your dog every time they voluntarily look at you. You could also use a different cue word, such as “look,” if you prefer.

Take this skill on the road once they understand it, practicing in as many different environments as your can manage.

Send around an object

Teaching your dog to send around an object is fun and a great confidence builder. It will also act as a great warm up and a distance handling skill in agility later on. Just follow these steps:

Offering a Jump

The ability for your dog to offer to go around an object will come in handy when teaching your dog to jump, too.

A common agility skill is for yuour dog to take obstacles independently. Teaching them to offer behaviors, and especially to go around something, is a great basic skil for agility.

Follow these steps:

Weave

Another agility skill is learning to weave between poles. If you don’t have poles yet, that’s okay. Start by teaching your dog to weave between your legs instead!

Start by luring your dog to stand at your side. Then, take a big step forward with one foot. Lure your dog to walk between your legs. Now, take another big step forward and lure them to walk between your legs again.

With each step, mark your dog walking through your legs and reward them. Initially, you’ll need to move pretty slowly while teaching your Border Collie this trick. As they start to get the hang of it, though, you can begin stepping forward more quickly.

This skill will also be a great warm-up exercise later on if you decide to continue with agility and start running full courses.

Practice in your yard with everyday objects

You don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on agility equipment to begin Agility training with your Border Collie. In fact, you likely have most (if not all) of the equipment you need to get started readily available at your house.

Here are some every day objects you can use for agility training:

Bar stool/Step Stool

A small step stool is a good tool for sending your dog around or teaching them to offer to go around an object as shown above. You can really use anything for this skill. Commonly used objects include traffic cones, pool noodles, trees, light poles and foam rollers. Get creative!

A fallen log or retaining wall

Walking your dog over as many different surfaces as possible is great for building confidence and teaching them to balance. Fallen logs and low retaining walls are great for this. During your walks, encourage your dog to jump up and walk along by placing a row of treats initially. Later on, you ca just reward from your hand every few steps.

Need more ideas?

OneMind Dogs online Foundation for Agility program is full of great, easy-to-follow exercises that you can do at home with everyday objects. You can join now and get instant access for only 9.99 EUR per month (that’s around $10 USD)!

Want to deep-dive into agility training with your Border Collie?

It doesn’t matter if you want to enter a competition or just want to try something new and fun training exercises with your Border Collie. The tips and tricks shared above can help you get started on your agility journey. 

If you are ready to take things to the next level, our team at OneMindDogs has got you covered. Check out our FREE Ultimate Dog Agility Starter Kit today!

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Should you set up a dog agility course in your backyard?

Should you set up a dog agility course in your backyard?

Building a dog agility course in your backyard is a great way to give your dog an outlet to put their speed, smarts, and athleticism to work. Training and playing together builds an incredible bond between you, and is a great way to tire them out and keep them happy. Training agility at home can be a great way to get started in this fun and addictive hobby, as long as it’s done thoughtfully!

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