Herding dog breeds such as the Border Collie and many others are renowned for being highly intelligent, very lively, and full of beans! It is fair to say that they all require owners that can meet the challenges that they present, in terms of providing them with enough mental stimulation and physical exercise.
Herding dogs that are bored, unruly or that do not have enough to keep them occupied can be a real pain, and they are not shy about finding ways to entertain themselves in all kinds of undesirable and potentially destructive ways! If your dog is apt to herd the cat, run havoc within the home or is generally difficult to manage, they may be suffering from a lack of exercise, mental stimulation, and sufficient outlets for their natural herding instincts.
Read on for a few suggestions of fun ways to entertain your herding dog, allowing them to work off their excess energy and find a suitable outlet for their natural instincts.
Think that dogs can’t play football? Think again! Teaching your dog to play football is well within the mental grasp of herding dog breeds, but don’t expect them to understand the offside rule! Herding dogs are usually more than keen to chase anything that moves, and grasp an opportunity for a run around. Add some new skills and rules into this, and you can provide mental stimulation for your dog as well, and also, keep yourself fit and entertained!
A size five football is a good start, and introduce the concept to your dog by kicking the ball and watching them go after it. The ball should be just too big to fit into their mouths, and so your dog should quickly learn that the best way to continue the game and get you to play with them, is by fielding the ball back to you with their feet and nose.
If your football skills leave a lot to be desired, how is your throwing arm? Herding dogs will happily spend hours fetching and bringing a ball back to you, and some herding dogs are very skilled at catching a ball on the fly, or finding balls that have got lost in the undergrowth!
Use a ball on a rope or within a plastic launcher to provide extra oomph to your throw, and encourage your dog to really stretch their legs out. Mock-throws and testing out your dog’s skills of observation can also be entertaining!
Like playing catch with a ball, many dogs are excellent at catching a Frisbee, and herding dogs are particularly tenacious about catching a Frisbee on the fly! Pick a dog-safe Frisbee that your dog can comfortably hold in their mouth, that does not have sharp edges, and will not hurt your dog if it hits them. See how high your dog can jump to catch the Frisbee, or have your dog as “piggy in the middle” in a game of Frisbee with a friend!
The organised canine sport of agility is well suited to all types of herding dog breeds, and you might want to consider joining a local agility club or group to learn more and get use of their equipment.
However, if you just want to see what your dog can do and have a bit of fun on your own with them, there are lots of ways to work on agility skills at home! Chairs, fence posts and tables can all make for potential agility obstacles, and you can make up the rules as you go along.
Jumping over obstacles and fences is part of the agility skill set, but you can also concentrate on jumping alone. You only need a couple of blocks and a pole to make a basic jump, and you can also utilise obstacles that you find out and about, such as stiles. Herding dog breeds love to jump naturally, and you will probably find that your dog needs very little encouragement or direction to start jumping. Keep things interesting with progressively higher jumps, and timed rounds over a couple of fences.
There are few skills that the herding dog cannot get to grips with if you approach things in the right way, and herding dogs are excellent at picking up tricks and complex commands. Teach your dog to reverse and walk backwards, weave between your legs, or stand on your feet and walk with you, and you will soon have the makings of an entertaining routine on your hands!
The sky is the limit when it comes to teaching herding dogs new ways to do things, so let your imagination run wild in thinking up tasks and skills for your dog. You won’t be able to teach them to make your morning cup of tea, but you should certainly be able to train them to bring you the paper, and much more besides!