Dog Health Dog Training

How Much Exercise Does a Border Collie Need? – The Best Border Collie Activities

Here's how much exercise Border Collies need.
Written by Richard Jeng

All new dog owners learn very quickly that daily exercise is extremely important for their canine companions. And among all the breeds, larger working dogs tend to require the most amount of physical activity – Border Collies included.

So, how much exercise does a Border Collie need? Thanks to their long history as premier working and sheep-herding dogs, Border Collies require an extensive amount of physical activity. We recommend providing 1 to 2 hours of exercise each day to release any pent up energy in these dogs.

Don’t be overwhelmed. While two hours a day may seem like a lot, it’s well worth the effort to ensure a happy and healthy Border Collie. Fortunately, there are easy ways to give them the necessary exercise.

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Why Border Collies Need Exercise

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Not all dog breeds require an exuberant amount of physical activity. In fact, not even all big dog breeds will need this much exercise. Border Collies are wired differently than say, a Great Dane.

So if you’re bringing a Border Collie home for companionship, you need to provide them with other ways of releasing energy. But why do these dogs need so much more daily exercise than other dogs?

World’s Top Herding Dog

These hyperactive working dogs were bred for roles that required intense stamina and an unreal amount of energy. Specifically, Border Collies were developed to herd livestock, especially with sheep.

They’re so good at their jobs that they’re universally recognized as one of, if not the best, herding dogs in the world. And according to Wide Open Pets, Border Collies take the number 1 spot for best herding dogs.

It’s not uncommon for herding dogs to need a lot of exercise. Just think about it. Herding is the act of pushing animals around by running, barking and nipping at them. Doing this for long periods of time certainly requires a lot of energy.

What’s more impressive is that Border Collies are known to tirelessly herd sheep for over 50 miles in a single day. When sheep stray from the flock, it’s the Border Collies job to chase them down and bring them back.

So because of their intended purpose, nearly all Border Collies are naturally high-energy dogs. As such, it’s crucial for these dogs to have some form of outlet to release the energy that builds up in them.

Workaholic Mentality

Did you know that Border Collies are ranked number 1 for obedience and working dog intelligence? That’s right. According to canine psychologist Stanley Coren, Border Collies are the world’s “smartest dog breed.”

While Coren’s methods of measuring dog intelligence has it’s flaws, this methodology tells us a lot of the Border Collie’s work ethics.

His test evaluated canine intelligence based on how quickly a dog learns commands, and how obedient they are. In other words, his trial was essentially an obedience test. You can read more on Coren’s canine intelligence trials here.

Don’t get a border collie unless you have legit work for it and wide open spaces for it to run in. My dogs are full of energy, but also like to have a purpose.

– Livincountry (Border Collie owner)

Although there’s no denying the intelligence of a Border Collie, a crucial reason why they performed so well is because of work ethics. Border Collies love to work. I mean, these dogs work for the “sake of working.”

Unlike Huskies, they aren’t just hyperactive dogs that need to do anything active. These dogs need to stimulate their minds and bodies with real work. Fortunately, these dogs may interpret a “daily routine” of activities as a dedicated job.

Border Collie Exercise Ideas

When exercising your Border Collie, there are many options to choose from. However, we’re not talking about casual strolls through the park. These dogs need high endurance exercises.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t walk your Border Collie. Rather, the walking shouldn’t be the only form of exercise.

Many owners like to break up the recommended amount of exercise. For example, they’ll start with a 30-minute walk in the morning, followed by 45 minutes of fetch at a park. And finally, they go running for 30 minutes at night.

That being said, here are what we think are the best exercises for your Border Collie:

  • Walking and running
  • Outdoor Hiking
  • Herding trials
  • Agility training
  • Swimming
  • Various dog games

Walking & Running

This is the most popular form of exercise for any dogs. It’s convenient, quick and healthy for both the dog and owner. Plus, Border Collies love nothing more than to explore the outside world.

Like with humans, it’s best to build up the endurance of your Border Collie on runs. While it’s very likely they’ll outrun you with ease, it’s still good to be cautious.

For puppies, you can start off with shorter running sessions to test their endurance. From there, you can increase the duration based on how comfortable they are on runs. The last thing you want is for your dog to get injured.

When running with a Border Collie, I recommend using a hands-free leash. For our dogs, we went with the Tuff Mutt Dog Leash and we love it!

We love this because the durable bungee leash will absorb the shock when your dog is pulling away and you try to stop. And best of all, it keeps your hands free on runs!

Outdoor Hiking

Given how intelligent Border Collies are, hiking is great because it provides both mental and physical stimulation. By providing your dog with an enriched environment containing pleasant scents, you’re helping stimulate their minds.

Depending on the trail, dogs will discover a plethora of new scents every time they’re taking a stroll. Combine this with the ability to get a good workout and it’s the perfect Border Collie activity.

While it may not be practical to go hiking every day, this would be a wonderful weekend activity for you and the dog.

Herding Trials

What’s better than tapping into your Border Collie’s instinctive intelligence by taking them to herding trials. No, you don’t have to own a farm for this. In fact, there are many ranches that hold classes for herding dogs!

If your dog is a natural herder, which most Border Collies are, consider looking into AKC’s Herding Program. They offer both tests and trials. Who knows? Maybe your Border Collie will compete in AKC’s herding championships one day.

But the point is, herding was what Border Collies were bred for. What’s more appealing is that herding burns a ton of energy. You won’t have a problem meeting your dog’s activity needs through herding.

If you’re serious about this, you need to consider the cost. Although prices may vary, it’s not going to be cheap to put your dog through consistent herding trials.

Agility Training

Agility refers to the dog’s ability to move, stop and change directions quickly. With that said, agility training involves exercises that hone this ability. Border Collies are naturally agile dogs, making this perfect for them.

For many Border Collies, running the agility course gives them a sense of purpose. It’s the perfect activity to channel the dog’s frustration and work ethic towards something less destructive.

And unlike herding, your dog doesn’t need a ranch with animals to practice. All they really need is the proper equipment and a large backyard.

The PawHut Agility Training Course is a great place to start. It’s a 4 piece set that comes with all the basics for agility training. You get an adjustable high jump, weave poles, square pause box and a round open tunnel.

We highly recommend starting off with agility classes because it gives you and your dog structure in learning. Once the dog gets the hang of it, you won’t need lessons unless you plan to compete competitively.

Swimming

Like with the Australian Shepherd, swimming is a favorite among high-energy herding dogs. If provided the proper preparation and guidance, Border Collies are no exception.

The key to teaching your dog to swim is to gradually introduce them to water. Do not throw them into the deep end from the start! Start with the bath tub or a kiddie pool, then slowly transition into larger bodies of water.

Make sure to buy the proper equipment when starting out. And by equipment, I really mean a dog life jacket. It’ll give your Border Collie a boost of confidence, while giving you a little peace of mind.

The best life jacket we’ve found is the Outward Hound Dog Life Vest. We love it because it’s made with high quality materials and has a rescue handle for convenience. There’s a size chart but most Border Collies fit a size large.

Not every dog will be a natural swimmer. So the most important thing is to make sure your dog is feeling comfortable in water. Safety and comfort should always be prioritized.

Dog Games

Games with your Border Collie can include so many things. But no matter what it is, your dog will enjoy it so much more with you involved!

Fetch is the most obvious option. Before we brought home Oly (our Aussie), we were looking into adopting a Border Collie. He loved nothing more than his ball. He would bring the ball to literally anyone, hoping they would throw it.

If you want to mix things up, consider using a frisbee. Frisbees tend to go longer distances at a slower pace, meaning more run for your dog. If fetch isn’t your dog’s thing, tug-of-war usually does the trick.

Also an energetic herding dog, our Corgi loves to play hide and seek. We would give her the “sit” command and go hide. It’s a bit more time consuming, but it’s way more fun for both you and your dog.

And if you want, try hiding their favorite treats and making them search for it. We do this with our Corgi and greenies, and she loves it. Make them work for their food!

Exercise Ideas From Owners

Not every Border Collie will demand the same amount of physical exercise. While we’re confident with our recommendations, it’s up to you to gauge your dog’s abilities and limits.

We surveyed the popular Border Collie Subreddit and various dog forums to ask owners what their dog’s exercise routine is like. Here’s what these real owners had to say.

Real Owners’ Exercise Tips

1. Silentek says:Next to physical exercise, consider puzzles and maybe tracking. Often a border collie can be quite fulfilled and tired by using their intelligence in other ways instead of just physical output.”

2. Butchthebiker says:When it’s rainy, we do our basement routine. She loves to fetch the ball thrown down or up the stairs, across the basement floor and bounced on the walls. We also play frisbee down there as much as the space allows.

3. Slackthezip says: “We started with everything we could think of to try. Eventually our BC stuck with catch/fetch and swimming in our pool. They won’t enjoy every activity so try a lot of things.

4. Exploreoutback says: Our border collie has sooo much energy. We literally get on our dirt bikes and have the dog run alongside. It’s no problem for him to keep up at all!

5. Fluffywuffyscruffyb says:I would exercise your puppy until she decides she is tired. You will know when she quits playing. Exercising needs to be interactive between you and the pup, not just putting her outside to play.”

6. Montego2018 says:We go for a ‘swim swim’ for Montego’s daily exercise. He loves the beach too. We started with a tether ball and he started jumping in. He was 9 weeks then.”

7. Halfanothersdozen says:The special thing about border collies is that their brains get going early. Start exercising her mind and body. Tug is fine as long as it is with approved toys. But start doing training now. Get a feel for her attention span. She’ll let you know when she’s done.

Final Thoughts

It’s normal if you feel overwhelmed with the exercise needs of your Border Collie. But don’t stress over it! Instead, try to think of good ways to have fun with your dog. If you’re having a good time, it won’t seem like a “chore.”

Depending on how old your Border Collie is when you first bring the dog home, the activity requirements may be different. Of course, younger dogs have more energy. On the other hand, adopting a senior dog will mean a less energetic dog.

In the end, it comes down to the fitness level and age of your dog. As a responsible dog owner, it’s in your best interest to figure this out for your dog. After all, meeting an active dog’s exercise needs is the key to a happy dog.

  1. Make sure your Border Collie is getting outside every single day with some high endurance exercises.
  2. To avoid any unnecessary injuries, start slow and gradually build up their endurance.
  3. Provide some variety in the exercise. This will keep them entertained and mentally stimulated.
  4. Use some common sense when determining the length of time and exertion of your dog.
  5. Always make sure you have some water around any time you take your Border Collie out for some physical activities.

So, how do you exercise your Border Collie? Leave a comment in the section below to tell us what your dog’s favorite exercise activity is! Thanks for sharing.

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About the author

Richard Jeng

Richard has been raising dogs his whole life, including a Poodle, Pomeranian, Corgi and Australian Shepherd. He's always working with animal shelters and dog rescues because of his passion for all dogs. Fun fact: his all time favorite breed is the German Shepherd. Read More.

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