Border Collie Jobs

If you are thinking about getting a Border Collie, and have done any research, you have probably come across mention that this breed needs a job. When my wife and I first started to do some reading we came across this time and time again. But we were really confused. What kind of job? What is a job? What the heck are these people talking about? We lived in a townhome at the time, not a farm. We had no sheep or cattle for him to herd so what sort of job could we give our dog? Can he flip burgers at the Burger King? As it turns out there are tons of jobs to give your Border Collie around the house the require neither live stock nor a spatula. Border Collie jobs are easier to come up with than you might think.

What is a “job”?

The first step in grasping this concept is understanding that a job is simply something for them to do. This breed is intelligent, alert, perceptive, energetic and bred for work. All of that leads to a dog that simply must have something to occupy his mind and body on a pretty consistent basis. This does not have to be a huge thing, like herding 300 head of sheep into a corral. What you will find yourself doing is coming up with many smaller jobs for your dog. A job can be something as simple as a trick, a task or obeying a command or series of commands.

Establish the first one

One of the first jobs we gave our Border Collie puppy was having him go and get a ball. We found out very fast that tennis balls and Border Collies go together like Velcro. Randomly we would say “Ned, go get your ball!” and he would take off in search of a tennis ball. When he brought it to us we would play catch or fetch for a minute or two. Another common task in our house is for our Border Collie to go find my wife or I. One of us will tell the dog to go find the other. He will search around until he finds us. See? Pretty simple stuff. These dogs simply need something to do. Not all the time, mind you, but they need to know that at some point they will have a task or job that they will need to perform. They are kind of like work-a-holics in a way.

After reading a few training and trick books we started off with getting the newspaper, leash, slippers and toys. After he got those down, pretty quickly I might add, we moved into more complex tasks like getting a beer from the fridge. Even very simple things can count as jobs such as simple tricks. For example we never give him a treat until he has preformed at least a few tasks like sit, lie down, and spin around. As you progress you can move onto more interesting jobs like teaching him to put his toys away into a box.

Once we got the hang of giving our Border Collie a job to do we saw a marked improvement in his overall behavior. He seemed happier, slightly calmer and generally better behaved. We have continued teaching him new things to do and it has become another fun fact of life for living with our dog. Keep in mind, however, he is always looking at us ready for the next job we’re going to give him. It can be a bit unnerving at first!

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Comments

  1. says

    Ned’s a handsome boy.

    I’m hopelessly in love with borders too. We have one right now: Magpie, she’s 7. And yes, she lives for tennis balls. She’s had her challenging moments (mostly in her first year with us), but we all understand each other now and she’s a blast. Our first dog was a border and he was darn near perfect – we got lucky with him. Unfortunately, all subsequent dogs are compared to him!

    here’s a pic of Magpie: http://twitpic.com/14yxf

  2. Bill says

    AnnRan,

    Thank you..we’re really happy with him. And what a look on Magpie! She looks like she’s ready to go.

    Bill

  3. Becky says

    HI! Thanks for this website! I’ve printed SO many pages for my husband and I to read and re read. We have a beagle/ border collie mix with the emphasis on border collie!! I think we were banking on the emphasis being on beagle – what a surprise. We thought getting a beagle would be difficult – HA!
    Jack is a really great dog, very happy and eager to please. We have 3 kids and he tends to try to herd the 3 year old and sometimes the 7 year old. Your website has helped us understand his behavior better and we will be looking for a trainer, who is very familiar with the breed, to help us with him.

    Thanks for all the info and for letting us know that we are not alone :)

    Becky

  4. says

    We are new parents of Annie – 5 mo. old Border Collie. What next? She has made her first car trip from Sarasota to Kilmarnock, Virginia. She loves the rural atmosphere and runs like crazy. Its easier to get her attention here when she is running and learning to get stuff… all kinds of stuff!

  5. says

    Carolyn,

    Congrats! Ours loves the open country as well…wide open fields for running seems to be their element! At that age we found the same thing on getting the attention…if they are engaged in doing or leaning something that super focus kicks in. As for the “now what” question…I’d say come up with a long term plan. For example do you want to do frisbee with Annie or maybe rally or a ton of tricks? Lay out a long term goal and start working with her on it. It’s a ton of fun!

  6. says

    How young can we start this stuff? Our new puppy is 11 weeks old and he doesn’t seem to be getting much of it. He understands “sit” and “come” but not much else. Is he just too young?

  7. says

    Amanda,

    We started really young on the basics like come, sit and working on bite inhibition and we stuck with that for a while. I recall we hit the same sort of wall when, for a while, he didn’t seem to get anything new. When he was a few months old though he really started to learn more quickly. Stick with it!

  8. says

    Hey there! I just found your site today and it’s made me smile and take note. I have a 12-week-old Border Collie named Rhett, whom I’ve now had for two-and-a-half weeks. When do you think I should start really teaching him jobs? He’s getting sit and lay down pretty well, and he mimics my Irish Setter’s ability to flick open the glass door that leads out to the front deck.

    Are there any books you would recommend reading to get an idea on how to train him?

    Thanks!

  9. kismoore says

    WARNING! Even though the jobs can be random consider them well before you allow a particular job to become your collies’ obsession. When we first got PO I thought she could help us clean the leaves from the pool. She learned so fast and she loved her job. A few weeks after she had her new job down without a hitch we went on vacation to the beach and I brought along her diving stick so she could chase it in the waves. The problem was the seaweed! It was everywhere! You should have seen PO’s eyes. They were wild looking and dialated to total blackness! She was going to clean the ocean. She didn’t care about her stick or the other dogs or me or anything.. this ocean was full of leaves!! I had to stop the leaf cleaning job. We visit the ocean too much for that to be her job. We changed her job to “listen”. Maybe someday I can explain. It’s working well for us.

  10. says

    Ana, Congrats on your new addition! As I recall Ned started learning things at a faster and faster rate. If he is getting the basics I’d start at least working on some more advanced stuff. We used a few books but the one that stood out to us for ideas was 101 Dig Tricks ( http://goo.gl/HVVqY ). It’s more of a trick book but does a great job in showing you how to break down complicated tasks into smaller chunks and then how to string them together.

    Feel free to shoot over some pics of your little guy and I’ll post him up on the…we’d love to see him. Also nice site!

  11. says

    Very good point. Once they have a “job” to do they can get very serious about it…very. now trying to clean out the ocean is the biggest one I’ve heard of! Thanks for the pointer and would love to heard about the “Listen” job as well.

  12. Liz B says

    Just found the site today and really love the content & comments. Our Honey is 7 months old; we’ve had her since she was 7 weeks. Graeme and I could have used this site from day one! Re jobs for little pups, an early one for us was learning the names of her toys and fetching the right one when they were all in a pile. She now knows all of them, even the white, yellow or black frisbee. I read of a study showing border collies being able to retain about 1,000 different toy names. Hide and seek is good fun too as groundwork for other skills. We started both ‘jobs’ at 7 weeks. Love the idea of putting toys away. We’ll start that today. Never too late. Thanks.

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