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 performed 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!