There is much to be said for the herding instinct of the Border Collie and the pure intensity that comes along with it. You’ve probably seen videos of these dogs while they work and there is no doubt that every fiber of their being is focused on the task at hand. (Check out Youtube.com for tons of Border Collie videos…neat stuff!). As new owners of the breed we certainly did not have any sheep or cattle for our dog to focus on however a very simple substitute presented itself. The tennis ball. With one of these fuzzy little yellow balls you can give your dog (and yourself!) exercise and give him a job at the same time.
While we lived in a townhome when we got our dog we are fortunate enough to live on a small island on the Southeast coast of the US. Not only did this allow us to run our Border Collie on wide open beaches for pretty much the entire year but also on tidal flats and marsh beds. These dogs have tons of energy and you do yourself and the dog a huge benefit by simply going out and playing ball.
After two years with our Border Collie we have come up with a few tips that make his tennis ball obsession more productive. The first is pretty simple. Get a hold of lots of tennis balls. They are cheap to buy if you check out thrift stores. Or, if you are like us, you may have some tennis courts close by. About once a week we walk our dog over around the courts and let him rummage around in the weeds and bushes. His record so far is finding 8 tennis balls in under 10 minutes. Seriously…it’s nuts.
Secondly get a ball thrower (aka a “chuck-it”). These can be found at most pet stores (they are super cheap) and allow you throw the ball many times further than you can by hand. Typically made of plastic with a tennis ball shaped cup on one end these not only let you throw further but you can pick up the ball with the stick. Not a huge deal but it will help keep your hands clean of dog drool, mud and dirt. Our Border Collie can easily run flat out for over an hour so the longer each run for the ball the faster he gets tired. And, as you know, a tired Border Collie is a happy one.
Thirdly is the intensity and focus of the dog when he is playing fetch with a ball. He is so focused on that ball that, as far as he is concerned, there is nothing else in the world but that ball. This can be a major safety issue for your dog. Our Border Collie will go after the ball no matter where we throw it and he will get it. Be very certain to stay away from roads, parking lots and anywhere that your dog could be in danger. We had a scary moment one afternoon when the ball hit a rock and flew off at a crazy angle into a roadway. Luckily there were no cars coming but it certainly makes us more alert to possible dangers!
There is a funny saying that goes along with dog ownership…If your dog is out of shape then so are you. Nothing could be more true for Border Collie owners! Grab an old tennis ball and get out there with your dog!