The Border Collie Tennis ball obsession

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 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.

Border Collie Tennis 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!

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  1. Sassy's Mom says

    Not only does my BC love to run fast and far, over and over and over. . .he also loves to eye the ball then jump and catch it as it bounces from “up”! A little practice and a flick of the wrist and it’s almost like frisbee, without the danger to his teeth.
    The chuck-it is the very best toy for a high energy BC, and his owner.

  2. john kurz says

    We got a female from the city pound three days ago. She is a great dog but dues not want to play with her toys at all. What can we due or just wait ? She dues great on walks on lease. has a large back yard to play what can we due help.

  3. says

    Not sure on how to get a dog to play with toys that is not into them. Ours apparently came “pre-programmed” to love pretty much any and all toys.

  4. karen barry says

    I worked with an australian shepherd that wouldn’t go after a ball. She was raised with a brother who was the dominant dog and would push her aside and really would not let her play. The brother was put down due to severe leg injury chasing a car. So we started trying to get the female to start playing … it was a slow process … would pop a tennis ball in front of her nose and in a short while she started catching it in the air … after three months she is flying for the ball … so your dog could have come from issues … try working with the ball in baby steps … toss 2 inches …. we have pulled this female out of the dark ….

  5. Tracy says

    I have a border collie/australian shepherd mix and let me say that a “chuck it” is my savior… my dog loves to play ball (and frisbee too). She is my first border collie and let me say I’ve never seen a breed that is such a natural athlete. I tried to train my other dog to play frisbee to no avail, but Darla just naturally knew what to do… it’s pretty amazing. I really wish I could bottle her energy & sell it, I could make millions… =)

    She’s got her crazy, skittish, boy I wish she’d calm down moments, but mostly she’s great. And let me say, if she can’t find a ball, she’ll use just about anything else, a stick, a rock, a snowball, whatever she can get ahold of.

    I really didn’t know what I was getting into when I got this tiny 6 week old puppy, but I wouldn’t trade her for anything. I’m glad I found this website, I’ll be using it for reference whenever necessary.

    Thanks to everyone for sharing all these great stories!!

  6. Kurt says

    Our border collie, Jewel, also had “tennis ball obsession.” One time I took her out into the yard and asked her to find a ball. Ten minutes later she came back with a little one square inch peice of tennis ball that had been cut up by the lawn mower. She expectantly dropped the scrap at my feet for me to throw, which of course, I did.

  7. Misty says

    We have an awesome BC named Montana that we just adore! For some reason, she is not interested in tennis balls at all! She likes soccer balls and basketballs… She will literally keep a soccer ball from going into the goal, and she plays basketball with my 15 year old. She keeps the ball from going off of the court, and she also positions herself to make the ball go right back to him when she stops it… She steals the ball from him if he’s not paying attention, and it wouldn’t surprise me if she makes a basket one day… If you bounce the ball, she’ll pop it up with her nose, and she’s come awfully close! She does so much for us! Working our livestock has become a lot easier with her, because she works as hard as three people.. She herds goats, cows, horses, chickens, and she would herd a lizard if I pointed to it and told her to get it… Is it too much to ask of her to fetch a tennis ball? ;). I’m sorry about the long post, but I just love her to pieces, and i was so excited to find your blog about border collies!

  8. says


    Sounds like one heck of a dog! Do you have any photos or videos of Montana on the job or messing around with Tennis and Soccer balls? We’d love to check them out. Shoot me an email via the Contact page and thanks for checking out the site!

  9. says


    Love it! We find it simply amazing…the ability for ours to find a tennis ball no matter what. Great to hear others have the same ability.

  10. Name* says

    I have a Border Collie named Max…he is ball obssed but he is best dog ever. He watches a ball with his green eyes, the best thing we ever did was get him.

  11. says

    My border collie has no interest in a tennis ball, which is very annoying as he is more interested in chasing people and cars and cyclists! I need to get him interested in fetch!

  12. says

    Sheesh…not sure on that one. Might have better luck if you can get him in a spot without distractions (cars and bikes) and work on some fetching. Maybe get some really good treats…he might pick it up.

  13. says

    Just got a four month old border collie frpm a working farm…all he wants to do is herd the kitty …no interest in toys..ball..walking…eating…all he wants to do is follow the cat around…he wont listen toanything..just herds kitty…the cat ignores him to tge best of her ability..what can i do to get dog off cat and into ball..fetch…agility…anything…help

  14. Sara says

    Love this website as I also am the proud owner of a crazy border collie. I just wanted to pass some knowledge around about tennis balls though…apparently they are the best for your dogs teeth. The reason being that little bits of sand and small rock get stuck in the fiber and that can grind on your dogs teeth over time. If your dog doesn’t chew on the ball over and over this wouldn’t be an issue. However, if your dog is a chewer it is better to stick with the plastic balls that come with the chuck-it.

  15. Daniel says

    Awesome dog, you should try using tennis ball pitching machine. Your dog will be definitely happy =))))

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