All dogs need exercise, no matter the breed. While some need less than others, no matter what, you need to devote time out of your daily life to spend with your dog.
But when it comes to border collies, the question is, “How much exercise does a border collie need?”
The problem with this question is, there isn’t a definitive answer. The only definitive answer is that it depends on the border collie and how you handle it.
But before we get into that, let’s look at the border collie breed and their history so that you can better understand their exercise needs.
Border collie breed and history
As you may already know, border collies are working dogs through and through. But if you didn’t know that, then keep reading.
Border collies first came from the region along the border between Scotland and England which is where they got their name.
They are thought to have come from the landrace collie, which was a herding breed that was already popular in the area.
All border collies can be traced back to one single dog named Old Hemp.
Old hemp was a sheepdog and spent his life herding sheep. His herding style was different from the other dogs.
He was much quieter and focused. This is the trait that was bred into the modern border collie today.
Throughout the years, almost 125 years later, border collies are still being bred and used as herding dogs.
Herding is in their blood, but that doesn’t mean that every border collie needs to be out running around chasing sheep every day.
Your border collie will be can live a great life with much less.
It’s easy to say that border collies need a definitive amount of exercise, like 1 hour per day, or three 30 minute walks per day. But every border collie is different and every border collie can be happy with different amounts of exercise.
WildFlower from the bordercollie.org forum said it best,
“You create the dog that you have in terms of exercise. If you introduce it to 5 hours of exercise a day then you have created a dog that needs 5 hours of exercise a day.”
The amount of exercise your border collie needs really depends on you, your border collie, and the time you spend with them.
Some border collies would be perfectly fine with a few 30-minute walks a day. Some could be fine with less, or some might need more.
If I were to give a specific amount of time, I would say you need to spend 2 hours per day of combined physical and mental exercise.
Border collie puppies
Border collie puppies have fragile bones and ligaments while they grow into a young adult.
While you may think that they need more exercise when they are a few months old, it’s the opposite until they are over a year old. It is best not to over-exercise them up until this point because it can lead to problems down the line as an adult.
For the first 8 months of your border collie’s life, you should keep the exercise to a minimum. Daily walks are not needed.
Take the first 8 months to socialize your pup, take them to obedience training, and spend time with them at home. You can even play fetch or throw a ball for them in short distances to enhance their herding instinct.
Once they are around 8 months or older, then you can begin to exercise them more. This is also the point when you can start training them to herd.
12 months is when you can start taking your border collie puppy on shorter walks around the neighborhood and working on agility training.
It is important to build them up slowly until they are full grown so you don’t do permanent damage down the line.
Border collie adults
Once your border collie is a full grown dog, then you can exercise them normally.
Border collies are herding dogs through and through so no matter the case, they will need some sort of daily exercise.
If you think you can adopt a border collie and keep them inside all day, then you are just asking for trouble. Their herding instinct will come out and you will find that your dog will cause all sorts of problems.
Try to spend at least an hour, but preferably 2 hours with your border collie per day. This time should not only be physical exercise but also mental exercise as well.
You’ll actually come to find that for your border collie, mental training can be just as exhausting as physical training. Sure, running around can be tiring for them, but putting their brain to work is just as hard of work.
There are many ways to exercise a border collie both physically and mentally. I will talk about these below.
Physical exercise ideas for border collies
There are many physical exercises you can use to tire out a border collie and get their energy levels down.
These don’t always have to be the typical exercises like walking, running, or playing fetch. While they do love doing these things, there are other exercises you can do with them as well.
Taking a long walk with your border collie is the easiest way to get them some good physical exercise.
Keep in mind that a long walk should be a long walk. Not just a stroll around the block.
30 minutes is a good time to start out with and increase the time from there. If your border collie isn’t panting at the end of the walk, then they probably didn’t get enough of a walk.
Walking is not only good for your border collie, but it is good for you. I always find that I feel better, and have a much clearer mind when I go for a nice long walk.
Running is a harder exercise for many people, but it is great for your border collie. A short 15-minute run can be just as tiring as a long 30-minute+ plus walk.
So if you are running late one day, or you can’t squeeze in the full amount of exercise you normally do, then this can be a good option.
Personally, I have never been a runner. I have tried many times to pick it up but it just doesn’t work well for me.
That’s where the next exercise comes in.
Biking is a great alternative to running. This is because your border collie gets the same tiring exercise, while you get off easy by riding a bike.
This might be harder for people who can’t balance well on a bike, or can’t ride a bike with one hand.
Trying to manage your border collie on a leash in one hand, and the bike in the other is rather complicated. But if you can get it down, it’s a breeze.
I figured out that biking works a lot better for me because like I said above, I have never been able to get into running.
If you live in an area with hiking nearby, this is always a great way to exercise your border collie.
Hiking is good for both you and your pup. It’s more strenuous than walking, and it allows you to spend some quality time in nature.
Spending time in nature always puts you in a happy mood and border collies love being out of the city.
It’s a win-win for both of you.
Fetch is probably the easiest way to exercise your border collie if you have the open space to do it. If you don’t have space, then head over to the dog park. Your pup will thank you.
Fetch is simple. All you have to do is get their favorite ball and throw it for them.
Hopefully, your border collie already knows how to play, but if they don’t then you should definitely teach them.
My border collie loves playing fetch. He could run after a ball for hours if I let him. It so easy, and they love to put that herding instinct to good use.
Just like fetch, you can also play frisbee with your border collie.
Unlike most dogs, border collies are a breed that can actually predict where the frisbee is going to end up. This makes it a great tool for agility training and also physical exercise.
If you border collie gets good enough at catching the frisbee, you can even teach them to catch it in the air like I’m sure you have seen before.
Tug-o-war is another fun way to get some of your dog’s energy out. My pup loves tug almost as much as he loves playing fetch.
All you have to do is get a toy made for playing tug. Usually, its some kind of rope toy with handles on both ends. One handle is for you, and one is for your dog.
While you play tug, you may see a side of your dog you haven’t seen before. But don’t worry, the growling and snarling is an expression of how enthusiastic they are about playing tug.
It’s a common misconception that playing tug can lead to an aggressive dog, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, some trainers even use tug as a reward or reinforcement during training.
If you are lucky enough to live near a clean body of water, then you should definitely let your border collie go swimming once in a while.
Swimming is a great form of exercise for a border collie. It tires them out, and it helps build their muscles in the process.
Not only is it hard work, but it is also a low-impact exercise. This means that it is easy on your collie’s joints and rest of the body. This is the opposite of running where they are constantly hitting the ground at a fast rate of speed.
An added bonus when it comes to swimming is that it can help your collie get rid of the loose hairs when they are shedding.
Playing with another dog
Having another dog around can be very beneficial to your border collie. Dogs are pack animals and having another dog around can provide companionship for your dog that you can provide.
Aside from that, another dog will provide your border collie with a play buddy.
They can roughhouse and run around the house together. There always tends to be something going on when multiple dogs have the energy to burn.
This not only helps you out by not having to provide them as much exercise, it helps your border collie out too.
If you have the room to set up an agility or obstacle course in your backyard, then this is definitely something you should consider doing.
You’ve seen them before. All the jumps, weave poles, teeter-totters, and tunnels. Border collies love these course, and they are really good at them too.
Agility courses not only provide physical stimulation, but they also provide mental stimulation too.
Here’s a guide I found that shows how to build your own agility course in your backyard.
Last but not least, is what border collies live for, herding.
If you’re reading this then you probably don’t live on a farm where your border collie can herd, but I thought I would mention it anyways.
Herding is what border collies were bred for. It’s in their blood. Running around the farm guiding sheep is both physically and mentally demanding.
There are plenty of guides out there showing how to teach your border collie to herd sheep and other animals. If you are interested, just google around.
Mental exercises for border collies
In addition to physical exercise, you’ll also want to give your border collie mental exercise as well. Mental exercises typically require less physical work and more work using their brain.
Some examples of mental exercises you can try with your border collie are listed below.
Tricks and training
When it comes to owning a dog, tricks and training are essential. No matter the breed, basic obedience is important, and tricks are just the frosting on the cake.
For border collies, basic training and tricks are not enough.
They can easily learn to sit, stay, lay down, and shake. But can you teach them to how to put away their toys, skateboard, or jump through hoops?
When it comes to tricks and training, border collies excel. You can train them to do pretty much anything within reason. And the harder the trick, the more mental stimulation the
After all, they are the smartest breed of dog…
Interactive toys are fun for you and your border collie when you want to let them do their own thing without your involvement.
Interactive toys are basically any dog toys that your border collie can play with on their own. They come in many different styles and can vary in level of difficulty.
Some common interactive toys include: treat dispenser toys, puzzle toys, hide-and-seek toys, and snuffle mats.
If you want to learn more about which toy to choose, I wrote all about the best dog toys for border collies.
Hide and seek
Yes, border collies can play hide and seek.
All you have to do is tell them to sit and stay, then go away and hide in a closet or somewhere they wouldn’t normally find you. Yell “Find” and see if your pup can find you!
It might take a few tries to get them to do it correctly, but playing hide-and-seek is both mentally stimulating for your border collie and fun for you.
It can be especially fun for little kids because it’s like having another sibling to play with.
Agility courses can be both mentally and physically challenging for a border collie.
If you’re able to set one up in your backyard or have access to a local course, this is a great way to keep your border collie super healthy.
Not only do they get tired from jumping over beams, through poles, and on teeter-totters, they have to use their brains to constantly stay focused and on course.
The above suggestions were just some of many ways to provide mental stimulation for your border collie.
There are lots of other games you can play, training you can do, and other ways to exhaust their brains.
Training methods like shaping are particularly stimulating for them. Games like the shell game and naming their pets cause also work their brains.
When it comes to answering the question “How much exercise does a border collie need?”, the answer really depends on you and your border collie.
If you want a definitive answer to the question, I would say to shoot for 2 hours of combined mental and physical stimulation every day.
With that being said, the amount of time you spend exercising them will condition them to need that much exercise in the future. If your border collie is used to working 5 hours a day, then suddenly you cut back to 2 hours per day, you will notice behavior problems.
There can be other factors that come into play as well. Factors like age, breed mixes and more can have an effect. But what is most important in the end is that you keep your border collie healthy by giving them the exercise they need.
You will be able to tell over time the perfect amount of exercise for your border collie. When your border collie is not getting enough exercise or getting too much exercise, you will know. Then you adjust to find the perfect balance.