How to train a Border collie with positive reinforcement.

By Sally Gutteridge | Breeds

The Border collie

The Border collie is used regularly as a working dog within livestock farming. Trials and competitions are carried out where the dogs are tested on their working ability. Originally bred for sheep and cattle control, many still carry a herding instinct even within a pet home.

Known for its intelligence and obedient nature the Border collie is a popular breed choice in dog training circles. Agility, flyball and competitive obedience all fulfill the collies need to work and stay active in mind and body.

Many Border Collies end up in rescue centers. Because they are attractive and popular, collies are often purchased as puppies to be family dogs. If the family group then has little idea of how to train a border collie, then its behavior can get out of control.

Highly intelligent and with the energy levels of a working dog, the Border collie will not cope with minimal exercise. This breed of dog needs to be mentally stimulated and provided with a lot of opportunity for training and physical exercise.

Training your Border collie

If trained correctly and in a kind positive manner the Border collie will thrive in its home environment. This breed of dog is biddable and handler focused. Anyone that is thinking of offering a home to a dog of this breed despite its age will need to research in detail how to train a border collie.

A collie will learn extremely quickly. Positive reinforcement training is a must with this breed.

How to train a Border collie with a clicker.

Clicker training is an easy and enjoyable activity with all dogs. Clicker training works by association of a sound with a reward which is usually food. First the dog must be trained to expect his reward when he hears the sound. When the association is established the sound is used to pinpoint specific desirable behaviors.

Bear in mind with clicker training that a Border collie can be sound sensitive.  If your dog is looking unhappy or worried when being tuned into the sound it may we worth wrapping the clicker in a towel or seeking a smaller less intense clicking device.

How to train a border collie to live as a family pet.

Often seen rounding up a group of dogs and people at the local park, the Border collie which is also a family pet needs plenty of exercise. Generally he will retrieve a tennis ball all day if the activity is offered. Your dog will often need no guidelines on bringing a ball back in retrieve games. If he has difficulty giving the toy back then swapping for a second ball is how to train a border collie and any other dog to drop his possession.

A vocal breed, the collie will certainly demand attention if his needs are not met. Learning quickly, he will work out that barking will command your interest and use the sound to his advantage. If excessive barking is a problem with your dog then teach him to bark on command using a cue word and positive reinforcement. How to train a border collie to stop barking is straightforward. Teach him to bark on command then add a suitable cue word to reinforce quiet behavior then use the established cue word when needed to achieve the required silence. This technique can also be used during travel as many collies will bark when in a moving vehicle.

Research and knowledge of how to train a border collie will be of little use if the dog does not receive regular and sufficient exercise. No dog can be expected to settle without first having used up his mental and physical energy. The collie has higher energy levels than many other breeds of dog.

Chase instinct.

Instinctively and being a visual dog a collie will chase. Be aware that joggers, bicycles, cars and any other moving target may trigger this instinct at any point during your dog’s life. It may be wise to research how to train a Border collie not to chase with positive reinforcement if you are the proud owner of this breed.

Your Border collie and other dogs.

The collie is a reactive breed. They can easily develop a snappy manner with other dogs. Socialization is paramount for this breed as their fear can cause instant reaction to stimulus. The female of the breed can be particularly shy and easily intimidated. Care must be taken to ensure that your dog is not put into a situation where they feel they must react with a fear response.

A well socialized Border collie will live and play happily with other animals.

About the Author

  • LBJ says:

    Everything you said about Border Collies is true for my BC. I knew from books and TV specials that this breed could be trouble, but having rescued her in a very small town with a kill-pound, turning her over to the city dog catcher was not an option in my eyes. I have had her for almost 4 years now and constantly have to adapt to her anxiety and neurotic tendencies. I’m starting to train her with the help of a trainer and some good advice. I strongly urge others who love the breed but do not have the time to spend with them not to get a BC. But if you do, expect an affectionate loyal friend who needs a lot from you and will not lie quietly in the corner for you. You have to be very active with them and give them all the exercise and work they need to be happy.

    • Amanda says:

      Hi I just bought my BC a couple days ago from the local humane society. She is two years old and im having problems with her herding me. She follows me everywhere. And she has a barking problem. This could be separation anxiety? But I don’t exactly know what to do. She is a border collie Labrador mix.

  • crankie says:

    I have a border collie three months old which will not walk on a leash no matter what you do?

    • Jean Cote says:

      Do you mean that your Border Collie will shut down if you attach a leash to his collar?

      • Red says:

        I just took a piece of food and started walking with the leash on and he followed and has loved the leash ever seance!! Good Luck

    • Cody Walz says:

      Try using a harnas instead of just clipping the leash on the collar. I had the same problem; once I used the harnas I didn’t have any problems.

    • Red says:

      Hi, Just want to tell you what worked for me. My BC was totally negative to the leash. I do not regularly use treats to train my dog. It makes your dog over weight. But I got a treat and put him on a leash and showed it to him as I started to walk and HE FOLLOWED ME. THAT WAS IT AND NOW HE GOES TO IT WANTING TO GO! Praise and love+exercise. I recommend & I cant stress enough you need to spend time with them Don Sullavins Perfect dog training Method. It is humane and rewarding.No treats for rewards and again, Praise and love+exercise.

  • Phillip says:

    I have a Border Collie that is a delight in every way except on a leash. He loves to retrieve tennis balls. He gets along with kids,dogs and cats

    • Madeline says:

      How did you work on interaction with cats? We have a 5-month old border collie puppy and 2 cats here at home. She loves to try to herd them…

      • sandy kastner says:

        I have a border collie who is eight years old and he started to bite my granddaughter what can i do or where can i give him to

  • Jessica says:

    I Just got my border Collie about 2 weeks ago, off craigslist! She is truely a blessing in my life, BUT she is having trouble using potty pad…..Any suggestions on what i can do.. I have tried to pick up droppings and put on the pad, then PRAISE her, but she still isnt going on pad, HELP

    • Jean Cote says:

      Hi Jessica, if she’s never gone on the potty pad then she might not be used to it and may take a little while longer. Instead of putting the droppings on the pad, try putting putting some stuff that smells like urine (can be bought at the pet store). Just a little bit, not too much. And give her a treat if she goes in the right spot, which is more valuable than praise. 😉

    • Lisa says:

      I just bought a BC I found putting her outside every ten minutes helped train her to ask for the door. Make sure her put her right out after drinking I found they can not hold it as long as other dogs can.

  • Mark says:

    Hi, in your last paragraph you mentioned about socialization. My border collie got bit at a training group when he was 4 months old and we never went back to another training group. He is no aggressive to any dog passing, I am thinking of taking him to a training group to surround him with plenty of dogs. Should I get a muzzle just incase, my idea is that when he is acting aggressively he will realise his behaviour does not get rewarded as he will not be removed from the situation of being surrounded by other dogs.

  • Jean Cote says:

    Hi Mark, first off, if your dog is not currently aggressive towards other dogs, why try to fix something that isn’t broken? Also, socialization doesn’t mean being thrown in there with a bunch of other dogs. It means *positive* experiences with other dogs.

    Your dog will develop a meaning on whether interactions with other dog is pleasurable or painful depending on those interactions. You need to let your dog play or socialize with other dogs who are very well behaved and tolerant of other dogs. Not just any random dog.

    The goal is to get your dog to see all dogs as pleasurable based on his or her experiences.

  • tara says:

    hi i have a 13 week old border collie pup she bites quite a lot and we try everything to make her stop and not do it again but she keeps on doing it and also i have 9 cats/kittens and she intimmidates them and chases them up the stairs to get rid of them how do i make her stop that ? ….

    • Maria says:

      I bought a Kong chew toy and have had a lot of success. Also rawhide flavored rolls work well.
      A lot of the time it seems she wants to play but doesn’t realize she’s hurting you. What if you say “no” and exchange a toy to bite instead? I’m definitely having the same problem.

  • Autumn says:

    I just got my puppy 3 days ago and he is 4 months old. He has a problem with barking while I am away at work and it is causing a problem with the other tenants and I might lose my apartment. Also, I am having trouble getting him to potty outside..I have tried to use treats and positive encouragement but nothing seems to be working. Any suggestions??

    • Skylar says:

      How much time is he able to exercise? Border Collies tend to get a little over energized and annoyed when they don’t have space or time to just run around.

  • Maria says:

    Hi all,

    I have a 5 month old BC I’ve had for a week. She’s my first dog. We’ve been going on walks that range from 15 minutes to a few hours (with breaks). She doesn’t seem over-exercised, but I want to make sure I’m doing okay.

    My husband works most of the day, but because of his size and command he is definitely the alpha when he’s home. I’m fairly small and play with her more often, resulting in a lot of biting and her seemingly “dominating.” I’m not sure how to assert myself. Tips anyone?

    Thanks for your advice!

    • Jean Cote says:

      Hi Maria. Don’t worry about over-exercising your dog, I seriously doubt that you will over-exercise your dog by going on long walks. I think this is a good habit that you are developing and your dog will really enjoy it later on. But of course, make sure that you bring lots of water with you (and training treats).

      As for your dog biting and “dominating” you – I don’t personally think there is such a thing as your dog trying to dominate you. Instead, your dog is just learning what is appropriate and what isn’t. You say that you play with your dog and then he bites you – there must be consequences for this action to get your dog to stop that behavior.

      Personally, I think you should stop the play and take away all attention as soon as your dog bites you. Your dog must learn that it’s not an appropriate behavior and at 5 months old, he should have learned this by now, but it looks like you’ve only had him for a week so we’ll have to put the blame on the previous owner/breeder. 🙂

  • Maria says:

    Lastly- we crate train her overnight which works well. She is alone for 5-6 hours during the day… Is the crate okay? So far she hasn’t made a mess in her crate when were asleep or at work. When is it okay to let her roam a small part of the house when I’m working?

    • Jean Cote says:

      Hi Maria,

      Yes that is fine. To be honest with you, it totally depends on the dog but I would not hurry this process. You said you’ve only had your dog for a week, you should only let your dog free in the house when you are absolutely certain that he won’t be digging in the garbage, chewing on your stuff or soiling your house.

      I’ve crated my dogs for almost an entire year when they were young (for short time periods when I wasn’t home). I did this because I wanted to supervise my dog whenever they were free in the house. Now I can let them free when I leave but there was a very strong history of good behavior in the house. They never even chewed anything of mine (not even once).

      • Angela says:

        How did you train them to stop chewing? I got my puppy saturday, he turned 8 weeks sunday. He is very active, I am trying the crate training and even when I am home if I need to shower or am going to be in the middle of something where I cant keep my eye on him I put him in the crate. For the most part when he comes out, he goes out and goes potty and if he goes potty he is rewarded with a treat and then left out to play up until he either tires or starts to get into trouble. If it’s for trouble he goes in until he stops whining then gets another chance to play. If when I take him out he does not potty he goes back in the crate and I try again in half an hour. He loves to play outside in the backyard but if I am not out there playing with him he whines and yelps even though he has toys to play with and things to chew on. I know they need a lot of attention at this stage but I also work so while I can work from home for the next few weeks that won’t always be the case. When he gets to playing inside with his toys, playing fetch, chasing the cat, etc. he does really good for a little while and then he starts in on chewing. He will chew anything and I mean ANYTHING. Even outside he is chewing on the curb and stuff like that. I’m sure that is part of teething but when he gets into playing he will start chewing on me. I tell him NO in a stern voice and redirect him with a chew toy. If after doing this 4-5 times he is still trying to chew on me he goes into time out to wind down and then the cycle starts again with coming out of the crate to try going potty. I am fortunate to have my back half of the house with hardwoods and am able to gate off that area. I will be pulling up the 2 area rugs I have and store them for a while so that they don’t get ruined by potty and chewing but even when he is left out back there to play, if someone isn’t in there with him he whines and yelps. I am sure this will calm down as he gets used to his surroundings but any other tips/tricks you have especially where the chewing is concerned would be great.

  • Autumn says:

    I just got my puppy 3 days ago and he is 4 months old. He has a problem with barking while I am away at work and it is causing a problem with the other tenants and I might lose my apartment. Also, I am having trouble getting him to potty outside..I have tried to use treats and positive encouragement but nothing seems to be working. Any suggestions??

  • Lisa says:

    Try a bark collar but only for short times that should help we used that on our older dog who would bark all the time it took only a couple of times and it stop him .

  • >