5 Tips for Using Up Your Border Collie’s Energy

The border collie Doc working the head of a black angus calf.

Good border collies don’t just happen. They take work. They need fed. They need to be taught manners. They need to have a Person. They need their energy used up.

1. Working Cows Border collies were bred to herd stock. Cows are by far Doc’s most favorite thing on this planet. When a border is working stock, physical, mental and emotional systems are firing simultaneously. Working all day long in the mountains or down in the canyons is the only thing I’ve seen that causes Doc to head straight for bed in the evenings.

2. Frisbee/Agility As incredible athletes, border collies make a perfect choice for frisbee/agility dogs. It combines mental activity with physical activity. I just brought a frisbee home for Doc. He caught it on the third try, but it’ll only be a for-fun thing around here.

Doc, the border collie, obeying the down command.

3. Obedience Training Engaging a border’s mind is really important. They are always thinking. Channel that thinking power into something useful. I work with Doc all the time, focusing mostly on herding commands. Even if we’re just jogging down the road, I stop him, put him down and heel him at varying intervals.

4. Play Dates Most dogs, especially young ones, love to play with their canine friends. It also burns off a load of energy without any effort on your part. My neighbors have a young chocolate lab. He and Doc have a real go of it when they’re together.

5. Run/Hike Walking isn’t good enough. I could walk Doc all day long, and he’d still be bouncing around at nightfall. A solid run or a hike in a new area can burn some energy units. Biking is good too. New things are important. Just like humans, dogs need to grow and learn.

My border collie Doc squares off across the creek from a black angus cow.

Even with the edge taken off, Doc still digs. Only in his pen or when he’s hunting mice, but he’s still a digger. He still goes bonkers over his chew bones and sometimes blankets. He likes fetch but for no more than 10 throws.

He’s finally pushing out of his puppy stage as he’s well beyond two years. (Finally.) Even though he’s better at containing his energy, his boundless enthusiasm for all things active never ceases to amaze me.

If you’re wanting a dog to lie around at your feet all the time, a border collie isn’t a good choice for you. They rank right up there as some of the best companions a person could ever have, but you have to be willing to give them the exercise they require.

How do you handle the energy of your border collie or other breed of herding dog?


  1. This is totally true…”They need their energy used up.” We do at least one good session of chucking the tennis ball around for Ned every day to run some of the juice out of him. If we don’t we pay for it. The energy is going to be there everyday…it’s got to be dealt with. Cant agree more on how amazing these dogs are as companions and family dogs…simply the best dog I’ve ever had!

    • The energy definitely doesn’t go anywhere on its own. Unspent energy is not good for anyone. Hard to train, hard to keep destructive habits at bay, hard to have a great relationship with the dog. Keep enjoying Ned!

  2. Great post Erica,

    I am a fan of all herding dogs but because of history have preferred Australian Cattle Dogs (heelers) to Border Collies but more than anything because of their short hair.

    Herding dogs are a special breed and can make you fret as well as be inspired by their intelligence and energy. Handling energy of these dogs is a constant battle as one day they are expected to work for hours on end, and then in my case the next day their master is off to a meeting and they are stuck in boredom. One thing I have always been in awe of is the LOYALTY of these dogs. Many would give their own life and every ounce of energy they possess to protect their owners and family from harm.

    • Great points, Larry. I struggle with the same things with Doc. He doesn’t understand the office job part of my life.

      I grew up with heelers. My dad has switched to Australian Shepherds, but my brother still runs a heeler on his ranch. I think all herding dogs share the traits of loyalty, intelligence and desire to work, I just happen to be running a border right now!

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