Border Collies are some of the smartest dogs on the planet. They’re medium-sized dogs that generally weigh from 30 to 55 pounds, and they’re also amazing athletes, often taking home prizes in canine agility competitions and working dog trials. While they have a reputation for being somewhat stubborn and difficult to train, they often thrive when challenged.
Teaching your dog tricks can be a fun addition to your regular training routine. It builds on these intelligent dogs’ instincts and provides a fantastic bonding opportunity. Positive training techniques involving rewards, such as treats and ear scratches, typically get the best results. While most Border Collies learn tricks incredibly quickly, it can take some dogs longer to catch on. Most dogs master tricks much faster if they’ve already got the hang of basic obedience commands such as “Sit,” “Stay,” and “Down.”
The 15 Tricks Border Collies Can Learn
While some dogs naturally take to playing fetch, others need help learning the ropes. Grab a toy your dog loves and put it in front of your buddy. Praise your dog and give them a treat when they pick it up. Put the toy farther away but stand close by with treats in hand. Reward your dog when they go to the toy and grab it. Once your dog masters that, toss the toy a few feet away and reward them when they pick it up and bring it to you.
2. Paw Shaking
It’s relatively easy to teach most dogs to shake paws once they know how to sit and stay. Just lift your buddy’s paw and say, “Shake,” then reward them. Repeat the process a few times. Keep going until your dog raises their paw when you give the command. Keep training sessions relatively short so your dog stays engaged and interested. Border Collies are often motivated by praise and love, so don’t forget to mix in a few cuddles with your treats.
3. Roll Over
Grab a treat and wait for your dog to get comfortable. Hold the treat in your fingers while making a circle wide enough for your dog to roll over to follow the snack with their head. Give your dog a treat after they complete a full roll. Some dogs need help rolling over the first few times, but most catch on relatively quickly. After your pet understands what the trick entails, add the “Roll Over” command.
4. Play Dead
Once your dog can sit and lie down, they’re ready to learn how to play dead. Stand in front of your dog with a treat in hand and tell them to lie down. Then hold the treat close to your dog’s nose so they follow it with their head and body. Use the treat to encourage your pet to roll, then reward them when they’re lying on their side. Add the “Play Dead” command when your dog has mastered the trick. Repeat as necessary, providing many treats to encourage learning and cooperation.
5. Wait for It
Take a treat and hold it in front of your dog’s nose while saying, “Wait for it.” Give your dog a few seconds, then say, “Get It,” and open your hand. Practice a few times until your buddy gets the idea, then put a treat in your open palm and say “Wait for it,” and see how things go. Extend the time you ask your pet to hold tight for their treat until your dog reliably resists temptation until you give the green light.
6. Hoop Jumping
While it’s possible to teach your dog hoop jumping basics on your own, you may want to enlist an assistant when it’s time for the finishing touches. To get started, simply hold a hoop upright and place it in front of your dog on the floor. Hold a treat on the other side of the hoop so your dog has to walk through to get the goody. Add the command “Hoop” after your dog has successfully completed the trick a few times with your help. Keep raising the hoop just a bit every time until your dog happily jumps through.
Border Collies often get on serious barking rolls when triggered, so teaching dogs to stop barking on command can be helpful when it comes to keeping the peace. Get your dog excited about something that results in a healthy measure of barking, then look around, come back, wait until they stop vocalizing, and reward them with treats and praise. Repeat the entire process a few times before introducing the “Quiet” command. When your pet starts barking, grab a treat and approach the situation as if it’s a training game to encourage them to quiet down.
Teaching your dog to speak is often easier once your pet has mastered the “Quiet” command. The quiet-speak command combination is a great way to limit excessive canine vocalization. Say “Speak,” and then give them a treat as soon as they do. Give the process a few repetitions, and then use the “Quiet” command to let your dog know it’s time to stop barking. Only reward your dog when they bark once or twice before stopping. Using hand signals can make it easier for dogs to understand what’s being asked of them and prevent pets from concluding that wild barking is being rewarded.
Grab a treat and put it close to your face. Wait until your dog licks your cheek, and say, “Kiss” while giving your buddy a treat. Go through the process a few times and then begin giving the command before your dog gives you a kiss and rewarding them after they do. While most dogs can learn the trick, not all pets enjoy giving kisses on command. Pay attention to your pet’s reaction; if they’re not interested in practicing the trick, another option may be better.
Backing up is another skill that often comes in handy with exuberant Border Collies. It’s easiest to teach after dogs have mastered the “Stay” command. To get started, grab a treat, stand before your dog, and walk toward them. Wait until your dog starts backing up, and give them lots of praise and a treat. Next, give the “Backup” command before you start moving forward. Treat your dog and give them praise to help seal the deal.
11. Leg Weaving
Teaching your dog to run figure eights between and around your legs is a fun way to increase the difficulty level of the tricks your dog learns. Introduce your dog to the ropes by using treats to lead them step-by-step through the process. To get started, break the trick down into individual segments and provide rewards at every step. Reduce the number of treats as your pet gets the hang of things until you only reward them at the end.
12. Cup Switcheroo
Dogs are ringers when it comes to shell games, particularly ones involving treats they can sniff out. Grab a cup, show your dog the treat, and put it under it. Say “Find the Treat,” and let your dog enjoy their snack when they put their paw or nose close to the cup. Once your dog has mastered the first step, add a second cup and continue the process. Give your pet a few repetitions to get used to what’s expected, and then begin moving the cups around. Keep going until your dog constantly points out the cup under which the treat you’ve hidden can be found.
13. Bow Down
Getting your dog to take a bow can be a total showstopper for friends and family, and it’s a relatively easy trick to teach dogs who’ve already gotten the hang of the “Stand” command. Position yourself in front of your dog while they’re standing. Hold a treat in front of their nose and encourage them to relax their elbows by lowering the treat. Once your dog hits the right pose, give them praise and treats. Keep going until your dog understands which action you’re looking for, then introduce the “Bow Down” command. Most dogs catch on relatively quickly.
Most Border Collies naturally know how to crouch; it’s part of their herding toolkit. So, teaching them to crawl only requires a bit of extra work. Start after your dog has learned to lie down on command. Take a treat and hold it in front of your dog while they’re lying down on their stomach. Move the treat slowly forward. Keep the treat nice and low to the ground to ensure your buddy crawls. Add the command once your dog can reliably crawl in pursuit of treats.
Getting your dog to beg on command is a great way to impress your friends with how well-trained your pet is! And it’s usually a relatively easy trick for Border Collies to master. Grab a treat and kneel in front of your dog while they’re sitting still. Raise the treat until your pet’s head follows. Keep raising the treat until your pet reaches up with their paw. Reward them with praise and treats when they figure out what action you’re looking for. Repeat a few times to ensure your dog understands, then add the “Beg” command.
Border Collies are incredibly smart and athletic; they can learn and perform almost any trick you can imagine. Because they’re so intelligent and perfectly able to solve problems independently, Border Collies sometimes lose interest in training that doesn’t challenge them. Also, it’s often hard for them to maintain focus for long periods due to their high energy levels. However, with consistent reward-based training and lots of love, your Border Collies will become a master of canine tricks.
Featured Image Credit: Lioneska, Shutterstock