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8 Ways To Keep Your Border Collie Mentally Stimulated

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Keeping the world’s most intelligent dog breed entertained and mentally stimulated can seem more challenging than it actually is. Thankfully, this article simplifies mental stimuation and explains 8 ways you can easily keep your border collie entertained, stimulated, and happy.

Why Mental Stimulation Is So Important For Border Collies

Before covering the tips, I wanted to explain the importance of mental stimulation and why it’s so crucial. The easiest way to think of mental stimulation is like exercise for the brain.

Mental exercise is just as important as physical exercise, yet it often sits in the shadows and is forgotten about.

All working dogs, especially border collies (who also happen to be the world’s smartest breed) absolutely NEED their minds to be worked, just like their physical bodies do. They need to solve problems and carry out tasks for their owners. They crave having a job that involves mental effort as well as physical effort.

Some typical adverse effects from dogs who don’t receive enough mental stimulation can be anxiety, destructive behavior, disobedience, hyperactivity, stress, depression, and chewing issues.

I hear a lot about how owners walk their collie to the moon and back, yet wonder why they are never tired. And that’s simple, It’s because their mind isn’t tired. Without a tired mind, your collie will never be fully satisfied.

So, with all of that being said, it’s crucial that we as responsible owners facilitate fun games, training, and activities that are specially designed to make our collie’s think. This is how they receive their valuable mental stimulation.

8 Ways To Keep Your Border Collie Entertained (Mental Stimulation)

Let’s run through 8 of the best ways to keep your border collie entertained, mentally stimulated and happy.

1. Nose Work Games

Nose work games involve your border collie using their sense of smell and muzzle to find a hidden treat. The game is super fun, easy, and is a potent form of mental stimulation.

A dog’s sense of smell can be anywhere between 10,000 to 100,000 times better than ours. It’s their primary way of navigating through life, and when a dog uses their sense of smell to solve a problem, it puts their mind in overdrive!

How to do it:

To start the game for the very first time, hide a treat behind a cushion while your collie watches you, then ask her to “find it”. Of course, this one is going to be incredibly easy, but this is purely to initiate the main game.

Now, have your collie sit and stay in another room while you hide the treat in a different place. Call your collie in and encourage her to “find it”. She will immediately go back to the same cushion, and now the real fun begins, keep telling her to “find it”. She will absolutely love this game but remember not to make it too difficult.

2. Basic Command Training

Basic command training is very underestimated and is something you should consider incorporating back into your collie’s routine. 30 minutes of basic commands like sit, stay, down, come here and paw are all excellent at engaging her mind and satisfying her desire to accomplish tasks. (regardless of how basic they are)

Many owners quickly stop focusing on basic commands as soon as their collie learns it for the first time. But this is such a shame because these commands are the very foundation of an obedient and well-behaved collie.

How to do it:

Start scheduling 30 minutes every day to run through commands like sit, stay, come here, down, and paw. Always use treats as rewards when she gets something right, and as soon as she masters it, increase the difficulty.

Commands, like sit and stay, can easily be made harder by either increasing the time you ask her to stay or by walking away from her, before giving her the “go” or “come” command.

3. Increase Socialization

Socializing your collie is super important for many reasons, mainly to keep her well-behaved and naturally friendly towards other dogs and strangers. The less exposure your collie has to new dogs, environments, and people, the more aloof and potentially aggressive she may become when around them.

The second most important reason is, you guessed it… Mental stimulation. Interacting with new dogs and people provides an unrivaled dose of mental stimulation. Sniffing butts, playing, chasing, play fighting, and even humping… It’s all good for the mind.

How to do it:

To incorporate more socialization into your collie’s day, try exercising her at the local dog park where she is more likely to interact with new dogs.

If that’s not possible, invite friends and family with their dogs over to your house (or visit theirs). And finally, there are now many doggy meet up groups that you can find through Facebook that arrange to meet at specific times and places, for the sole purpose of socializing their dogs.

4. Interactive Puzzle Toys

Another excellent way to keep your border collie entertained is with interactive puzzle toys. These aren’t like ordinary dog toys… puzzle toys encourage your collie to figure out a problem in return for receiving a treat.

Puzzle toys range in difficulty, design, and some are better suited for when you are there to supervise. Some are “set and forget toys” which are great for when you need to leave your collie home alone for a while.

How to do it:

Buy a couple of interactive toys like the Star Mark Bob A Lot or one from the Nina Ottoson range, and start using them on a daily basis with your collie.

Top tip, only ever use very dry treats or dry kibble inside the toys, this avoids the treats sticking to the insides, which creates a mess, and ultimately makes them impossible to fall out.

5. Hide and Seek

Childhood memories are starting to come back. The good news is that collies love this game just like kids do. And it’s an excellent form of mental stimulation.

I particularly like this one because you can suddenly and spontaneously start a game, without the need for treats, toys, or going anywhere.

How to do it:

When your collie is none the wiser, hide behind a door in a different room, and start calling her. She’s going to come in to realize you’re not there, and now the fun really starts!

She may leave the room again, so give her another call. By this time, she’s probably going bonkers. And remember, don’t make the game impossible for her to find you. There’s always a balance between having fun and getting frustrated.

6. Agility Training

Collies are extremely good at agility exercises such as hurdles, zigging in and out of cones, scrambling through tunnels, and more.

Navigating through an agility course takes a lot more mind power than simply chasing a ball. Her mind will be constantly engaged and making a conscious effort to decide whether she needs to jump, duck, or weave, all while progressing at a fast pace.

Of course, there may be some trial and error, to begin with, but it’s nothing your collie can’t figure out!

How to do it:

If you’re handy with woodwork, you could make your own obstacles and hurdles, but if not, there are agility dog training sets on Amazon that have everything you need.

If you have space in your yard, then this is an excellent investment to keep your collie physically fit and mentally stimulated.

7. Give Names To Her Toys

Sounds weird, but it’s actually a known thing with collies. In fact, there’s a border collie who can successfully identify 1000 individual dog toys by name. That’s an incredible achievement and just shows you how intelligent collies can be.

How to do it:

You don’t need to aim for 1000 toys, but you can certainly start off with two! Start with two toys, one in each hand. put them both behind your back, and bring one out at a time, while repeating a given name. Switch back and forth between the two toys, with their own given name for a few minutes.

Now, place both toys out on the floor in front of you while your collie is patiently sitting and waiting (and thinking you’ve gone absolutely insane) then, call out one name. Hopefully, your collie got the gist of the game and chooses the right one.

If she doesn’t, no worries, try the game again. She will get it eventually, then you can gradually include more and more toys.

8. Increase General Engagement & Interaction

Last but not least, general engagement and interaction cannot be overlooked. Simply being with your collie, actively playing with her, talking to her and getting her involved with the family all counts towards mental stimulation.

No tricks or wizardry here, just good old communication and bonding. Be sure to give your collie as much as yourself as you can.

Collies, being working dogs, develop extremely strong bonds with their owners and family, and at the end of the day, all they want is your attention. This alone will keep them very content and happy with their life, so always consider how much quality time you’re giving to your collie every day.

How Much Mental Stimulation Do Border Collies Need?

One of the most common questions around mental stimulation, is how much is enough?

Honestly, there isn’t a set amount like there is with physical exercise.

Mental stimulation comes in so many different forms that it’s hard to measure how much you are giving. I guess a simple answer would be, the more the better!

Keep working your border collie’s mind, alongside her physical exercise, and you will naturally find the right balance. Always observe her carefully and you will know when everything is at the right level.


Thank you for reading! If you have any questions about this topic or want to give feedback on the article, please let me know! I always appreciate responses to my articles! Kind regards, Harry

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