Border collies were developed for their intense herding drives, not as pets. For this reason, pet dog owners will find training the average border collie puppy to be a challenge. To succeed, puppy training must start early and must take advantage of your pup's keen intelligence and her instincts.
Socialize Early and Often
Your border collie's ancestors were selected over centuries for one kind of work. The result is a dog who may enjoy being with the people who own her, but whose instincts are honed to herding rather than to being social with people. Anyone, but particularly small children or other pets, can run into trouble with a border collie who sees them as critters in need of herding. Teach your border collie from the start how to behave around people. Introduce your puppy to people of all ages as soon as she has had all her puppy shots. The sooner she is accustomed to normal human activity, the sooner she can learn how to behave around those activities.
The inability of inexperienced owners to control them lands many border collies in shelters. If you acquire a border collie puppy, you must be prepared to devote much time training her and providing outlets for her intelligence and energy. Basic obedience training must begin early. Besides learning her name, your collie should learn to come, sit, down and stay on command. Train your border collie puppy to return to you instantly when she is called. It will take time and effort to train your pup to sit or down and stay in one place on command, but it is important to start laying the foundation for that level of obedience as soon as you bring her into your home. “Kindergarten” puppy training classes are excellent places for early socialization and for establishing control.
Be Firm but Gentle
Border collies are sensitive animals. They will “shut down” and refuse to perform any behaviors for people who treat them harshly. The United States Border Collie Club, Inc., says it is essential to “take care to establish your authority and control as a kind, benevolent master,” and emphasizes the need for “time, patience and dog-handling skills” to bring out the best in a border collie puppy. A well-trained border collie does not fear her owner. Rather, she is a close-working companion who enjoys doing whatever she is asked, simply to please her owner.
Use Your Dog’s Instincts
You don’t necessarily have to own sheep or ducks to teach your border collie to herd. If you live within a short drive of a herding trial enthusiast, you may be able to fulfill your border collie's natural instincts. Search the Internet or the American Kennel Club website for a trainer in your area.
If you can't find a herding enthusiast nearby, the emerging game of Treibball may interest both you and your collie. Treibball lets your dog "herd" a group of balls of various sizes into a goal or net. It focuses on communication between dog and owner to get the job done. The game lets your dog use her drives without involving live animals of any kind.
Border Collie Exercise Needs
Border collies require more outlets for their high energy levels than you can provide by tossing a ball in the yard or taking her on a brisk walk around the block. Herding and Treibball both are high-energy activities that your border collie can enjoy. Agility is another dog sport that is dominated by border collies. Indoor training facilities are fairly common, making it possible for many urban dogs to participate in agility training. Agility is a strenuous sport, so very young puppies cannot participate in much of the contact training or jumps. However, they can get started learning the required sits and stays, and can learn how to go through tunnels and chutes.