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How Much Exercise Do Border Collies Need? Full Guide

Exercise is crucially for Border collies, but how much do they need exactly? This article explains how much daily exercise your collie will need and answers many more important questions on this topic.


Do Border Collies Need a Lot Of Exercise?

Border collies need 1-2 hours of exercise per day. This is sufficient to keep them physically stimulated and healthy. Additional playtime throughout the day is recommended.

If you are comparing border collies to other breeds, then yes, they need a lot of exercise.

There’s no doubt that border collies are on the upper end of the scale when it comes to daily exercise. Some breeds are natural couch potatoes, whereas collies are more like natural athletes.

So if you are considering getting a border collie, it’s crucial that you are prepared to provide a sufficient amount of exercise, every single day.

How Much Exercise Do Border Collies Need?

So how much exercise is enough? How much do collies really need?

Healthy adult border collies should receive at least 1-2 hours of moderate to high-intensity exercise per day. Ideally, their daily exercise should be split up into two different sessions, once in the morning and another in the evening.

For most owners, this is a surprising amount of exercise. But it’s exactly what a healthy adult collie will crave. It’s so important to remember that collies are no “ordinary dog”, they are a highly energetic working dog that needs plenty of activity.

The correct exercise level is so impactful on your collie’s health, happiness, trainability, and behavior. I’ll explain a little more about this below.

What About Border Collie Puppies?

If you have a puppy, the rules on exercise change quite a bit.

Although adults need a lot of exercise, puppies need a lot less throughout the first year of their life. This is because their joints, bones, and muscles are still developing, and overexercising could hinder growth or cause serious injuries (short and long term).

Border collies puppies should receive 5 minutes of dedicated exercise per day, per month of age they are. So a border collie at 3 months old will receive 15 minutes per day, at 4 months old they will be at 20 minutes per day, and so on.

This is known as the 5-minute method and was developed by canine training experts to safely provide puppies with an appropriate amount of exercise depending on their age.

This is a safe way for you to exercise your BC pup without worrying if are providing too little or too much.

The 5-minute method should be followed until around 10-12 months of age before increasing it to an adult level of exercise.

Oh, and “dedicated” exercise doesn’t mean generic playing around the house (which is still exercise). Instead, dedicated exercise is the practice of actually putting on the leash and harness and going for a walk.

Trending Article: Does my border collie love you? 10 signs of affection

Why Exercise Is So Crucial For Border Collies

So, why is it “so important” for your collie to receive such a huge amount of exercise, anyway?

The border collie’s need to exercise comes from their unrivaled working history. BC’s were used for hundreds of years to herd livestock, and no other breed does it better. Over so many years of doing this, not only have they become the world’s most intelligent dog, but one of the fittest too.

And still today, collies expect and NEED a huge amount of exercise on a daily basis. And if they don’t exert enough of their energy out through exercise and mental stimulation, it will get channeled elsewhere… and that’s bad news for us!

Common problems owners face with an under-exercised border collie:

Hyperactivity throughout the day
Impaired trainability
Increased aggression, aloofness
Destructive behavior
Heightened stress and anxiety
Negative changes in temperament

As you can see, all of those issues are certainly ones to avoid. And they are unfortunately common among those BCs who do not receive adequate levels of physical AND mental exercise every day.

Let’s move on to mental exercise (mental stimulation).

Why Mental Stimulation Is Equally Important

When we talk about “exercising” our furry friends, practically all of us, only think of physical exercise.

But the truth is that there are two forms, physical and mental. And mental exercise (commonly referred to as mental stimulation) is just as important for border collies as is physical exercise.

Mental stimulation is all about engaging your collie’s mind, giving her challenges and problems to overcome, and making her work mentally. And with border collies being the smartest breed, they need a lot of it.

The age old saying is that if you don’t train your collie, she’ll start training you.

So far I’ve placed a lot of importance on physical exercise, and while that’s still right, mental exercise is the true underdog. Without mental exercise, it doesn’t matter how many miles your collie runs, she’ll never truly be tired. Her mind must be tired, not just her body, in order to feel truly satisfied.

Mental stimulation comes in many forms, here’s some of the most common:

Command training
Interactive puzzle toys
Nose work games
Agility training

As for how much mental stimulation is necessary, it’s hard to say. Generally, the more the better… So be sure to at least be providing your collie with 45-60 minutes of dedicated mental stimulation in one form or another, every day.

I have an article explaining in detail the best ways to keep your border collie mentally stimulated. It’s worth checking out.

7 Great Exercise Ideas For a Border Collie

Let’s run through some of the best ways to exercise your border collie.

1. Agility Training

Border collies aren’t just athletes. They are incredible acrobats too. Collies are some of the best when it comes to weaving in and out, jumping, crawling, and all-around agility.

You can either purchase a dog agility set or you could even make your own. Not only will this be extremely physically demanding, but it will also serve as excellent mental stimulation at the same time due to the quick decision-making needed.

If you have a yard, this is absolutely worth trying! It’ll only be a week or two before your collie will know exactly what to do. You can then keep things interesting by changing the layout or increasing her speed around the course.

2. Hiking

Hiking is another great option to keep things interesting when exercising your collie. Hiking provides unique trails, smells, terrain and will awaken your collie’s senses to the max.

Not only can hiking be very physically demanding, but it will also provide significant mental stimulation too.

However, with hiking, please ensure the trail you go on is safe, dog-friendly and you are aware of the potential hazards if there are any. Some national parks have strict penalties if you take your dog along the wrong route.

3. Swimming

They say swimming is one of the best exercises for us, well, it is too for dogs! And for the same reason, it’s non-impactful yet very intense.

Swimming will improve your collie’s cardiovascular health and fire up her muscles, all while protecting her joints by avoiding harsh landings or sharp turns.

Swimming is best done in dedicated doggy swimming centers, the ocean (if it’s calm and hazard-free), as well as pools in your backyard. I personally advise avoiding lakes and rivers due to unknown hazards and harmful bacteria.

4. Fetch

Yep. (it’s the obvious one), but it’s a favorite for all collies, and yours will certainly enjoy their fair share of ball-chasing and frisbee-catching.

Yes, frisbee is an excellent way to spice up the average game of fetch. And of course, collies are amazing at it.

The reason collies love fetch so much is because it gets them doing what they do best. Chasing. In fact, it’s even better than chasing sheep because they actually get to grab and catch their target at the end and then bring it back to you.

Every time they chase, catch and retrieve, it’s essentially like completing one mini task, then waiting to do it again. This proves to be very rewarding for collies.

5. Flirt poles

Flirt poles are a great accessory to have for a spontaneous high-intensity workout in the yard. Although a little session isn’t sufficient enough to replace your collie’s main exercise, it’s certainly a great addition to keep things exciting.

Flirt poles will ignite your collie’s prey drive even more than fetch. I personally use them and my dogs absolutely love a 10 minute session in the yard when nothing much else is going on.

If you aren’t aware of what flirt poles are, they’re like fishing poles, with a toy attached to the end of a bungee cord. Here’s a great one from Amazon.

6. Joining you on runs

If you are a keen runner, then you could bring your collie along with you.

It’s important to use a hand-free leash and work on your collie’s ability to remain by your side. This involves going on a few practice runs first.

Additionally, it’s important to work your way up slowly. Your collie might have great stamina, but don’t rush into a 5 mile run with her. Start off with short distances and let her set the pace.

Another crucial factor is to avoid excessive concrete running and opt for mud when possible.

Running with your border collie can actually end up being a great way to strengthen your bond with her, aside from providing great exercise. This is partly due to you being directly involved and doing the activity with her.

7. Socializing at the dog park

Dedicated socializing is a must for all collies! Socializing with other dogs isn’t just an awesome form of exercise, it’s crucial for them to be well-behaved, friendly, and approachable.

There’s nothing like playing, chasing, rolling around, and sniffing butts with other dogs. And so that’s why this is on the list.

The more doggy playgroups you can visit the better. Whether you join some local dog groups in your area, or simply start visiting the dog park more, increased socializing will be awesome for your collie.

Exercising Your Border Collie In Winter & Summer

Whether you are experiencing very cold winters, or very hot summers, exercising your collie must remain a priority.

I have articles dedicated to how collies handle the cold as well as keeping her cool in the summer. But I’ll run through some pointers here too.

Cold weather exercising:

When it comes to the cold, border collies can handle it considerably well, and if the weather conditions are not bad, there’s likely not a temperature your border collie can’t go out and exercise in.

If it’s raining, damp, cloudy, and windy, then that will take away your collie’s ability to remain warm. However, if it’s sunny, dry, with no wind, it could be -10C (15F) and still be perfectly fine for your collie to go outside in.

For the cold, it’s all about the conditions. If it’s wet, and below 5C (40F) exercise inside the home.

Hot weather exercising:

When it comes to the hot summers, it’s a little easier to manage. This involves exercising your collie early in the morning and later on in the evening.

Exercising her while the sun is low will be far more comfortable for her than in the afternoon.

In the summer, it’s best for your collie to avoid the midday sun and heat altogether, whether she is exercising or not.

Last thoughts

If you want a well-behaved, happy and healthy border collie, then exercise is incredibly important.

If you don’t yet have your collie, it’s only fair to consider your current routine, and ensure you have enough free time to give to your collie and her exercise needs.

Thank you for reading!

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