How To Train A Border Collie Puppy

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Baby tube training in a park

Adopting a new border collie puppy was one of the most memorable moments in our lives. We had done plenty of research on the breed and thought that we had a firm grasp on what to expect. Although, this was somewhat accurate, there’s no way to prepare a first time border collie owner for the exciting road that lies ahead.

As with any pet, and especially dogs, making the decision to add a new member to your family is a very big one. There are feeding, grooming, and exercising schedules that have to be adhered to. If the border collie is for a child, there needs to be a strong understanding of the responsibilities that are in store. Children don’t always have the attention span or level of maturity to care for a pet on their own. They will almost always need some level of supervision, with the amount depending on the child.

With a border collie puppy, the amount of responsibility required is multiplied. If you’re looking for a pet that will be living in an urban environment, border collies are a huge responsibility. The level of intense physical and mental stimulation needed may be to much for many people, and especially younger children.

worn out border collie

Border collies don’t take days off, which means their owners can’t either. We reside in Austin, Texas when we’re not traveling, which means fairly nice weather year round. Even on the hottest days, we can still get our dog out for necessary exercise and training. It just needs to be done early in the morning or later in the evening, when the heat isn’t too extreme.

There are of course the rare days when it is cold and rainy here. When that happens, we all bundle up and go for a long walk or light run. These are perfect days to take the tennis ball to the park and wear our border collie out. If we don’t, it’s a constant indoor game of catch, tug, or whatever else our girl “Baby” comes up with to keep her entertained.

The purpose of this article isn’t to deter anyone from getting a border collie puppy. On the contrary, ours has caused us to become even more active than we were before. I firmly believe that they are the smartest, and one of the most loyal breeds, and the most rewarding. As long as you’re aware that this isn’t going to be a dog that lies around all day, by all means, get one. And when you do, this page will be a great place to help get you started with training your border collie puppy!

10 Important Things to Consider When Deciding How to Train a Border Collie Puppy

If I were to say, training your new border collie puppy begins when you get it, I would be lying. Your plan for training should begin long before you bring him or her home. 

There are many factors that need to be taken into consideration that will determine how your new dog adapts to its new environment. How you choose to implement training is one of the many factors that will help to mold your dog’s personality. 

Before bring home your newest family member, please consider the following: 


    • Where is my new puppy going to be using the bathroom?
    • Should I crate train my border collie?
    • Where is my new puppy going to sleep?
    • What type of food should I feed my border collie puppy?
    • Who will be in charge of training?
    • When and where will my new puppy get exercise?
    • How should I discipline my border collie when it misbehaves? 
    • How should  I reward my border collie?
    • Am I going to hire a professional obedience trainer?
    • Where will my puppy learn to socialize?

These are just a few of the many questions you should answer before adopting a new border collie puppy. Planning ahead, developing a solid plan for training a border collie puppy, then adhering to it will ensure your new best friend will start it’s life out on the right track!

checking off boxes

These are just a few of the many questions you should answer before adopting a new border collie puppy. 

Planning ahead, developing a solid plan for training a border collie puppy, then adhering to it will ensure your new best friend will start it’s life out on the right track!

1. Where is my new puppy going to be using the bathroom?

One thing you’ll find throughout this blog, as well with border collies in general, is that consistency is extremely important.

House training, a topic we’ll cover later, is the first chore you’ll want to tackle with a new puppy. The faster house training your border collie puppy is accomplished, the happier everyone will be. 

In order to achieve this, your dog needs to know immediately where it should and shouldn’t relieve itself. If you plan to let it out into a yard, pick a small area that’s going to be the potty spot. Ten feet by ten feet should be fine to start. Be sure to take it to that exact same place, every single time. 

If (when) the puppy uses the bathroom inside, take it immediately to the potty place in the yard. Do your best not to stray from this area in the beginning of potty training. A dog has to learn the right place to use the restroom before you can teach it the wrong place.

If you don’t have a yard or specific area, this can be a little more difficult. It can be tempting to walk your new puppy around the block, allowing it to relieve itself wherever. While this is totally fine later on, it’s not advisable early on. It’s still best to go to the same general area on your walks and stay there until your dog “goes.” And when it has an accident in the home, take it to that same general area.

Staying consistent will greatly reduce the amount of time it takes to potty train a border collie puppy. When we got ours, she had never been inside a home. She wasn’t accustomed to relieving herself anywhere but grass. Because of this, she was, by far, the easiest dog I’ve ever housebroken.

Just remember, border collies are one of the smartest dog breeds. They enjoy learning and have the capacity to learn thousands of new things. (Chaser the Border Collie with Neil deGrasse Tyson). Treating potty training as a positive learning experience will be rewarding for them and a relief for you.

2. Should I crate train my border collie?

Deciding whether or not to crate train a new dog should be done before adoption. If you decide to use the crate method, it should be waiting the day you bring your new dog home. Unfortunately, this often isn’t the case. 

Many times new dog owners realize that they simply don’t have the time and energy to properly train their new pet. What should be a comforting sanctuary becomes a form of punishment. When deciding on crate training for border collies, it’s imperative that you make a decision and stick with it.

If done correctly, border collie crate training is easy for you and comforting for your dog. When an owner is not around, noises like passing cars, a phone ringing, or visitors knocking on the door can be very frightening. A crate can be a place where your pet can feel comfort and safety when it’s home alone.


Using a crate for traveling with a dog

If you plan to travel with your pet (something that we cover extensively on this site), crate training is important. Any pet owners wishing to fly with their dogs have to crate them and stow the crate in baggage. The only other option is if you have a certified service animal.

Depending on your vehicle, transporting your pet in a crate may be the best option. If your dog gets carsick, it’s easier to clean up the bottom of a crate than a back seat (although other options are available). Also, living in Texas, it seems nearly every car on the road is a pickup truck. If you need to transport your border collie in a truck, having a crate in the back is the safest option.

I personally do not use a crate for my border collie. We decided when we got her that we wouldn’t be using a dog crate. Because we didn’t crate train her when she was young, it would upset her terribly to do it now.  She’s so intelligent, it would be heartbreaking to have to do it. Needless to say, we’ve never flown in a plane with her. If you do think that you’ll ever want to fly with your border collie, getting them used to a crate at an early age is important.

Deciding not to crate train was something we did before we adopted our dog. There were obvious accidents, and more than one occasion where we came home to something chewed up. Teaching your border collie to be home alone outside of a crate is going to be a process. Once we accomplished it though, we were very happy with our choice.


3. Where is my new puppy going to sleep?

border collie sleeping on the bed on a pillow

When we brought home our girl, there was never a question of where she would sleep at night. Her spot was between my wife and me, usually with her head on a pillow. 

As she got a little bigger, our queen sized bed with two pillows became a king with three. The question of whether we should let our border collie sleep in our bed never came up once. She’s had her own little doggie mattress, and she’ll occasionally hop down onto the floor when she’s hot. But, overall, her sleeping area has always been on the bed with us.

When it comes to training a border collie puppy where to sleep, it’s important to start right away. If you’re going to be using a crate to train, teaching your puppy to get into the crate at bedtime is important. And you’ll soon find that your dog is more than willing to get inside to appease you. 

If you’re not like us and want to keep your bed to yourself, lay down the ground rules and stick with them. A small mat or doggie bed only works when it’s use is enforced. Allowing a border collie to sleep in your bed sometimes, then forcing them into theirs will only confuse them.

As with nearly everything else, consistency is key. Start a routine the day you bring your border collie puppy home and stick with it. Border collies absolutely love to learn new tricks. I promise it will get more satisfaction out of following commands than breaking the rules for bedtime.

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4. What type of food should I feed my border collie puppy?

If you read the story of the day we adopted our border collie, you’ll see that we were not completely prepared. We knew we were going to get a dog, but we had no idea that it was going to happen that day. Most things on this list we had do decide on the ride home, or shortly after. 

We didn’t even have any dog food at our house yet. Fortunately for our new puppy, her first meal at home was leftover barbecue brisket. While I’m sure she was happy (frankly, she’s been a little spoiled ever since), we had to rush to figure out which food to get her. When we did finally decide on Blue Buffalo (not what we currently use), we found it was much cheaper online than in stores. 

In other areas on this website, we cover extensively what type of dog food to feed a border collie. The most important thing, no matter what type of food you decide, is to be prepared. 

Do your research before you bring your new friend home. Figure out which brand, soft or hard, with or without grain, and what fits your budget. Trust me, when you bring your border collie home, you’re not going to want to spend the day at the pet store reading dog food ingredient labels.

5. Who will be in charge of training?

I know the word consistency is used repeatedly here, but when learning how to train a border collie puppy, it’s the absolute most important factor. Every time you stray away from the rules and routines you put in place, setbacks occur. By not remaining consistent, all you’ll do is extend the amount of time it takes to train your border collie.

When choosing who will be in charge of training your dog, it’s important to share basic training responsibilities. Remember that everyone in the family must help out with things like housebreaking and utilizing the crate, if you decide to use one. If three out of four family members don’t feed from the table, your dog is still going to beg for snacks at dinner time.

When choosing who’s going to be the main trainer, this mostly relates to having one person being firmly in charge. In our family, our girl knows she has to obey everyone. But with training and discipline, she knows that my firm commands mean business.

When we first started trying to train her, my wife and I would both issue commands at the same time. Teaching our border collie a new trick took much longer because she wasn’t sure who to listen to. This was obliviously very confusing. Make sure that your new pet knows which person is in charge. They certainly need to obey everyone, but there needs to be an alpha that has authority.

Intense Frisbee play

6. Where and when will my new puppy get exercise?

My wife and I are both very outdoorsy. Pretty much everything we do for recreation, when we have the option, is outside. Naturally, our dog is almost always with us during these excursions. On days where we get to do what we want outside, everyone generally goes home tired and sleeps well. 

Planning for a time to exercise your border collie puppy may not seem like an issue in the beginning. When you welcome your newest family member, especially if you have children, they’re sure to get plenty of stimulation. But as you’ll see from this post about exercising your border collie, the amount of exercise needed everyday is excessive for many people.

It’s important to remember that there are going to be plenty of days where no one feels like exercising the dog. After a long day at school or work, when it’s below freezing outside, or when you had too much fun at a concert last night. Your new puppy isn’t going to understand, and is still going to need physical stimulation.

Setting a standard daily schedule is very important in the first two years in your collie’s life. This is a great way to ensure that your new pet is getting the right amount of exercise. And on those nice days when you take your dog on a long hike or swimming all afternoon, not to worry. You’ll find that a collie’s supply of energy is nearly limitless. They’ll most likely have the endurance to last much longer than their owners.

7. How should I discipline my border collie when it misbehaves?

Discipline can be a very loose fitting term, especially when pertaining to animals. According to the Oxford dictionary, it means:

“The practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behavior, using punishment to correct disobedience.”

When I was younger, and much more mischievous, it meant getting spanked. That generally seemed to go for our dogs as well.

As I’ve grown up and created my own morals, I wholeheartedly disagree with that approach. I feel that using violence or pain to correct an action is cruel. It’s also very confusing, both for humans and animals. It causes unnecessary emotional distress and very rarely addresses the root of the problem. It is also less effective than other means at changing bad behavior.

While I’m adamantly against capital punishment for a dog (or child), narrowing down the best form of discipline is difficult. There are countless philosophies, many of which will prove to have a successful end result. We discuss these differences in more detail in another section on this website.  

Which form of discipline you choose is going to be of slightly less importance than making sure everyone in your family adheres to it. Just as you would do before having a child, guidelines should be agreed upon before adopting a new border collie puppy. Everyone in the family should know exactly what to do when a disobedient situation occurs. Uniform discipline with positive reinforcement is going to be the fastest way to break a border collie puppy of bad habits.


8. How should I reward my border collie?

Alright! Back to talking about fun things again! Teaching your border collie a new trick, then rewarding them with a treat, is one of the best parts of dog ownership. Before long, with proper training, your border collie will get more satisfaction from pleasing you than any reward you could offer.

Until that day comes, offering some sort of reward for good behavior is going to be necessary. Especially when you start trying to get them to learn new tricks. While there are literally hundreds of different types of dog treats, for training purposes, it’s good to stick with a specific type.

When looking for reward treats to train a dog with, two factors are important. They need to be small and they need to be healthy. Just do a simple search on Amazon and you’ll find dozens of small, healthy treats. Most of them will do the trick, but as with everything else, stay consistent. 

Training treats should be used only for that. More than one type of treats should not be used to train a border collie puppy, especially not in the beginning. It’s actually very easy to throw a few in a plastic zip bag and put them in your pocket. This can be a great way to reward good behavior, especially when beginning housebreaking.

On a personal note, we did not use this method for training our border collie. It wasn’t something we discussed beforehand, and by the time we had considered it, we were well into training. 

While I’ve always felt that my dog was special, even by sheepdog standards, I feel that she would have learned even faster if we’d used the reward method. I strongly recommend utilizing healthy treats for border collie training.

9. Am I going to hire a professional obedience trainer?

I’ve mentioned it before in other posts on this website that I spent a lot of time around animals as a child. I helped housebreak well over a dozen dogs growing up. I had seen horses professionally trained, but never dogs. The thought of a general obedience trainer for dogs was completely foreign to me.

Now that I’m older and a little more aware of the many possible ways of training a dog, obedience classes seem like a viable option. This is especially true if you live in an urban area and/or work long hours. Obedience classes are a great way to ensure that your puppy is trained correctly, even if you don’t have as much time as you’d like. 

One option that is common in larger cities like Austin is group obedience classes. These are scheduled events, usually one or more nights per week, for several weeks at a time. In these classes, owners come with their dogs in a group session and all learn together.

There are several different types of training classes for different levels. They range from preschool for puppies to obstacle course lessons. Here’s an example of a trainer in Austin to give you a basic idea of what dog group schedules and prices can look like.

I’ve never personally used an obedience trainer, but my wife and I have strongly considered it. We’ve always spent the majority of time around our dog and were very committed to training her from the first day. If we hadn’t been able to properly dedicate enough time to her training, I would most likely go the route of obedience classes.

One other thing to consider is the social aspect of obedience classes. They’re not just a great way to teach your border collie to socialize with other dogs. It’s also a nice place for dog owners to meet similar people and socialize a bit themselves. 

Which leads us right into the next section:

10. Where will my puppy learn to socialize?

Teaching a border collie to socialize is one of the most important parts of its development. Socialization needs to be started early and practiced regularly.

Something we haven’t really touched on is the border collie’s natural desire to herd. They were bred to live a semi-solitary life rounding up livestock for their owners. While they have no serious difficulty learning to be around strangers, they could certainly live happy lives without it. 

It’s very important to help border collies learn to socialize around children at a young age. A quick search of the internet and you’ll see it’s not uncommon for sheepdogs to try to herd small children. While this can be very amusing to watch, it often is accompanied with the biting of heels. Children generally seem to dislike this.

Finding a place for my dog to socialize

Living in Austin, we’ve always been extremely fortunate in this matter. Austin is one of the most dog-friendly places in the entire US. There are dozens of designated dog parks, and even more areas where dogs are allowed to run off-leash. Even in regular parks, you’ll often see dogs running freely, playing alongside children. 

While dog friendly parks and designated dog parks are a great option, sadly, they aren’t available everywhere. Unfortunately, not everyplace is as accustomed to dogs happily frolicking off leash in a park. In the area where I grew up in Ohio, if someone saw a dog off a leash in a park, they’d probably call the police. 

On a positive note, dog parks are becoming more commonplace, even in smaller towns. We travel quite often with our girl and we’re always on the lookout for a new dog park. Often times, a quick search on Google Maps will provide a location or two. Some lakes and beach shores provide off leash areas as well, although find which ones can often be difficult.

Whatever you find for an option, just remember that socialization of a border collie is absolutely necessary. Especially when they’re young. Unless your dog is going to strictly be a sheepdog on a farm, it needs to learn to be around strangers early. Otherwise, it will be very a difficult task to teach them later on.

Border collie in Austin


Bringing any new pet into your family is a huge endeavor. This is especially true when considering adopting a border collie. When you do decide to bring home your new best friend, having a detailed plan for training will make things much easier.

Following these steps will help you develop a solid foundation to train your new pup. Staying diligent and consistent is the best way to ensure that your border collie is trained properly and lives the happiest possible life!

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Eric is the owner of Border West, a digital marketing company based in Austin, Texas. He spends his time managing client accounts, creating website content, being outside with his wife and border collie, and traveling.

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