Generally most people know about physical exercise for a dog and how important it is in keeping them calm in the house. What many people don't realize is that physical exercise goes just beyond keeping a dog calm and relaxed, it also actually is necessary for proper system functioning within the dog's body. As wild animals dogs, wolves, coyotes, foxes and all other creatures have to keep moving to survive, but also to keep circulation, digestion and respiratory systems working at top levels.
Border Collies, despite being a domesticated breed, are really not all that far removed from their wild, roaming ancestors. Like all herding and flock protection breeds the Border Collie has been developed over centuries to be actively moving, herding the flocks or traveling with the farmers over some of the most beautiful yet most rugged country in the world. This natural exercise level is part of the heritage of the breed and is still seen today, even in show dogs that have never been to a farm or even know what a sheep may look like. It would not be uncommon for a working Border Collie to run, walk and herd for up to 20 miles a day or more.
Most dog owners are prepared to commit to a walk in the morning and perhaps a walk at night combined with some type of play activities for the dog. While this is great for most breeds, for the Border Collie this is just a tiny fraction of the exercise they need. Just keep in mind those miles chasing sheep they were bred for and this should help you adjust your exercise schedule accordingly.
In all reality for most Border Collies living in a home during the day or staying in a moderately sized yard or a large kennel with a run when the owner is away are not going to be a problem with one big proviso. That proviso is that you, as the owner, will commit to spend about two hours per day in some type of activity with the dog. Ideally this activity should include both mental and physical stimulation, which can easily be combined into something that is both fun and challenging for the dog and at least fun for you as well.
There are some Border Collies that can do very well with less intensive exercise time and there are some that need more. Generally if you have more than one dog and both dogs play and interact during the day you won't have quite the time commitment you would have with a single dog on his or her own during the day. Border Collies tend to get along well with other dogs, especially when raised together, so this can be a great option if you have the space and time to care for two pets.
There is one way to cut down on the amount of sheer physical exercise a Border Collie will need. That is to increase the amount of mental exercise they get each day. Border Collies are natural thinking dogs and they love being challenged. Problem solving is definitely something that will stimulate the dog both mentally and physically. Running your Border Collie for 10 or more miles a day isn't really practical, but having them work through a obstacle course, find and retrieve hidden items or even interact with other people and other dogs in an off-leash park area are all good mental and physical exercise combination options.
You can provide mental exercise for your Border Collie when you are away, just as you can provide physical exercise with a companion pet. There are a variety of wonderful toys on the market for smart dogs, all which include some type of system to randomly distribute treats when the dog does something specific to the toy. Some are battery operated and will actually also move about, only dropping a treat when the dispenser side is down. Anything like this that keeps the Border Collie thinking about what is happening is going to give them mental exercise.
Providing mental exercise when you are home is also relatively easy, but you do have to be focused on using the same commands until the dog completely understands what you are teaching. Since they are so attuned to changes in voice or even differences in body posture a slight change on your part may create confusion for the dog. This is particularly true if you are teaching hand signal commands or whistle commands, you have to do things the same way each time. In this way the observation and intelligence of the Border Collie can sometimes make training challenging since they don't generalize like other breeds. While you may get away with using terms like come here, here, come, come on or other variations with other breeds, the Border Collie will anticipate that each of those is different until they have been trained with each one. Consistency and building more complex tricks and commands onto already mastered simple commands will have your dog thinking and working things out mentally while they learn amazingly complex training routines.
Another way to provide mental exercise for a Border Collie is to combine play time, either with you or other dogs, with training. Classes that teach agility, obedience, Flyball, Frisbee or virtually any other type of activity and also provide a social time for dogs are a great combination. If you do get involved in these classes expect your Border Collie to quickly move to the top of the class and to challenge you to keep improving your skills as a handle. You may also wish to take your Border Collie through a canine citizenship class or to have them start as therapy dogs. These types of classes can be a terrific experience for you both.
Varying exercises, both physical and mental, will help you and the dog stay interested and excited about working together. The more involved you are with your Border Collie the stronger your relationship will be with the dog and the happier, more contented and better behaved he or she will be on an ongoing basis.