As one of the smartest dogs, training a Border Collie is often very simple initially, but then difficulties start to set in. Usually these difficulties or challenges occur because the human member of the dog-person in the training program starts to deviate from the original commands. When this happens the highly intelligent Border Collie starts to think that perhaps this is a new command, and attempts to figure out what you want him or her to do. The owner, who may not understand that he or she is the cause of the problem, quickly become frustrated with a dog they see as being stubborn or willful. This type of confusion and frustration can be easily prevented with just a bit of attention to training details.
As with any breed of dog, early training and socialization is going to be essential to have your Border Collie develop into a well socialized and obedient adult dog. The breed, as with most herding breeds, can become timid and rather independent if they don't have early socialization. Male Border Collies can be somewhat dog aggressive however with socialization and neutering this problem is almost completely eliminated. Female Border Collies that aren't properly socialized and don't learn that people are to be trusted may be rather timid and shy all their lives. Some females and males may be prone to submissive urination, especially if they have been harshly treated. With trust building exercises and time this behavior can be corrected.
Like all puppies, Border Collies will each have their own temperament and natural tendencies. Some may be very prone to barking at anything they are unfamiliar with while others will simply hang back and watch until they decide if they can safely approach. Providing as many new situations for a young Border Collie puppy without stressing the puppy is very important. Introduce the puppy to new people, new animals, new places and new activities, but make sure the puppy is not overwhelmed or frightened during this early socialization. Taking the puppy to events and shows or areas where people gather and dogs are welcome is important to help them adjust to crowds and noise. This will be very important if you plan to show or compete with your Border Collie later on. A puppy obedience class is highly recommended to get them off on the right track.
Training your puppy needs to be done very carefully and without harsh punishment methods. Owners of young Border Collies need to realize that these puppies are attuned to even the slightest change in tone and behavior of the people in their worlds, plus they are learning about their environment. Often the period between about 5 and 8 months can be very challenging and you may find your puppy becomes much more independent and less obedient as he or she explores and tests boundaries.
Owners need to stay consistent during this time and try to make environmental accommodations for the juvenile Border Collie. They may go through some fairly significant chewing issues, plus they often become very territorial and somewhat possessive at this time. Gentle training and obedience work with a strong emphasis on doing the right thing is the very best option at this stage. Provide lots of chew toys and confine the puppy to a dog room or an outdoor fenced area to prevent damage indoors if chewing is a problem.
Crate training is a great idea for a Border Collie; however they should never be confined for more than an appropriate length of time for their age and energy levels. If they are confined for too long the crate will no longer be a positive and the dog will feel punished if they are forced to stay in the crate. Even an hour may be a long period for a puppy if they haven't been properly exercised or provided with routine, ongoing attention and interaction.
Shortly after or even during this teenage stage your Border Collie may begin to exhibit some very strong herding tendencies. If you do have young children it may be important to have the child interact with the puppy only under your supervision so you can discourage the puppy from attempting to "herd" the kids. While this may be cute initially it can escalate to biting, growling and being quite aggressive as the puppy tries to get the kids to do what he or she wants. If several children are at the house and the puppy is showing this herding behavior, it may be a good option to keep him or her indoors or in the crate to prevent any problems with nipping or biting at the group of children. Keep in mind that not all kids will be familiar with the breed nor will all parents be sympathetic with the fact that the dog is just learning if their child comes home crying or upset after being nipped.
It is a great idea to have children in the family involved in obedience work with the Border Collie, but only under adult supervision. Remember that consistency is essential for this breed since they are smart enough to detect even minor variations in commands and signals between people in the family. However the Border Collie is a naturally obedient dog that has been bred to work with humans, so they do respond very well to working with children.
Exercise before, during and after training is essential to work the dog's body along with their mind. Since Border Collies are so athletic they quickly learn lots of games like Frisbee, fetch and even a game of kickball where the dog chases the ball between two people. Generally the Border Collie will catch on quickly to any games that may be going on and will soon find a way to interact and play.
Remember that the Border Collie is a thinking and watching breed. They may stop and consider new situations before immediately jumping in. Encouraging this time to problem solve and think about what is going on will help prevent the dog from becoming stressed and will actually increase the dog's learning ability. Typically the owner is going to be struggling to keep up with the Border Collie, not the other way around.
If you want to start working on herding, it is always advisable to find someone familiar with training. Many breeders also show their dogs in working trials and they are often more than willing to help you get started. Border Collies are trained to bring sheep back towards the shepherd, not to drive them away like some herding breeds. They will quickly learn hand signals and whistles to direct the flock exactly where the shepherd and handler wants them to be.
Training a Border Collie in obedience, agility, Frisbee, Flyball, obstacle races or even in herding is a very rewarding experience. This type of challenge for the dog is ideal for their mental as well as physical exercise and it helps to continue to form a bond and trust between the owner and the dog.