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14 Fun Trick Ideas for Border Collies You Have to Try

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By Nicole Cosgrove

Black and White Border Collie Playing Catch

Are you the proud owner of a Border Collie? Then you’ve probably already tried teaching it a trick or two. These dogs are intelligent, energetic, fun to play with, and happy to participate in various activities. More importantly, they’re quick to follow commands and eager to learn. However, if you don’t have the right ideas, you won’t be able to go very far.

That’s exactly why we wrote this guide: to give you some awesome trick ideas! To make navigation easier, we broke the list down into different groups, ranging from the easiest to the hardest tricks. So, ready to take your relationship with the Border Collie to the next level and have a great time with this loyal dog? Let’s get started!

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Getting Started With 7 Simple Tricks

If you want to spend more time with your Border Collie but don’t know where to begin, we’ve got your back! The following tricks will be perfect for a first-time dog owner that wants to strengthen the bond and have fun teaching cool tricks to a BC. Thanks to their eager-to-please nature and intelligent brains, these dogs catch on very quickly. Here are our top picks to get the juices flowing:

1. Fetch!

This is one of the easiest, yet most rewarding tricks. You can’t just throw a disc into a dense forest and expect the Border Collie to get it, though. Go slow! First, find a toy that your dog likes. Give it some time to play around with it. And when the dog grabs it with its mouth, be quick with the encouragement. With that part out of the way, play a drop-and-pick game.

Treat the Border every time it picks the toy. Use the command “fetch” to get the toy back. Tossing is the final step. It might take a bit more practice, but, once the doggo masters it, switch to a Frisbee. Praise it with treats and throw the disc a bit further so that the dog can catch it mid-air. A quick note: only play this game with an adult BC. A pup might hurt itself trying to catch the Frisbee.

Blue merle Border collie catching frisbee
Image Credit: JitkaP, Shutterstock

2. Shaking Paws

Some dogs like to put their paws on you to lift your spirit or grab your attention (like maybe they’re hungry or thirsty). If your Border Collie is just like that, this trick will be much easier to perform. Grab some treats with your hand and close it. If it smells good, the BC will probably touch your hand with its paw, asking you to share. Say “shake” and reward the dog every time it paws at your hand.

Use words like “yes” or “no” and a clicker to help with the process. The important part here is to only give the BC treats when its paw touches your hand. Also, reward it for longer “handshakes” with positive reinforcement. For the final step, offer an open, empty hand to the Border and give it treats whenever it shakes it. You can turn this into a “high-five” by raising your hand a bit.

3. Bow Down

Here, we have another easy-to-do, yet cool task for a Border Collie. Compel the dog to go into a downward position by giving it treats. This will take time, so, don’t be greedy with the rewards! Even if the BC bows slightly, don’t forget to encourage it. Sometimes, dogs tend to lie instead of bowing. To prevent that, put one of your hands underneath the Border’s belly.

Do this once or twice and remove the hand once the dog understands the assignment. Now only give it treats for longer bows. Big rewards for small steps: that’s the key to success here.

4. The “Crawl” Command

Border Collies are no strangers to the sphinx position. It’s when the pouch is lying on the ground with the legs tucked under its body. So, first, ask it to assume this position. Next, grab a treat and keep your hand very close to the dog’s nose. Move the hand away (slowly) to lure the BC in. Only reward it for crawling, though, not walking. Increase the distance as you go.

border collie dog crawling on grass
Image Credit: No-longer-here, Pixabay

5. Leave It!

Curious by nature, Borders like to taste any food they can find inside or outside the house. This is bad news for their health, though, as you never know what a dog will pick up on the streets. Thankfully, this behavior can be corrected. This is how you do it: put a tiny bit of treat that your dog likes on the floor. Say “leave it” and block the treat with your hand if the dog doesn’t follow.

Give it a second or two, remove your hands, and instruct the BC to take it. Once the Border Collie starts to follow your lead, bump up the difficulty by putting several pieces of food on the floor. It won’t be easy for the dog to leave all those snacks alone. But, if you manage to train it, this could be a life savior!

6. Playing Soccer

BC parents that have a ball and enough outdoor space to kick it around should try this cool trick. All you have to do is kick it (make sure the ball doesn’t get too far) and ask the dog to get it. You do this by pointing at the ball and encouraging the Border to get it. The moment the dog grabs the ball with its mouth, give it lots of praise and reward it with a treat.

7. Rolling Over/Playing Dead

Fun is the best word to describe this trick. Most dogs like to roll just for the heck of it; so, it shouldn’t take much effort to teach the Border to do it on demand. The dog needs to be lying on its stomach. To make it roll its head, hold a treat in your hand and move it around its face. Keep doing it until the dog starts rolling its entire body. Use the command “roll over” and reward it with treats.

Now try to give that same command but without encouragement. Or, while the dog is on its back, ready to finish a roll, tell it to “play dead”. Reward obedience with positive reinforcement.

a border collie rolling over or playing dead on grass
Image Credit: xkunclova, Shutterstock

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Stepping Your Game Up With 7 Level Two Tricks

Ok, now that both of you have learned the basics, it’s time to move on to the more advanced commands. Don’t worry: in many ways, these tricks are similar to the ones you’ve already mastered. That doesn’t mean you can rush through them, of course. Be patient and give the dog time to “get into the mood”. After that, pick a move from the list, and get to it!

8. The Shell Game

Put a treat on the table and cover it with a cup. Lift the cup for the dog to see it. Close it back up and wait for the Border to make a move. Reward it the second it touches the cup with its nose or paw: just remove the cup and let it have a bite. Do this 2–3 times so that the pouch can learn the rules and add another cup (an empty one).

Again, make sure your Collie knows which cup has the snack. Did it touch the right one? Let it have the treat! To make the task a bit harder, go ahead and switch the cups. You can also add some extra cups, but that might confuse the dog. In that case, remove a cup or two to make the job easier.

9. The Leg Weave

This trick is perfect for an active, energetic pet like the Border. The goal here is to turn your hands into “targets” for the dog to follow. Hold a treat in your hand and let the pouch have it. Follow each treat with an affirmative word. Now try to grab the dog’s attention with an empty hand; reward it with the other one. Gradually move your hand with each treat, letting the dog know it will get food for following it.

For the leg weave, drop your hand between your legs. Try switching between the hands to make the BC weave through the left or right legs.

10. Back Up!

The following command is used for teaching discipline. For the best results, practice this trick with a mat. Put it on the floor and have the dog standing on the hardwood/laminate inches away from it. Give the BC a treat every time it steps back and touches the mat after you tell it to do so. Or, you can just walk toward the pooch and reward it for backing up or hold a treat in your hand and move it back.

The dog should follow it. In any case, at first, the mat should only be a step or two away; gradually move it further back once the dog understands the task.

11. Wait/Get It!

This is one of the best tricks for training a Border to stick to your rules. Put a piece of food on its nose and tell the dog to wait for your command. If it complies, follow that with “get it” and give it the treat. Keep at it until the dog learns the importance of waiting for your permission to eat. Yes, it’s a relatively simple trick, but it does take time and dedication, which is why it’s in the Level Two section.

12. Jumping Through Hoops

Border Collies love overcoming obstacles. So, keep the hoop straight, but see that it touches the ground. Hold a treat in your hand on the other side of the hoop, giving the dog reason to walk through it. Say “hoop” to turn it into a command. Now raise the hoop a bit and have a treat ready for when the BC crosses it.

Keep lifting the hoop until the dog has to jump through it to get the food. If you have a tunnel and are ready to take this up a notch, try standing (or, rather, kneeling) on the other side of it, luring the dog in with some treats. Switch sides a couple of times to “nail” it. This is going to take lots of practice, but the results will be worth it!

a border collie jumping through a hoop
Image Credit: Flatka, Shutterstock

13. The Tug of War

There’s a common misconception that this game promotes aggression in dogs, but scientific studies say otherwise. Instead, it will help the Border build confidence, control its emotions, and strengthen its relationship with you. The dog’s physical and mental health will be improved as well. To play, you’ll only need a soft toy. Hold it firmly with one hand and let the dog mouth it from the other side.

The idea is to make the Border try and pull it, tugging and shaking in an attempt to overpower you. Do not let go of the toy, though. Otherwise, the game will end before it starts. But, ultimately, you should let the dog win. This is important: before you start, make sure your pet doesn’t have any neck/cervical issues.

14. Bark on Demand

Alright, ready for one of the hardest tricks on the menu? Even if you’re an experienced trainer and have a strong bond with the Border Collie (or any other dog breed), it still won’t be easy to do. Make sure you have enough patience and always maintain a positive attitude so that the BC feels like it’s in a safe place. Otherwise, your attempts will fail. So, how do you do this?

Start by giving the dog treats and watch closely. If it tries to climb on you or do any other tricks, stop with the snacks. At first, the dog won’t understand what it’s being rewarded for, and that’s why this trick is a tough one. You can use a clicker to help with the process. Keep at it, and eventually, you’ll master the art of commanding your dog’s barks. This one will definitely impress fellow pet owners!

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Border Collies: A Quick Breakdown

Loyal, skillful, and with stamina for days, Border Collies are often recognized as the smartest dogs on the planet. True, they’re not the largest breed (18–22 inches and 25–45 pounds), but a properly trained and well-fed BC can get lots of work done without breaking much of a sweat. Guardians at heart, Border Collies were originally brought up in the bordering lands between England and Scotland (yes, hence the name).

Bred from 18th-century herding dogs, BCs have always been an intelligent breed. So, while they are very cute and charging, a BC’s strength is its mind, not the looks. These faithful, capable dogs are of great help around the property and “pack” more energy than the average four-legged pet. To keep it in shape, a walk around the block won’t be enough. That’s even more reason to teach a BC some tricks!

Red border collie catching a frisbee
Image Credit: Vera Reva, Shuttterstock

Training a Border Collie: The Essentials

These dogs are incredibly smart, but they also have a free spirit. So, if you want to be successful in training a Border Collie, you need to start when it’s still a pup. This way, you’ll be able to put that big, intelligent brain to good use. The dog will not only be obedient and learn some tough tricks but also create a strong bond with you—it’s a win-win!

The key here is patience and turning training into a fun game. Be consistent and make sure you have the dog’s full attention. Just like most breeds, Border Collies want to be appreciated. So, don’t forget to praise it with words and treat it with a snack or two. Teaching the Border tricks will also allow the dog to socialize, make friends with other pets, and blow off some steam.

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What can be better than watching your dog learn new tricks and strengthening your bond? Border Collies are intelligent, crafty, and agile, which means you won’t have to put much effort into teaching them different moves. As long as you know which tricks to use and how to communicate with the pet, you’ll be impressed by how fast of a learner this dog is.

If this is your first time, we recommend starting with the simplest, yet most rewarding tricks. The list includes fetching, playing with a ball, bowing down, and paw shaking. Once the two of you master these commands, you can move on to the…trickier ones. Make sure to take frequent breaks and don’t forget about positive encouragement!

Featured Image Credit: Magda Ehlers, Pexels

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