Collies are the most intelligent breed of dog on the planet. The results speak for themselves, the majority of agility champions, obedience champions and sheepdog trials champions are all border collies.
Collies require constant training, learning and mental stimulation to keep their minds healthy. There are a number of methods for keeping your collie’s brain stimulated and they can be really fun for you too.
Some of the ways you can help satisfy your collie’s mental needs include:
- Playing games like hide and seek
- Puzzles and cognitive enrichment toys
- Training and learning new tricks
There are lots of examples for each of these methods, and we’ll look in to them in this article.
Collie Mental Stimulation Games
Collies love brain games, since they get to exercise their mind, and spend time with their favorite human. Here are five super mental stimulation games for collies to help keep their mind active.
1: Hide and Search
Hide and search is a great game for collies, since it gives them a chance to exercise both their olfactory and ocular systems, as well as their memory. Take their favorite toy, and tell them to stay.
Hide the toy somewhere in another room, and give them the “search” or “go find it” command.
Make sure you use the same command each time so that they learn the game.
You can play this game outside or inside, your collie will love it no matter where you play.
2: Shell Game
Also known as the cup game, this is a classic game for dogs and humans alike.
Place a treat or toy under one of three cups, and move them around slowly, so your dog can keep track of where the treat is.
Your dog will choose one of the cups where they think the treat is.
For the first few times, put a treat under every cup so they become interested in the game and try to work out how to play.
3: Scatter Feeding
Scatter feeding is a method of feeding your dog that forces them to use their nose to find their dinner.
This method is really simple, just scatter their dry dinner on the grass or on the floor and let your dog hunt down the kibbles.
All dogs have a strong hunting and scavenging instinct and you won’t need to do much training to help your collie figure out this task.
If you don’t want to scatter their whole dinner, you could hide a small pile of kibbles somewhere outside for them to search for.
4: Toy Stuffing
A sturdy treat ball that can be stuffed with treats is a great way to calm and entertain your dog.
Luna loves her Kong Wobbler, it’s the only toy she’s had that has lasted since she was a puppy that she hasn’t managed to destroy yet.
Your dog will love this because they need to work hard to get the treats out from the middle.
The wobbler can be stuffed with bananas, peanut butter, or dry kibbles. You can leave it fresh, or freeze it to prolong the fun.
5: Toy Name Fetch
Collies have an impressive ability to learn and memorize words. One way to exercise their memory is to give each of their toys a different name.
Ask your collie to find their toy by name as they start to learn them.
This helps with the memory and keeps their mind healthy and active.
Luna’s favorite toy is Skunky, and the mere utterance of the word will have her tearing around the living room looking for him.
Collie Mental Stimulation Toys
Mental stimulation toys keep your collie entertained for hours and help with their mental wellbeing. There are loads of types of these toys, here are four cognitive enrichment toy ideas for collies.
If your collie isn’t getting the hang of it after a while it can lower their self esteem, so it’s important to play with them and show them how to use it the first few times so they don’t become frustrated.
1: Stacking Toy for Collies
Stacking toys are great, as long as you have a smart enough dog to use them. Luckily, most collies are super intelligent and will be able to pick it up after some training with you, which they will also love!
There are loads of different variations of this toy but the principle is the same. There are some ring shaped objects that need to slot over an upright stick.
Throw the rings for your dog, and challenge them to bring them back and stack them in the right order.
2: Kong Wobbler
The Kong Wobbler is a type of treat ball with a unique shape, which rolls around in unpredictable directions when rolled.
It is made from sturdy rubber which will last for years even with the most determined collie chewing on it constantly.
For maximum effectiveness, it should be stuffed with peanut butter, bananas, kibbles or some other dog treat and frozen, so your collie has to slowly work their tongue inside to get to the treats as they melt.
This will keep your dog occupied for hours and is a great way to calm them down if they are getting over excited.
3: Tornado Treat Puzzle
The tornado treat puzzle is a good idea for intelligent breeds like collies.
It is a small rotating puzzle for dogs, which have treats stacked inside that can only be opened when the dog works out how to rotate the puzzle correctly.
Your dog will smell the treats inside and understand that there is some way to get them out. Once they figure it out, they are rewarded with a treat, further motivating them to figure out the bottom layers and solve the rest of the puzzle.
Puzzles like this are essential to keeping your dog entertained and mentally satisfied.
4: Hide n’ Slide Puzzle
Hide n’ Slide is a puzzle for collies and other intelligent breeds, which helps develop their problem solving and coordination.
The idea is that they need to slide panels back and forth to unlock the treats hidden inside the puzzle.
Some doors slide straight back and forth, and some rotate, so once your collie has figured out one door they need to work out the other doors separately.
This is one of the best selling puzzles for herding dogs and for good reason. Collies need more than just a simple puzzle and this well-made toy will give their grey matter a workout.
Training Ideas for Collies
Collies love to work and learn new things. Their high intelligence make them one of the easiest dogs to train, since they pick up new concepts and ideas very quickly.
1: Teach Them New Tricks
Collies thrive on training and mental stimulation. Some collies have a trick repertoire of over 100 tricks.
Teaching you collie tricks keeps their minds active and helps keep them happy. Collies get bored easily due to their high intelligence and always need to be improving to live a happy and satisfied life.
Here are some ideas for some simple tricks you can teach your collie:
- Lie Down
- Play Dead
The best way to train is with positive reinforcement, with treats and a clicker trainer.
2: Train Them
Collies love to learn, and will do anything to please their owners. Learning new tricks is fun, but don’t limit yourself to only learning tricks and fun things.
There are lots of useful commands Collies can learn, and they will love the process of learning them just the same.
Some examples of useful things you can teach your collie:
- To sit by the roadside before crossing
- To housetrain your collie puppy
- To put their toys away
- To bring in the mail
- Teach them to stay
- Come here (recall)
Collies are super energetic and agile. They love climbing and jumping and spending time with you.
All you have to do to see how much Collies love agility is to look at the agility champions. Almost every dog agility champion is some type of collie, the most common being the border collie.
Your collie will love memorizing the course, learning the obstacles, and running around with their favorite human.
After a successful run, give your collie a big reward like a tug of war with their favorite rope toy.
4: Sheepdog Training
Sheepdog herding is what collies are made for, it’s ingrained in their nature through centuries of evolution and selective breeding. Many generations of collies and humans have worked side by side on the hills of Scotland and Northern England herding sheep and other livestock.
Training your dog to take part in sheepdog trials can be very rewarding for them, and there are loads of competitions throughout the year, culminating in the world sheepdog championships.
The biggest problem with this is access to sheep and training.
It’s a big investment to get in to the sport, unless you’re lucky enough to live on the farm and to have a working sheepdog!
5: Herding Games
If the logistics of training for sheepdog trials is too much, there is another great option for your collie to train the same instincts without the need for sheep or a wide open field.
Herding games like Sheep-Ball and Treibball allow your collie to tap in to the same instincts they use during herding, without the expense or logistical hassle of acquiring 12 sheep and a large field.
There are a few different herding games, the most popular one is called Treibball.
Collie Herding Games:
Sheep-Ball is a game for collies that is derived from the basic training working sheep dogs go through to prepare them for herding sheep.
The idea is you hold a ball to the ground with your foot, and turn your body while giving left/right commands for your dog.
As a reward for going the right way, you kick the ball for them to chase.
This teaches them some new commands and is a fun game they will love playing.
Treibball, or Push-Ball is a dog herding game from Germany.
The object of the game is to teach your dog to herd large inflatable balls in to a pen or through a gate.
This taps directly in to the herding instincts of your collie, and they will love learning the new skills and commands required to herd the balls in the desired direction.
Mental Stimulation for Border Collie Puppies:
Puppies can start learning straight away, but they will need lots of patience and positive reinforcement. They can learn basic commands like sit and lie down when they are young, but won’t be able to understand more complex commands until they are at least six months old.
Even if your collie puppy isn’t getting the hang of things right away, playing and training with them is important to socialize them and to engage their training instincts so that they can learn quickly when they are fully grown.