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Do Border Collies Retrieve? 10 Essential Training Tips To Play Fetch!

Do Border Collies Retrieve

Border Collies are known for being herding dogs… but do they also retrieve? Playing fetch is great exercise and fun and if you are thinking of adopting a collie you may be wondering if this is a behavior often seen in this gorgeous lively dog breed.

Do Border Collies retrieve? Border Collies can be excellent retrievers. Although they were originally bred to herd farmed animals rather than specifically retrieving dead birds like a Golden Retriever, their high levels of intelligence and willingness to please means that most Border Collies can be trained to retrieve and will be keen to play fetch. Fetch games can help you bond with your collie and provide mental and physical stimulation.

In this article, we will explore retrieving in Border Collies and discuss 10 training tips to get your Border Collie to fetch/retrieve. We will also cover seven benefits of teaching your dog how to retrieve. So, if you are curious about whether or not your border collie can retrieve – and how to teach them – then keep reading!

Do Border Collies Retrieve?

There is something about that connection between a human and a dog when playing fetch. You hurl that ball or a stick as far as you can manage… and your companion loyally brings this back to you. That manically wagging tail, open-mouthed panting and the sheer excitement – at having successfully chased down and ‘killed’ this object and brought it back to their human! The perfect bonding exercise.

What about collies? Do Border Collies tend to retrieve? Absolutely! However, with their strong herding instinct, this is not quite as natural a behavior as with retrieving breeds, and this may take a little more training. This will depend on their unique personality and some will simply not be interested and should not be forced.

But the majority will love this activity and interaction. Primarily because it is fun! Dogs are born with an innate desire to hunt and pursue prey and this desire is so strong that it can be redirected to chasing balls and other toys. Playing fetch is a great way to exercise your dog and give him or her something to do. Perfect for both mental stimulation and physical exercise – for both of you!

Do Border Collies Fetch Sticks?

A simple game of fetch can be easily trained in most Border Collies. They can learn to bring back objects that have been thrown or dropped, and they will do so with enthusiasm and speed. Hunting for that stick in the long grass – or chasing them down gravel roads – can provide great entertainment and tap into their herding instinct.

Do Border Collies fetch sticks? While all dogs have the ability to retrieve, the herding dog traits and skills bred into Border Collies – including rounding up sheep, nipping their heels and having a strong desire to complete a task – means that fetching a stick satisfies many of these instincts. The Border Collie’s natural instinct is to “retrieve” anything that moves away from them and fetching a stick can be the highlight of their day.

Border Collies are also known for their love of water and will often swim out into lakes or ponds to fetch their special, stick that has been thrown in. However, these activities should always be in their benefit rather than for the human’s amusement, and if it is clear your dog has no interest, then playing fetch may not be the one for your pup. They may be more interested in chasing objects and animals – rather than bringing anything back to you.

Warning: Avoid large sticks and those with sharp ends, playing fetch with sticks is a major cause of accidents! Make sure the stick is thrown far enough away to settle on the ground – if your collie tries to catch this in mid air he or she may get pierced by the stick as it lands and as they run into this. Take care – and enjoy! (If in doubt, choose a ball instead!)

How Do I Get My Border Collie to Fetch? (10 Retrieval Training Tips!)

Being considered to be the world’s most intelligent dog breed, Border Collies are extremely trainable and can excel at obedience training. This means, training collies to fetch a ball or a stick is child’s-play for many collies. That innate desire to please their owners and natural ability to quickly learn commands.

How do I get my Border Collie to fetch? Here are 10 tips to train retrieval in your Border Collie:

1. Use a long lead if off-leash recall has not been trained; 2. Use “fetch” and “yes” as main commands; 3. Use praise to reward progress e.g. “well done”; 4. Use the ‘two-ball method’; 5. Keep the fetch games short and sweet; 6. Use balls rather than sticks; 7. Vary the rules to keep it fun; 8. Have a safe ‘fetch zone’ in a garden or gated park; 9) Play indoor fetch once this has been trained outdoors; 10) Train your collie to identify different fetch object names (advanced!)

Here are the 10 training tips in greater detail, including commands, ideas and tricks to help you get the most out of retrieving and game of fetch:

1) Long Lead: Firstly, if your puppy is not yet trained to come back to you off-leash, then this must be mastered before trying off-leash fetch games. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t have fun training fetch. You can use a long-loop or lasso training lead when playing fetch with your collie. These are safer for retrieving breeds because they can be dropped quickly if needed, but give you enough slack to stay far enough away from your dog.

2) Command: Use your voice to tell your dog when to fetch. Saying “Fetch” is a simple, yet effective word for starting off the game. “Yes” is a good neutral confirmation when they return the ball.

3) Praise: Introduce a praise word early on which will encourage your collie. Vary this depending on what you decide to fetch and use an enthusiastic tone of voice so that he/she understands that this word means they have done well. “Good boy/girl!” and “Well done!” are both good commands; however, keep the praise light hearted. A smile or a laugh will do – don’t go overboard with it!

4) Two-Ball Method: If you use only one ball, your collie pup will hang on to this for dear life and not drop the ball for you to throw again. You do not want this to turn into a wrestling match! Instead of wrenching this from their mouth, start with two balls.

Two-ball Method:

i) Once the first has been returned, hold out the second and wave to gain their attention;

ii) Throw the second ball, keeping it a short distance initially to increase the number of repetions possible;

iii) Progress to hiding the second ball by your side on their return and staying quiet until the first ball has been dropped;

iv) Affirm this with “yes” and throw the second ball immediately as the reward;

iv) Eventually, you can dispense with the second ball as the first ball will be dropped automatically when they return as this response has now been trained/conditioned.

5) Short and Sweet: Keep games short and sweet. Although all dogs love to play fetch, in most cases the collie is more interested in maintaining contact with you than bringing the stick back. This is particularly true for collies that are still at an early age or those who are not retrieving breeds. Playing for 5-10 minutes twice a day will be long enough to keep your collie entertained, and by keeping play sessions short you will not overtax their attention span.

6) Ball Games: If your collie is not retrieving, using a ball or toy to play with will make the game more interesting for them. Try tossing the toy towards you, saying “fetch” when they move in your direction and rewarding him for this behavior with praise and/or treats. Balls can also be safer than sticks (see warning on sticks above).

7) Vary Rules: Keep training sessions fun by varying the rules. For example, decide before you start each fetch session what will happen if your dog brings the object back to you. One of you can play with it, keeping it away from the other person who is throwing it for him – this way, your collie does not know where or when he will find his reward!

8) Safe Fetch Zone: Create a dedicated fetch area whilst starting out your retrieval training. This could be a safe zone where you can throw objects (a garden or a field) will allow your collie to play fetch without being distracted. If the area is fenced in, even better!

9) Indoor Fetch: Once your collie has the hang of basic outdoor fetch, you could bring the fun indoors! Although they would love to be outdoors all day, the majority of the day will likely be spent indoors – where mental and physical stimulation is also very important. Once your dog knows the rules of the game and what is expected of them you can play in your living room, bedroom or anywhere else inside. Naturally, opt for a soft ball or rubber toy so that you don’t smash all your ornaments!

10) ADVANCED – Object Names: You can take training with fetch as far as you want, making this increasingly complicated once your collie has the basics. For example, your dog could learn three different fetch object names. You could throw a ball, rubber toy and a stick simultaneously and call only one of the names of objects e.g. ‘stick’. Your collie should eventually be able to learn to retrieve only the object whose name you have called, or all three in the order you have named them.  

Benefits for Border Collies of Playing Fetch and Retrieving

Here are seven benefits of playing fetch with your Border Collie:

1. High Intensity Exercise: This is a great way to provide your dog with the exercise he or she needs, offering both physical and mental stimulation in one activity. While you may not be able to keep this up all day, every day – it will certainly tire out your Border Collie.

2. Boredom Buster: These are great for alleviating boredom and giving your dog the stimulation they need.

3. Bonding Time: While you can play with other Border Collies, this is not always possible depending on the age group of children in your family who may be frightened by a large jumping dog. So grabbing this chance to bond with your pup at home can provide an extra special time for both of you.

4. Redirected energy: While we can’t always give them the attention they want when we are busy, playing fetch with your dog is a great way to focus their energy and keep them out of trouble. If this is not possible and your Border Collie tends to do things like bark at people walking past, jumping up and being a general nuisance – playing fetch will help give them the attention they need.

5. Indoor Fetch!: You can create your own ‘dog park’ in your own home, as described above. Playing fetch is a fantastic way to let you dog off the leash and enjoy the freedom of running around your garden or indoors. The best part is that we can choose to give your dog freedom without the risks.

6. Mental Stimulation: While you may be able to focus on other tasks, dogs need not only physical exercise but mental stimulation too. If left with nothing to do – boredom will set in and before you know it they are chewing your favorite shoes or tearing up the carpet!

7. It’s fun!