When you get a new dog, especially a puppy, it’s important for the two of you to develop a positive relationship, and for the owner to be able to manage the dog’s behavior. Working dogs like border collies are very determined and energetic, and if that energy isn’t well directed, they can become not only neurotic and bad-tempered, their behavior can be destructive.
However, border collies in particular are also highly intelligent, and with border collie training they can become happy, loving and even helpful members of the family. If you’re a new dog owner, you can try this online course to learn the basics of helping your dog adjust to your household. There are a number of steps that can be taken to help guide your dog’s behavior, starting before your new dog comes home with you.
Creating a Home
Before the puppy’s arrival, you’ll want to create a space for him or her to sleep. It’s best to purchase a full adult-sized crate from the beginning, since the dog will grow into it soon enough. There are a few different varieties. Plastic or fiberglass airline crates are the easiest for travel. Wire or fabric mesh crates can offer more ventilation, although fabric mesh may not be sturdy enough for puppies that tend to dig and chew heavily.
It’s important to get your puppy accustomed to living in the crate as part of housetraining. However, you will want to make sure not to leave a border collie puppy in the crate for too long, since they need activity and interaction with people, and depriving them of active interaction for too long can lead them to become hyperactive.
Getting your puppy used to being around people, particularly your family, as well as other dogs is an important part of border collie training to help him or her become part of the family. Since border collies are sheepdogs, it’s important for puppies to get used to normal human activities so that they don’t try to herd the people they come in contact with.
It’s also important for the people in the household to adjust their behavior while the puppy adjusts. Young children in particular may need to be told not to run around border collie puppies, as the puppy may respond by chasing or even nipping them—intended to lead rather than harm, but still something to be avoided. Guidance to both puppy and humans during an adjustment period can help to head off aggressive behavior in the future.
Another key part of socializing a border collie puppy is establishing yourself as the “pack leader” in your household. One of the first steps in training a puppy is making sure that he or she will respect you and follow direction
Creating a Routine
An important early step in establishing that relationship of respect is in setting rules for your puppy and sticking to them. This is something you should start doing from the beginning of your border collie training. For example, you may want to establish that your dog is not allowed onto the furniture, or is not allowed to eat food from the table. Consistency is important in this process, so the whole household needs to be on board with these rules from the beginning.
Something important to remember at this stage is everything you do around your puppy is teaching him or her, even without any type of formal training. It’s important from early on to make sure you’re not reinforcing bad habits. You also need to teach the puppy his name from an early stage. Calling him or her by name whenever you interact will help this process along.
Starting the training process
Especially when first starting border collie training, it’s a good idea to focus on positive reinforcement. Border collies tend to be a sensitive breed, and they respond well to authority that is firm but gentle. Particularly in housetraining, it’s as important to reward good behavior by your puppy as it is to correct him or her for behaviors that you don’t want.
Because border collies are energetic as well as smart, they can get bored easily, so in border collie training it’s important to keep training sessions brief, as short as five to ten minutes at a time. However, it’s also a good idea to consistently repeat the same trick a few times in a row and not to alternate too much, in order to avoid confusion.
Border collies also need a lot of exercise, and can do well on farms or in other environments where their natural herding instincts can be encouraged. The American Kennel Club can help you find indoor facilities for herding or agility training, or sites for an emerging game called Treibbal, where owners help their dogs “herd” balls into a net. All of these are good choices for a breed that needs high-intensity outlets for their energy. For more basic exercise, this course can teach you how to get your dog leash walking easily and politely.
Positive reinforcement is also a key part of teaching learned behaviors, or tricks. You can start by using a verbal cue—a single word works best—or a clicker or other noisemaker before giving the puppy a treat. Once you’ve established the relationship between the cue and the treat, you can use that connection as a bridge signal to the new behavior.
Set Training Goals
By the time your puppy is about three to six months old, you should be able to start teaching it some basic tricks, such as how to sit or come when called. This Udemy course on dog tricks can help you get started with a few basic skills.
A good way to teach a puppy to sit is to hold a treat and raise it over the puppy’s head while slowly moving the treat backward toward the puppy’s tail. As the puppy watches the treat move, his or her weight will shift, causing the puppy to sit naturally. At this point, you can use the bridge signal—the verbal or other sound cue established earlier—and give a treat. You can also use the bridge signal to reward natural instances of sitting or other behavior. Once your puppy starts to connect the behavior and the reward, you can give the behavior a name—in this case, by saying “sit”—and create a new verbal cue.
As the puppy gets older, you can use the same techniques to build on the concepts your puppy already knows, and introduce more complicated tricks. Border collies are highly intelligent, and by the time he or she is about a year old or so, you can teach them a wide variety of behaviors. If you’re looking for some new things to teach your dog, you can try this Udemy dog tricks and training course to find many new skills and apply some of the basic principles described above.