Guild of Shepherds & Collies

6 Easy Ways to Meet Your Herding Dog’s Exercise Needs

If I were to ask you to describe your herding dog, what words would come to mind?  I think it’s safe to say few of us would use the term “couch potato” in our description, especially when they are young.  Many of these herding dogs are tireless workers and desperately want a job to do.  Unfortunately, problems rise to the surface when the pet parent doesn’t provide an outlet for their dogs to meet their needs.  But how do we meet those needs when there just doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day?  

When I meet with clients, they often express how busy they are and the frustration they feel because they can’t meet their dog’s exercise requirements.  They’re relieved to hear that they don’t always need to spend 2-3 hours a day walking their dog.  There are many other activities you can do that your dog will find to be just as satisfying, if not more, and take less time.

When choosing an activity to do with your dog, their opinion counts!  See what they like to do, rather than just doing what you want.  My Lab loves the water, so time in the water is ideal for her.  My Border Collie mix, before she passed, loved to sniff - sniffing a bush was Disneyland to her!   My Weimaraner loves food and hunting, so hiding food around the house and encouraging her to find it is her idea of fun.  Every dog is different so take his or her likes into consideration.

Allow me to offer a few suggestions on how to squeeze some exercise into the day, even when life gets busy!

  • Sports. Maybe you wish you had the time for a canine sport like Treibball, Agility, Flyball, Dock Diving, or Rally Obedience.  Let’s get creative and think of some activities and sports at home.  
    • How about backyard agility? If you’d rather not buy the equipment, make your own course with a trip to the local thrift store.
    • Lately, I’ve been enjoying bonding with my dogs through trick training.  That can be done in your PJ’s at home!
    • How about a fun game of “Find It,” where you creatively hide some yummy treats throughout the house and encourage your friend to find them? After they find the treats, play hide and seek and encourage your dog to find you!
  • Mental Exercise. Those of you who work behind a desk know that it can be mentally exhausting at times.  Try exercising your dog’s brain and you just may find them taking a nap after you do.  Instead of feeding them from a bowl, utilize a food stuffable toy instead.  Your dog will love working for their food.  There are many great puzzles, chews and toys on the market to exercise the brain.
  • Training. As a trainer, you’d probably guess I’d suggest obedience training, and you’re right.  Enroll in a class.  They’re usually an hour per week and great fun.  At the very least, spend a few minutes each day training at home.  Whether it’s sit, stay, or a more complicated trick, obedience training is great mental exercise.
  • Playdates. IF your dog enjoys being around other dogs, set up playdates with other friendly dogs.  This can be fun for your dog and doesn’t require a lot of effort or time on your end.  That can be done in a backyard.
  • Playing outside. If your dog loves a game of fetch or tug, this can be another great form of exercise at home or in the yard.  You can do this while sitting down.
  • Water fun. As I mentioned earlier, if your dog loves the water, swimming can be wonderful exercise.  My dog Tessa always comes home exhausted after spending time in the pool.

I also recommend mixing it up.  As they say, “variety is the spice of life,” and I tend to think many dogs would agree.  So don’t think for a minute exercise is limited to long walks.  You can do so much more with your dog, so be creative and have fun!  Your dog will thank you.


Article By:
Matt White
Certified Dog Trainer


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