Games to Play With Herding Dogs

By Melinda Weaver

Herding dogs were originally bred to herd livestock, which requires a dog who can run for long periods of time and stay alert. Thus, a herding dog without a herd needs a job that can expel some of that energy. Without that, many herding dogs will develop problem behaviors, such as excessive barking, chasing, nipping or chewing. To avoid these problems, teach your dog some games that will challenge her mentally and physically.

Fun and Games

Hide-and-Seek

If you don't have animals to herd, teach your herding dog to find you or your family members. Everyone can go to a different place in the house and, one at a time, call your dog. If your dog doesn't know how to come on command, make your voice excited and consider taking a squeaky toy with you to entice him to look for you. When your dog finds you, reward with a fun game or treat. Move to a new hiding place or let the next person in your family call.

Fetch

Herding dogs love to chase, so teach your herding dog to chase a ball and bring it back. Start with two identical toys or balls. These should be toys that your dog only gets to play with when you are playing together. Toss or roll the ball a small distance from you. If your dog runs toward it, get excited, even if she doesn't bring it right back. If she does, produce the other toy and repeat when she drops the toy she was holding. Build up until she will chase the ball across the house or yard and bring it back. Always be the one to end the game. If your dog can bring it back three times correctly before losing interest, only throw it twice.

Find It

Capitalize on your herding dog's instinct to find lost sheep by hiding toys or treats and asking him to hunt for them. Start easy. Put the toy or treat in an obvious place and say "find it." When he does, praise. Continue to make this harder until your dog is searching throughout the house for the item. This can be an interactive game or one that your dog plays when you are busy. Before you leave the house, hide treats or your dog's dinner throughout the house and tell him to find it. He can play for hours while you're gone rather than chewing or barking.

All dogs enjoy interacting with their owners, but herding dogs are bred to work closely with theirs while expending extra energy. Playing games with your herding dog will strengthen your bond and provide additional exercise.

Interactive Toys

When you aren't home, your herding dog's energy and curiosity may cause her to get into some trouble. However, you can put her mind to work by putting treats or meals in interactive toys so she has to find her food. There are many of these toys, such as Kong, available online or at your local pet store. This toys require your dog to complete a challenge to reach a treat and can keep them busy for minutes to hours.