How to Entertain a Herding Dog: 15 Great Ideas

Herding dogs are intelligent and easy to train, which makes them great pets. They are also usually friendly, affectionate, and protective, but they are also quite active and can get bored, which might lead to misbehaving.

If you are having trouble keeping your pet entertained, keep reading as we list several ideas that you can use to help you keep your pet happy and stimulate their mind.


Begin by researching your specific herding dog breed to understand their characteristics, energy levels, exercise requirements, and any breed-specific needs that they may have. Evaluate the space available to you, both indoors and outdoors, where you can entertain your herding dog.

Consider factors like size, safety, and suitability of the space for various activities. Setting up a budget can also help prevent overspending.

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The 15 Ways to Entertain a Herding Dog

1. Interactive Play

Use toys that require problem-solving, such as puzzle toys or treat-dispensing toys. These will keep your herding dog mentally engaged as they figure out how to access the treats.

Vizsla dog playing outdoorVizsla dog playing outdoor
Image Credit: Wirestock Creators, Shutterstock

2. New Tricks

Herding dogs love to learn and work. Teach them new tricks and commands to challenge their minds and stimulate them mentally. Hold scheduled training sessions that are short and consistent.

3. Agility Training

Set up an agility course in your backyard or find a local dog park with agility equipment. Herding dogs excel at agility exercises and enjoy the challenge and physical activity that they experience on these courses.

border collie dog running on the boom on a dog agility courseborder collie dog running on the boom on a dog agility course
Image Credit: Juha Saastamoinen, Shutterstock

4. Herding Classes

Consider enrolling your herding dog in herding classes, if available, to enable them to use their natural herding instincts to do a mentally and physically stimulating activity.

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5. Long Walks or Hikes

Herding dogs require plenty of physical exercise. Take them on long walks or hikes in different environments to provide new sights, sounds, and smells to keep them mentally stimulated. These walks can also help your pet feel more comfortable visiting new places.

woman and dog hikedwoman and dog hiked
Image Credit: 2999607, Pixabay

6. Playing Fetch

Herding dogs often have a strong retrieving instinct. Play fetch with them using balls, frisbees, or other toys that they can run after and return to you. This activity will give them a good physical workout and help satisfy their natural instincts.

7. Nose Work

Engage your herding dog’s sense of smell by playing nosework games. Hide treats or toys around the house or in the yard, and let them use their sniffing abilities to find them. Vary your hiding spots to keep them guessing, and resist giving clues unless they need them for the best results.

german shepherd dog sniffing sandgerman shepherd dog sniffing sand
Image Credit: DanaTentis, Pixabay

8. Swimming

Many herding dogs enjoy swimming. If you have access to a safe body of water, take them for a swim. It’s a great, low-impact exercise to help burn off excess energy. Some herding dogs, like German Shepherds, can swim quite well, but it’s always best to supervise your dog closely and have them wear a lifejacket.

9. Obedience Training

Regular obedience training sessions can provide mental stimulation to keep them from becoming bored and reinforce their training. Teach them new commands or work on improving their existing skills. The training will also help you form strong bonds with your pet as you work toward a common goal.

rhodesian ridgeback dog giving paw in trainingrhodesian ridgeback dog giving paw in training
Image Credit: Ivan4es, Shutterstock

10. Playdates with Other Dogs

Socialize your herding dog by arranging playdates with other well-behaved dogs to help them learn to interact and play while burning off excess energy.

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11. Flyball

Introduce your herding dog to flyball, which involves a relay race where dogs jump over hurdles, retrieve a tennis ball, and return over the hurdles. This fast-paced activity provides both mental and physical stimulation.

english bull terrier dog playing with a ballenglish bull terrier dog playing with a ball
Image Credit: otsphoto, Shutterstock

12. Bikejoring or Canicross

If your herding dog loves to run, consider bikejoring or canicross. These sports involve attaching your dog to a bike or wearing a waist belt while running, enabling your herding dog to pull and run alongside you.

13. Tracking

Herding dogs have a keen sense of smell, so you can help mentally stimulate them by teaching them how to follow scent trails. You can start with simple tracks in your backyard and gradually increase the difficulty as they begin to understand the game.

cropped woman running on a trail in the woods with her energetic dog on harness and leashcropped woman running on a trail in the woods with her energetic dog on harness and leash
Image Credit: knelson20, Shutterstock

14. Dog Sports

Enroll your herding dog in various dog sports, such as obedience trials, rally obedience, obstacle course running, or dock diving. These activities provide mental challenges, promote teamwork, and enable your dog to showcase their skills.

15. Frisbee or Disc Dog

Herding dogs often excel in Frisbee or disc dog competitions. Teach your dog how to catch and retrieve a Frisbee, and you can participate in organized events or enjoy playing together in your backyard or a local park. This activity is great fun and helps burn off excess energy.

Image Credit: Aliaksei Semirski, Pexels

Frequently Asked Questions

How Much Exercise Do Herding Dogs Need?

Herding dogs are highly active breeds and require a significant amount of exercise. On average, they need at least 1–2 hours of physical activity daily to keep them mentally and physically stimulated.

Can I Entertain My Herding Dog Indoors?

While herding dogs benefit from outdoor activities, you can also entertain them indoors. You can engage them with interactive toys, indoor training sessions, mental stimulation games, or even set up indoor agility courses or obstacle courses.

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Are There Specific Toys That Are Best for Herding Dogs?

Yes, herding dogs often enjoy toys that stimulate their problem-solving abilities. Look for puzzles or treat-dispensing toys that require them to figure out how to access the treats. Durable balls, frisbees, and tug toys are also ideal for herding dogs.

border collie dog playing with frisbeeborder collie dog playing with frisbee
Image Credit: txus71, Pixabay

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There are many ways to entertain a herding dog, and it only requires a bit of your time each day. Teaching them new tricks and engaging them in games of fetch or Frisbee is quite effective at helping them burn off extra calories and preventing them from getting bored and misbehaving.

Interactive food and treat dispensers work great when you can’t be at home. Competitions and events are ideal for helping your pet show off their skills and play with other dogs.

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