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Border collies were born to work and while some border collies are still working their ancestral job, those that don’t need an outlet for that focus and energy. And that is why we so often see border collies obsessed with a variety of things available to them, anything from water, to a game of fetch, or even the cat.

The very traits that make the border collie so thrilling to watch when herding sheep, can cause some obsessive behaviors that make us scratch our heads.

My Border Collie is obsessed with balls

Some border collies can be so obsessed with balls, they might not see anything else in the environment when they are within view.

I had a student in my dog training class with a border collie. He was holding a ball, but every time he asked the dog for a cue, he would “reward” by petting the dog’s head. The dog was dodging his hand from being petted.

So I asked him to explain his training process. He told me that his dog LOVED being pet, so he was using that as a mid-level reward. The ball was the “jackpot” reward that let him know he did something great.

Well, his ranking of rewards was correct! But when a border collie is obsessed and fixated on something, everything else fades away. They have tunnel vision on the object of their obsession.

So while it may have been true that without the ball present, he may have been happy with tactile rewards, but when the ball was out, the petting seemed to annoy him.

The stare on the ball indicated he was anticipating that the ball would move, so he could pounce on it.

So to put it into perspective, the petting interrupted his intense focus.

So is your border collie’s obsession with balls a bad thing?

Probably not, throwing a ball around allows your BC to burn off excess energy which they need to do. However, they still need downtime as too much will spike your dog’s adrenaline levels.

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If you feel your BC is obsessive beyond what is reasonable, then it’s possible you’re dealing with canine obsessive-compulsive disorder, and it should be managed accodingly.

Water in another common obsession for dogs, do be sure to read our post on it here.

border collie obsessed with game of fetch

My Border Collie is Obsessed with Fetch

Fetch is a great way to burn energy and we can also use it as a tool to reinforce their response to cues (by asking for a behavior before throwing the ball).

Almost all border collies love fetch, because of their need for a job. But do they just love it, or are they truly obsessed?

If your border collie shows signs of anxiety when they can’t get someone to throw the ball, then they may have an unhealthy obsession.

Do they keep wanting you to throw the ball every second of the day, even if they are showing signs of physical exhaustion?

These are signs that your dog could be obsessed.

When your dog has an obsession with fetching, they are more likely to guard whatever they are fetching from other animals that may be around. So you want to make sure all games of fetch are controlled, and one on one with their human.

And fetch toys should be hidden out of sight when you are not actively playing a game. I also recommend asking your dog to respond to cues before throwing, to make sure they don’t get so focused on the retrieve that they start to zone you out.

Are you interested in this: Will My Dog Jump Out of the Car Window?

My Border Collie is Obsessed with the Cat?

Many times, border collies need to herd something. And they may target any living being available to them. Sometimes that poor target is your cat.

This can be incredibly frustrating for your cat, especially if it escalates to your border collie nipping to gain control.

The problem is, once they get into herding mode, most border collies will be so focused, attempting to call them off will not help and can be frustrating for you.

In this situation, your first order of business needs to be managed. Here are some of the first steps you should take:

  1. You make sure your border collie and cat are kept in separate areas when you are not there to supervise. This can be done by use of a crate, or just confining them to different areas of the house.
  1. Even when you are there to supervise, make sure the cat has an escape route. In my house, I have a catwalk that is 6 feet up on my walls, so the dogs can’t get to them.

You can try to teach an incompatible behavior when the cat enters the room. Maybe you cue your dog to fetch a ball or favorite toy. Or maybe you cue your border collie to a sit-stay and reward him for keeping the behavior even when they see the cat.

But if your dog’s obsession causes him to fixate on your cat, you may need to get an expert involved. Here is a great blog written by author and animal behaviorist Patricia B. McConnell, PhD, CAAB Emeritus about her struggles with her own border collie.

She is one of the top experts in the dog training world, and she exhausted many training plans to work with her border collie and cat.  So remember that prey and herding drives will vary quite a bit between individual border collies.

Border Collie and Cat

My Border Collie is Obsessed with Shadows

Some border collies have a fascination or even an obsession with shadows or even lights. This usually happens in high-energy breeds like border collies, and especially dogs with high prey drives. The unpredictable movements of the shadows can put some dogs straight into chase mode.

The problem with chasing shadows is that, unlike a ball, your dog will never be able to catch it, which is more frustrating when they can see it right in front of them. This never-ending game of chase can create an obsession.

If this happens in your yard, make sure you are outside with your border collie, playing with toys to keep him too busy to notice the shadows.

If nothing seems to distract your border collie from the shadows, you should consult with a veterinary behaviorist who can customize a program and can work with your veterinarian to see if medication will help.

Consistent distraction and reward can help, and also directing them toward games of fetch, or other exercises can also be helpful. 

My Border Collie is Obsessed with Me

Dogs, in general, are social creatures and like to be with their people, but beyond that border, collies are bred to be attached to their handlers so they respond to their directions when herding livestock.

So it’s not a surprise that some of our border collies are super attached to their humans.

Another reason they could be following you around is that they are bored. So they follow you around in hopes of something exciting happening.

So are they attached or obsessed? If your border collie wants to be with you, it likely won’t cause an issue unless they get stressed when you leave. Or if they guard you against other dogs or even people.

If you think your BC might be experiencing separation anxiety, then be sure to read our post on that here.

Is my BC’s Obsession a Problem?

Border collie obsession can be a problem.

If you can call your border collie off their objects or activity of desire, it’s probably ok.

But some things, like fetch and chasing shadows, will cause adrenaline spikes in your dog. So even though you may think playing these games will burn that excited energy, they can cause nervousness and stress, so creating downtime is a must.

Another thing to consider is that some obsessive behaviors are created, or get worse because the dog is bored and has excess energy. This is a cry for more enrichment.

Be sure to supply puzzle games to your BC to work their brains, as well as their bodies.

To supply this you want to be sure to give your dog a variety of outlets while avoiding the stimuli your dog fixates on. Here are some great activities to try:

Herding

Giving your border collie an outlet for what they were bred to do can be the perfect avenue to burn mental and physical energy. Herding as a sport has increased in popularity as more herding breeds are kept as household pets.

Herding on the Web is a great resource if you are looking to get started. Their list of resources includes books, videos, and training facilities.

Treibball

This is a simple sport where your dog uses his nose to roll a large ball around a field, bringing it to you. Training for treibball will help proof your dog’s response to cues in distractions. So it is a great, low-impact sport to work the body and mind.

This is a great low-cost sport to get started with. For more information or to find a trainer near you visit the American Treibball Association.

Canine Musical Freestyle

This is a great team sport for border collies that are focused on their owners. You teach your dogs a series of dance steps (that are tricks!) and string them together to music.

This is another great sport for getting your dog moving and focusing on your cues. For more info on this visit Canine Musical Freestyle.

Final Word

While in most cases a border collie’s obsessions can be managed, if your dog is so fixated on an activity or thing that you can’t get their attention away, you may be dealing with a canine obsessive-compulsive disorder.

If you are trying to manage the behavior and get your border collie to focus on other things, and your dog’s obsession seems to get worse, you want to discuss this behavior with a veterinary behaviorist.

Dogs with OCD are stressed and you need a personalized program to help them achieve a better quality of life.