10 Low-to-No-Cost Games and Activities to Keep Your Collie Occupied

10 Low-to-No-Cost Games and Activities to Keep Your Collie Occupied

Going stir crazy due to Covid-19? Are your bored dogs driving you insane? Here are some quick ideas to keep them occupied without leaving your property, using things you probably already have on hand! Watching the video montage should give you some inspiration, and reading the post will give more details.

Table of Contents

#1

Hide and Seek (with items)

This is fun to play with a favorite toy, treats, or just bits of kibble if you’re watching your dog’s waistline. Put your dog in a separate room, then hide the treats in accessible locations. Let them out and tell them, “Find the treats!” This can also be done outside. As animal behaviorist Julie Bond says, “Both dogs and cats like to sniff and explore, so simply spreading out their food or snacks in your grass allows them to use their noses as nature intended.” You may have to give them hints when you first introduce this game, but eventually they’ll be finding all the hidden goodies on their own like a pro!

Headshot of a lovely sable and white Collie with a Lassie blaze down his muzzle
Melker (King) from Sweden. PC: Johanna Korvela

Johanna Korvela from Sweden combines trick training, nosework, and hide and seek (see video) to keep her Collie Melker’s brain engaged. She said, “I highly recommend nosework; it can also be a toy or food hidden in the house or in objects. Let the imagination go wild, and the Internet is a big help, too! Trick training can be done anywhere and is fun for both dog and owner.” 

#2

Hide and Seek (with people)

If you have more than one person living in your household, you can hide or have someone else hide indoors or outside. It’s the same process as with concealing treats, except you’re telling the dog, “Go Find Hanka!” or whoever. (Some of you may get that old kids’ book reference.) It doesn’t have to be elaborate: a good hiding place can just be standing in a closet or behind an open door. This is a great one to play with kids and dogs simultaneously. Kids love to be the hiders and have the dogs find them!

Two sable and white Collies outside in the sunshine, one sitting next to one lying down
Samantha and Ginger from California, USA. PC: Kristan Neubecker

You can even tag team the hiding! Said Kristan Neubecker, Collie owner and proprietor of Pets and Purrs Barkery, “We play the ‘come find me’ game: one human somewhere hidden calls, and the dogs go to that person while the other human hides. After they find the first human, the second says, ‘come find me!’…” You can repeat this cycle as often as you want, or until the dogs are sufficiently worn out.

#3

Tug

Collies love tug! A tug rope is great, but you can even make your own tug toy with an old handtowel, washcloth, or knotted sock. Most dogs aren’t too picky; they just want something they can sink their teeth into. Usually I start a game with Yoshi, my exuberant little female Collie, then my big boy Gustav joins in. If he takes over as nanny dog, my job is done. Also, Collies tend to have a weird love of paper products, and mine often play tug with (and simultaneously shred) paper towel rolls and cardboard boxes!

An older Collie plays tug with a younger Collie puppy
Kirby and Brady from Arkansas, USA. PC: Dean Field
#4

Hidden Object Games

These are a little more interactive than your standard hide and seek, requiring personal human involvement. “Which Hand” is a classroom favorite recommendation from professional animal trainer Julie Bond:

Ask your dog to sit, and show them that you have a treat. Move your hands behind your back and switch the treat from hand to hand. Offer your dog two closed fists and have them bump your fist with their nose or a paw to try to find the treat. If they pick the wrong hand, that’s okay – just try it again!

A laughing blondhaired woman walks between 2 Rough Collies, one tricolor and one sable and white
Desi, Julie, and Ozzie. PC: Jessica Mangold

Julie also recommends the shell game for both canines and felines. It’s a variation of that old “follow the pea” sleight of hand circus trick; but no worries – you don’t have to be a magician for this to be fun! Your pet will be relying on their nose more than their eyes, anyway. You just need three cups placed upside down. Let your pet see you put a treat under one and mix them all around. Then, with their nose or paw, have them select which cup hides the treat. (Clever Smooth Collie @wow.its.westley modeled this game quite nicely in the Collie Tricks video.)

#5

Fetch

Fetch is great for the younger, more energetic doggos like Yoshi. Oddly, she will only play fetch indoors, perhaps because there are far more exciting things to do outside? When I throw a ball or squeaky toy down our hallway, she goes bouncing after it and brings it back so we can do it again! (Her theme song is Tigger’s song, swapped out for her name. She loves it when I sing it to her – that’s what I tell myself anyway.) Sometimes I also put a ball in a sock for an added level of fun.

A tricolor Rough Collie sits outside in the snow with a toy football
Tiggy thinks anytime is ball time! PC: Jacqueline Suckling
#6

Homemade Puzzles

A well-rinsed milk jug or water bottle with the plastic ring removed can make a great homemade puzzle toy. I usually put cat kibble into a water container and cut small holes in the sides to make a treat dispenser, and this keeps our pups occupied for a while as they nudge it with nose and paws or pick it up and shake it – depending on their styles. Just be sure to supervise and make sure your dog is only eating the contents, not the containers. Puzzle dishes can also be created with an old muffin tin and tennis balls (whole or cut in half) as covers for the holes. I’ve also heard great things about DIY snuffle mats and snuffle balls made with strips of fleece fabric.

A Collie/Husky/Great Pyrenees mix sits outside next to a Beagle puppy
Best friends Tikka and Pearson from Canada PC: Jessica Coupland

Jessica Coupland, owner of a Collie/Husky/Great Pyrenees mix and a rambunctious young Beagle, suggested getting a foam or more challenging plastic egg carton (like those used by Eggland’s Best) and filling it with kibble, apple sauce, egg, yogurt, peanut butter, or any healthy treat! “My Beagle puppy is incredibly high-energy, and anything that gets that nose working does wonders to help tire her out,” she said. When it comes to Pearson, “He thankfully has calmed some, but I have done a lot of things like this with him.”

#7

Chase

Again, this is one of Yoshi’s favorite games. Simply sending your dogs into the backyard isn’t always enough entertainment. Collies love to have their people interact with them, so sometimes I’ll go outside and chase (or pretend to chase) Yoshi around. Mostly I just feint and lunge from side to side, and she runs around me in happy circles, barking like a fool. For those whose play style is more similar to mine, you might enjoy using a flirt pole (fairly easy to make with string, stick, and toy) that will allow you to remain relatively stationary while your dog does the work. If you’re fleetfooted and spry, you can mix things up by running and letting them tag you for a change.

Rough Collie Bella
Bella from Maryland, USA doing a zoom! PC: Debby Thompson
#8

DIY “Busy” Treats and Chews

Chews are great when you need something to keep your dogs busy that will require less input from you, so your Collie won’t be bumping your elbow with their long nose while you’re trying to type or yapping at you while you’re on a call… (No that I’ve experienced those things, obviously.)

A sable and white Rough Collie eats a frozen popsicle outside
Ozzie loves pupsicles! PC: Julie Bond

Collie mom Kristan said, “A fully stuffed Kong in a sock will keep them busy for a good while trying to figure it out.” Julie Bond recently wrote an excellent post containing recipes for making your own Kong filling and other homemade, healthy dog snacks like pumpkin/carrot treats and yogurt-based “pupsicles.” Also, peanut butter (xylitol-free of course!) works great in an old marrow bone in place of a Kong or smeared on the ends of a well-chewed antler.

#9

Train New Things

Training done right (positively reinforced with lots of praise, treats, pets, or butt rubs) should be fun for you and your pup! Collies love to be challenged, and any novel command can be a game. To stay occupied, Collie mom Lora Schasel said, “We’ve been practicing agility (threadles and wraps), obedience (off-leash heeling with good eye contact and nice straight fronts), rear end awareness with perch work, and finishing up an online canine fitness course.” Chevy Manchester, owner of blue merle Collie Rocco, said she has “Just been polishing up some obedience and starting to teach ‘back up,’ because he is CLUMSY and needs better awareness of himself!”

A blue merle Collie sits outside and looks intently up at the camera
Rocco from Tennessee, USA. PC: Chevy Manchester

Ciara, an Old Time Scotch Collie, has won multiple “Trick Dog” awards and is generally a very accomplished canine. Lara Sullivan has worked extensively with Ciara in “Treiball,” an ideal activity for herding breeds, and Ciara has learned how to “go to counter” on a ball (see video) and push it to Lara with her nose. She also excels at impulse control games, maintaining a down-stay while Lara “uses chopsticks to move kibble from one bowl to another.” My Collies could do this, but this would probably be torture for my Aussie mix Freckles and she might snap under the strain… Food is the center of her universe!

A tricolor Old Time Scotch Collie lies on a mat while a woman kneels in front of her moving kibble piece by piece from one bowl to another using chopsticks.
Royals Ciara of Colonial OTSC from Massachusetts, USA. PC: Lara Sullivan
#10

Walks

If you can leave your property, never underestimate the power of a walk! In certain areas – like where I live in Florida, USA – which have issued a “shelter in place” mandate, neighborhood walks are about all we can do now. I know someone currently stationed in Italy who is only allowed to walk their dog for a set amount of meters, but they’re making that work by taking more frequent, slower walks. (Download the ResQWalk app to convert your steps into donations toward the animal rescue organization of your choice. They could especially use the boost right now!)

3 Rough Collies, 1 sable and white, 1 tricolor, and 1 blue merle, stroll outside under a broad blue sky
Just 3 multi-hued Collies on a stroll! PC: Louise Hobday

Dog trainer and Collie owner Julie Bond said, “If you are out there walking your dogs, please please PLEASE let them sniff. Sniffing is their favorite activity! It expends energy, stimulates their brains, and reduces anxiety. So what if you only get 2 blocks on your walk? Your dog got to catch up on all the neighborhood goings-on, because you let them sniff out the information left behind.”

* Bonus Resources

Thanks to all this coronavirus craziness, many of us are experiencing a new normal. While we may not be able to publicly go out and make friends, at least we can still make long-distance friends! Much of the information in this article was gleaned from the international Rough Collies Facebook group. Even if you don’t normally do social media, I highly recommend joining this online forum of Collie lovers, owners, breeders, and trainers from around the world. I have asked many a question and always received helpful replies!

A sable and white Rough Collie puppy lounges on a treadmill
Tired of walking? Be like Brady! PC: Dean Field

If you’re not already doing so, follow Julie C. Bond on Facebook (@K9freud on Instagram) or check out her blog! She posts more frequently than I do, and she is actually an expert. People often ask me training questions; but I can only make suggestions based on what I’ve done with my dogs, whereas Julie really knows what she’s talking about. She is also available for “distance learning” and video chats if you want to keep up on your dog’s training or have questions about behavior modification for your pet.

For toys you can order online, see our blog post specifically on favorite Collie-approved items. Do your best to stay safe and stay positive, everyone!

A joyful sable and white Rough Collie puppy with a Lassie blaze runs down the road
Isaac from West Virginia, USA. PC: Laura Hark-Plumley

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Have any game or activity ideas you didn’t see on my list? Feel free to mention them in the comments below!

Emily Sowulewski

Emily is an avid writer, blogger, and Collie lover who collects and posts stories about Collies from around the world. Submit a story, ask a question, or just say hi; Emily would love to hear from you.
  • Good ideas
    I have a fun trick
    I put a treat in my hand behind my back- I say “back”.
    Of course nothing happens. Slide your arm further around behind your back so your collie can see your hand – wiggle the treat so they notice(yes still with your arm behind your back – but Hand slightly Sticking out for them to see)
    Wiggle until they see it and come for it.
    Next time you say “back” – hand already behind your back – they usually look around. Wiggle your treat – do this several times and soon they will be at your back before you finish saying “back”
    Just teach one dog then you can cue that one “back” then next one “hunt” the next one “dance” – etc. Everybody will have a trick.