Our worst nightmare: our collie running away! On the flip side, there is nothing like the feeling of freedom you get when walking your dog off-leash. The wind in your hair, the sun on your face, and your furry friend at your side… or rummaging in the undergrowth! SO, how do we make sure we experience the latter not the former? And keep our pup safe whilst off the leash? If you are thinking about taking the plunge and letting your dog run free, this article gives sage advice on this topic.
Will my Border Collie run away? If a Border Collie is untrained and a reliable recall behavior has not been established whilst on a leash then there is a high likelihood that the dog may run away at least temporarily, thereby potentially putting them in danger such as with vehicles. This is why training from an early age is very important to establish consistent recall whilst your dog is on a long leash and in a safe enclosed environment building up to off-leash walks which are so important for their health.
We all know that exercising our dog is crucial to physical and mental health – both theirs and yours – and off-leash training is essential for this. Below we explore ways to enjoy your walks without the constant limitation of a leash – scroll down to see our 12 tips to stop your Border Collie from running away.
Will My Border Collie Run Away?
Are Border Collies runners? They can be! If your collie has not been properly trained and does not return to you when you call, then they may run away when off the leash especially if this is for the first time. And just like a young child who cannot risk-assess a situation, they could get into trouble. They can run away either for a short period of time or this could potentially develop into a more serious situation requiring a full search party. We will avoid these scenarios by following the basic measures and training introduced here.
So, why run away? Especially for young excitable Border Collies, any passing bicycle, squirrel or bird may result in them running off. They can be in a world of their own and before we know it they are over the brow of the hill or hidden by trees, their wagging tail disappearing in the undergrowth. If this is an unfamiliar environment (such as on vacation) or one with particular dangers, especially involving traffic and vehicles, but also potentially dangerous dogs or even predators – then this presents obvious risks to your companion.
HOWEVER, if your pup is fully trained and responds to your call every single time – even when there are tempting distractions like squirrels to chase! – then you can be very confident that your collie will stay by your side when it counts and not run away. This reliable behavior and trust can be established using the methods below.
How Do You Train A Border Collie Not To Run Away?
It is amazing when we get to spend time with our dogs outdoors and allow them to run free off-leash. This unrestricted physical exercise and mental stimulation are essential, especially for Border Collies, who can cover over 20 miles of running in a single day. Some people are nervous about this fearing dogs may run away, but don’t worry – we all felt that way! But it is possible for us all to feel confident in our ability to keep our dog under control even when off the leash. Training is the key!
How do I stop my Border Collie from running away? Here are 12 tips to keep your collie safe whilst off-leash: 1. Establish strong recall from an early age (whilst on a long leash!). 2. Keep your dog on a leash until you get to the off-leash area. 3. Keep an eye out for signs regarding off-leash areas. 4. Bring plenty of water and waste bags. 5. Use positive reinforcement! 6. Initially keep physical barrier between you and other dogs. 7. Be aware of how many dogs are off-leash and in the area. 8. ID dog collar… and have your dog’s ID on you. 9. Be sure the environment is safe. 10. Watch out for other animals! 11. Never leave your pet alone on walks! 12. Consider formal dog training is still concerned.
Here are the 12 tips to train your Border Collie not to run away from you:
1. Establish strong recall from an early age (whilst on a long leash!)
This is essential. Once your pup has had their shots and you are out on walks for the first time, start training your dog to return to you on command. This could be their name or a simple ‘come’, one of the most important commands. Build up to a much longer leash where they have more freedom to sniff and roam but are still safe.
Reward good recall and behavior with treats and make sure there is no negative reinforcement i.e. stopping their fun or ending the walk just after they have demonstrated good recall behavior. Your tone of voice is important – use a firm but happy voice and retain eye contact whilst recalling your companion, and keep this consistent.
2. Keep your dog on a leash until you get to the off-leash area.
Before you get started, it’s important that you keep your furry friend leashed until you reach an appropriate space where he can run off his energy without being a nuisance to others or possibly getting into trouble. Although many parks have a fenced-in area within the park, some are open to the public so you will need to keep your dog on a leash.
3. Keep an eye out for signs regarding off-leash areas.
You can usually tell which sections of a park are off-leash just by looking for the physical markers. Some parks have physical barriers that keep dogs out, but others may have signs or flags that indicate if it’s OK for your pup to go about without a leash.
4. Bring plenty of water and waste bags.
There can be serious consequences if you forget these two necessities! Just because you’re going for a walk in the park doesn’t mean you should skimp on being prepared. After all, you never know what could happen and it’s better to be safe than sorry.
5. Use positive reinforcement!
Dogs aren’t born knowing what to do in an off-leash environment, so it’s important that you teach them that it’s OK to run free. You can do this by making sure that your dog is always in the habit of coming when called, even when he has his freedom. If you need to you could bring a tasty treat or their favorite food to reinforce this.
6. Initially keep a physical barrier between you and other dogs.
Although most off-leash areas are fenced in, it never hurts to be safe. Make sure your pup is nearby and keep him in physical contact by holding his leash or keeping your hand on his back, just in case he decides to make a run for it. Aggression in dogs can be a major issue whilst off-leash, and we want to avoid this potential trauma early on.
7. Be aware of how many dogs are off-leash and in the area.
It’s common courtesy to be observant of others when your dog is off-leash. If there are numerous dogs running free, you should be aware of their physical location so your pup doesn’t get in the way. This also means giving other pet owners the right of way when he or she is on a leash and approaching an off-leash dog or pack of dogs. If in doubt, call your companion back and put them on a leash when it gets hectic (this is always a good practice).
8. ID dog collar… and have your dog’s ID on you.
Prepare for the worst and hope for the best! Make sure your dog has an ID on their collar – and also make you have ID for them on you in case you get separated from your dog. Ensure the physical description is current and it is also good to have some form of verification of ownership, such as a tag with your name and address or even an up-to-date license for your pup.
9. Be sure the environment is safe.
Make sure the off-leash area is fenced in or that you are able to keep your eye on your dog at all times. You should also be aware of physical dangers, such as creeks or bodies of water where your collie may decide to play.
10. Watch out for other animals!
Just because dogs are allowed doesn’t mean that other animals such as cats and squirrels are also welcome. Make sure you keep your Collie on a leash when going through areas with these types of creatures, especially if they seem to be aggressive or pose a physical threat to your dog.
11. Never leave your pet alone on walks!
Dogs need human supervision at all times, even when they’re in off-leash areas. It’s not safe for you or your dog to be alone, especially if he is prone to physical danger in the form of wildlife scavengers like hawks and coyotes.
12. Consider formal dog training is still concerned.
There are some excellent doggy training schools out there with much experience in helping training recall and other essential behaviors. If you are not sure or confident or have had several bad experiences, then this may help build this trust and behavior for your daily walks.
Exercises and Training To Keep Your Collie Fit and Safe
Border Collies are a high-energy breed that requires daily exercise. You may not be aware of it, but an under-exercised dog is actually more likely to run away than one who gets enough physical activity. This exercise needs to provide both physical stimulation and interesting enough to provide them the mental stimulation they desperately crave.
If you don’t want your dog to run away, as a responsible owner you will want to give him strenuous age-appropriate exercise every day. You can go on a walk or play fetch with him. You can also teach him tricks like “rollover” and “walk the line”. This will keep him busy so he won’t have time to think about running away.
You could also consider different types of training such as agility trials. This will require you and your dog to play together and use his mind as well as his body. This way, you will both be having fun and he won’t feel like running off. Agility training is one of the best ways to keep this energetic breed occupied because it requires both physical stamina and mental focus. It gives this intelligent breed a “job” and something to focus on.
It’s also a way for you two to bond and strengthen your relationship. This will make him feel like he belongs and won’t want to run away because he has nothing else in his life outside of you. ONLY participate if it is clear your collie is enjoying this and getting something from it, they should not be forced if it is not for them.
Obedience trials and competitions can also help pet parents to focus their training. Obedience trials look at how well behaved your Border Collie is at home, out and about, and around other dogs by focussing on skills such as running, jumping, their ability to stay until called, and retrieving objects.
If you don’t give your Border Collies the proper attention, exercise, and training, they may develop behavioral issues such as destructive behavior or running away.
Can Border Collies Be Trusted Off-leash?
Yes. As demonstrated above, with the correct training from a young age and gradual build-up to off-leash walks, collies can absolutely be trusted off-leash. Border Collies can be stubborn and escape artists – owing to their very high intelligence – so proper training is essential to prevent this unwanted behavior.
Originally being herding dogs with herding instincts and high energy levels, running off chasing animals is quite natural to them. Whilst this behavior is fine and healthy most of the time when running free providing important stimulation, we have to be able to trump these strong instincts when t matter most with a simple call to have them return to our side.
If you have a strong bond between owner and Border Collie and have both worked hard to complete basic obedience training that includes recall training then the average dog owner should be able to walk their dog off-leash. Reliable recall completed in training class can help to boost pet owners’ confidence that their Border Collie will come when called out on a walk.