Do collies run away? (Why they run and how to stop them)

Collies are well known for being prone to anxiety, and they can become stressed and bored much more easily than other dogs.

Collies usually don’t run away. Collies are highly social dogs and hate being away from their owners for long periods. In spite of this, collies have an extremely low tolerance for boredom and loneliness, so collies may run away when they are left on their own for too long.

To prevent your collie from running away, you need to ensure they feel safe at home and have plenty of mental and physical stimulation throughout the day to prevent them becoming stressed or anxious.

In this article, we’re going to look at why collies might run away, and go over some simple tips you can use to stop your collie running away from you.

Do collies tend to run away?

Collies are not known for running away as long as all their needs are being met, however collies are also known for being skittish and prone to anxiety and loneliness and may run away if they are left on their own or they think they have been abandoned.

Collie owners are often unknowingly the deciding factor if their dog will develop a tendency to run away. As difficult as it is to hear, if you are not providing a fulfilling life for your collie they will actively look to fulfill their needs elsewhere and their flee to freedom may become a regular occurrence.

Luna never strays far and likes to check in with you frequently while out walking.

Why do collies run away?

Collies will run away if their needs are not being met. This could mean they are being left alone without enough company (loneliness), they aren’t getting the physical exercise they need, or they don’t have enough mental stimulation to keep their minds healthy and engaged (boredom).

Collies also sometimes run away if they are in season, or if they are frightened.

Let’s take a look at some more reasons your collie may run away:

1: Lack of Physical exercise

Collies were bred for roaming the rugged hills of Scotland for hours each day. A 20 minute walk in the park is simply just not going to cut if for a collie. Collies need a minimum of two hours of off-leash exercise every single day, no matter the weather.

This duration of exercise is sufficient to meet your collies needs (although most will happily run for longer!).

Without sufficient daily physical exercise your collie will still have a reservoir of pent up energy which they need to release one way or another, possibly by running away. If your collie is prone to running away, make sure they are getting enough exercise throughout the day.

2: Boredom

Collies require substantial mental stimulation to keep them happy.

Collies absolutely LOVE having a job to complete and a collie who lacks mental stimulation will often develop recurring negative compulsive or destructive behaviors, which may include running away.

Imagine being locked in a room for the majority of your day with nothing to do to keep your mind occupied. You would be thinking about running away too!

Without sufficient mental stimulation, collies can become bored and anxious. Collies have a low tolerance for boredom and may run away if they are left on their own for too long with nothing to do.

Check out our Mental Stimulation Ideas For Collies for ways to keep your collies mind focused on tasks and firmly off running away.

3: They are in season

Collies who are sexually mature have an exceptionally strong instinct to reproduce.

Collies who are not neutered or spayed are more likely to run away to find a mate. This is normal canine behavior, so if you are not looking for a surprise litter of puppies it’s best to neuter or spay your collie as soon as possible.

4: They are scared

Collies can get scared just like humans can, triggering their fight or flight instincts. If your collie gets scared while they are outside, they may end up running away out of fear.

Collies are extremely sensitive to loud noises or fast movements which they have no control over or are blindsided by.

Fireworks and thunderstorms are some of the most common reasons why even the most loyal collies will run away.

Collies also do not appreciate sudden movements especially from strangers and collies stuck in crowds of strange people may also lead to them running away to find a place of perceived safety.

Are border collies good off-leash?

When trained properly, collies are good at being off leash. Collies are fast learners and with regular training sessions you can quickly develop their recall. Having good recall is vitally important if you are to confidently let your collie off their leash knowing they will come back to you whenever you ask.

Collies are one of the most loyal dogs to their owners and as a result one of the best dogs for off leash walks. Once a collie has bonded with their owner, there is simply nothing surer that your collie will stay close and come careering back to you as soon as you call.

Can you let your collie off their lead?

If your collie is nervous around other dogs then it’s best to keep them on their leash. An unknown dog running towards your collie can be perceived as a threat and may be the catalyst for them running away.

Until your collie has built up their confidence socializing with other dogs then its best to be cautious and leave them on their leash.

How to Train Your Collie not to go too far ahead:

The ultimate test for collies off-leash obedience can also be a fun game for both owners and dogs. Hide and seek.

Whilst your collie is freely roaming off leash, quickly hide behind a tree or shrub. Wait and see how long it takes for your collie to notice your absence, don’t worry it won’t take long or to speed up the process you can call your collie whilst in hiding.

Then simply watch in awe and amazement as your collie frantically sprints and searches for their beloved owners. This may seem like a cruel game but in fact it helps your collie realize that they must keep their attention on their owner at all times or else they may get lost.

Ultimately, this game will only strengthen the bond between owner and collie and develop both collie and their owners confidence in off leash exercise knowing that one will not leave the other alone.

Luna always comes running back to me when I call her name because we practiced recall training a lot when she was younger.

Do border collies roam?

Roaming is different from running away in that a collie who likes to roam may do so for some of the same reasons they run away but will return home when they start feeling hungry or need a nap.

Collies generally like to stay close to their family in the same way their lupine ancestors stayed close to their pack however if they are bored it is highly likely your collie will roam the streets in search of excitement and adventure.

How to train your collie not to run away

Training your collie not to run away is vital to their safety. A runaway collie may get themselves into dangerous situations.

Knowing how to train your collie not to run away is paramount so let’s explore some training options below.

1: Recall Training

This is probably the most important thing you can do to prevent your collie from running away.

Recall training should use high value treats, ideally treats that your collie will only receive when they respond to your recall command.

When your collie knows they will receive a tremendously tasty treat for coming back when called its a sure bet they will be by your side in a matter of seconds.

Lunas recall is remarkable…especially when she is getting one of her favorite treats.

2: train them not to run out the door

This may be stating the obvious but training your collie to stay within the home is vital for preventing them running away.

If your collie dashes out the door anytime it is opened then its time to consult our ‘How To Stop Your Collie Running Out The Door‘ article where it explores solutions to this problem in greater detail.

3: Drop treats periodically

Randomly dropping treats in front of your collie from your hand whilst out a walk will encourage your collie to stay close at all times.

Collies are not known for being motivated by food so you will need to carefully consider which treat you purchase for this to be effective.

A high value treat that your collie only gets whilst out walking will work best as your collie will know its something extra delicious that’s worth hanging around for.

4: Use a standard flat leash

Opting for a standard flat, short, fixed length leash will physically prevent your collie from straying too far. Extendable leashes are not a good option when training you collie as they thrive on predictability.

Extendable leashes do not offer this predictability as they fail to show your collie how close they are expected to stay to their owners as most extend to around 10 feet.

Using a short leash gives you more control and also trains your collie that they are expected to stay close to their owners whilst out a walk.

Exercising with Collie
A shorter leash helps your collie to learn to walk with you and not to run ahead.

5: Carry two of their favorite toys when walking

Collies are toy obsessed! They love nothing more than to run after a ball, especially a squeaky one. Some collies love their ball so much that they don’t actually like to give it up and prefer to simply carry in their mouth whilst walking.

By purchasing two identical squeaky balls and taking both out with you when you’re walking with your collie, you will always have one to entice your collie back to you even when they are carrying one themselves.

After all, your collie can only carry one at a time so you will never have to wrestle over the second.

By having an identical second of their favorite toys on hand, you can encourage them to come back to you to get involved in the action!

6: Train them to stay and lie down

If your collie is running away because they are frightened then it is simply a fact that you will not catch them no matter how fast you run after them.

Training your collie to respond to a ‘stay’ command or a ‘lie down’ command could be life saving for your collie.

A scared collie may become flustered and disorientated and even with the best recall may not be able to navigate their way back to you in their state of panic. However, by regularly practicing stay and lie down your collie will learn to stop what they are doing and lie down safely.

This training takes time but can literally be a life saver if your collie gets an unexpected fright and takes flight.

‘Lie Down’ and ‘Stay’ are two of the most important commands a collie can learn. It helps keep them out of trouble.

How to stop your collie from running away

Aside from training, there are a few more options to help stop your collie from running away. These include neutering, providing mental stimulation and giving them some extra exercise. These have been proven to be effective methods to help stop your collie running away from their home.

1: Neuter or Spay your collie

Neutering or spaying your collie will prevent them running away for their desire to breed as they won’t have the same hormonal drive.

This can be an easy solution to your collie running away if you are not planning on breeding your collie in future.

2: Provide Mental Stimulation

Bored collies are among the most likely to run away in search of something to entertain them. Providing mental stimulation activities for your collie will help keep their minds engaged on a task and off running away.

Puzzle toys and treat dispensing toys are a firm favorite with collies, and the more challenging the puzzle is, the better it is for keeping your collies mind busy and focused for extended periods.

Check out our article ‘Mental Stimulation Ideas For Collies‘ for more fun ideas.

3: Extra Exercise

Collies are known for being exercise freaks and they simply can’t get enough.

Take your collie for at least two hours of off leash exercise everyday where your collie has ample opportunities to expend their energy running at their top speeds.

Obviously if your collie is running away whilst out exercising then taking them to an enclosed area with at least a 6ft fence will allow them to run free whilst staying safe.

Check out the ‘Guide To Exercising With Your Collie‘ for some alternative ideas from the simple walk in the park.

About the author:

About the author:

Hollie and Border Collie

 Stuart MacPherson

Colliepedia Editor

 Stuart MacPherson

Colliepedia Editor

I'm an experienced collie owner from Scotland. I started Colliepedia to share everything I know about collies. All the pictures you see on colliepedia are of my beloved collie Luna

Learn More about me and Luna's story on the about page!