How to stop your collie from trying to escape

One thing every collie owner knows is how excited they can get when it’s time for walkies. Collies quickly learn that when you open the door to leave, one of two things are going to happen. Either you’re going on a super fun adventure together, or you’re heading out and it’s time for your collie to be by themselves.

Either way, your collie may run for the exit as soon as the door is cracked open, to make sure they are part of your trip and don’t get left behind.

Although door dashing seems harmless, it could be dangerous for your collie if you live near a busy road, and it’s important to train them to be calm when you open the door for their own safety.

Thankfully, this is not a difficult problem to overcome. You can train your collie not to run out the door by training teaching them the ‘stay’ command along with a ‘release’ or ‘go’ command along with positive reinforcement training for when they get it right.

In this article we’re going to look at why collies tend to dash out the door as soon as you open it, and learn how to train them not to run away when you open the door.

Why does your collie run out the door?

Collies run out of the door as soon as it’s opened for a few reasons. Firstly, it may be learned behavior if your collie knows them running outside will initiate a chase from you, they may just love to be outside and be lacking in training, or they may fear they are about to be left behind and be suffering from separation anxiety.

Let’s take a look at each of these in turn and find out why they happen:

1: Attention seeking

Your collie may dash out the door because they are seeking extra attention from you. Naturally, owners will chase after their collies to ensure no danger comes to them.

However, your furry friend will delight in this game of chase, and having their owners run after them trying to catch them is actually pretty fun for your collie.

The best way to stop this is by ignoring attention seeking behaviors and teaching your collie that running outside will not result in a fun chase game.

2: Excited about being outside

Your collie may also be darting out the door simply because they love to sniff and investigate absolutely everything! If this sounds like your collie then they are probably just super excited to get outdoors and go a walk to explore!

Exploring new smells is mentally stimulating for your pooch and some collies dash out the door for extra exploration time!

3: Separation Anxiety / Fear of being left alone

Collies are prone to suffering separation anxiety and your poor canine companion may be dashing out the door as they don’t want you to leave them behind. Your collie may feel uneasy or even scared staying home alone and running out the door is their way of communicating they want to go with you.

How to train your collie not to run out the door

Preventing your collie from running out the door can be achieved by a few simple training techniques which when used regularly will make your door dashing collie a distant memory.

Teach them to ‘wait’

Teach your collie a new ‘wait’ command by practicing opening the door whilst having your collie sit beside you. It is best to start with an internal door within the house until your collie has a handle on this new command.

As you reach for the door handle and your collie sits beside you without moving through the door reward this behavior using high-value treats.

After your collie has mastered this first step you can progress to opening the door. Start with only opening the door a few inches and open it wider each time your collie shows greater obedience in the wait command.

After you can confidently open the door and have your collie sit beside you without dashing through it, it’s time to progress to walking through the doorway and facing your collie from the other side whilst they follow the wait command and remain stationary.

When your collie is confident in using the wait command, you can then introduce a release cue such as the ‘go’ or ‘free’ command. This will indicate to your collie they are allowed to go and encouraged to move from their waiting position.

When your collie is an expert at ‘wait’, (and also responds to the release command) mix things up so your canine pal doesn’t think the door will get shut on them and they will be left alone at the other side.

Use the release command to invite your collie to calmly walk through the door in front of you or at the same time. This will ensure your clever canine does not develop any negative emotions associated with the wait command as they realize wait doesn’t always correlate to being left alone or missing out on the action.

When you’re out exercising with your collie, stop them regularly and ask them to “wait” for a photograph! They will soon memorize the command.

Practice the wait command in other settings

Collies are super smart and if you only ever use the wait command when opening the door they will soon begin to associate wait in a negative light as they constantly are denied outdoor access.

Its a good idea to practice the wait command in other settings such as when you are getting ready. Ask your collie to wait in a certain spot and reward them for staying in the one position.

You can even practice the wait command out a walk. Ask your collie to wait and take a few steps away, gradually increasing the number of steps each time. If they manage to stay in their initial position reward them immediately.

Soon your collie will realize the wait command leads to treats or extra play time with their favorite human as a reward. Using it in a wide variety of settings will prevent your collie from associating it with negative emotions of being left alone or missing out on the action from behind a closed door and they are more likely to follow the command obediently.

How Smart are Border Collies?
Luna practices ‘wait’ regularly out walks. Here she is waiting on her picnic to arrive.

Teach your collie a release command

Collies thrive on having a job to do so they actually love nothing more than to follow commands. This is why they are known for their amazing ability to perform tricks and their high levels of obedience (if trained correctly).

Teaching your collie a release command such as ‘go’ or ‘free’ will be like a fun game for your furry friend and they will pick up any new commands pretty quickly.

Teaching your collie a release command will indicate to your collie they are allowed to divert their attention away from you and you are not asking anything of them. It pretty much indicates to your collie they are free to do as they choose although many will choose to remain close in the hope of you giving them another ‘job’ to do.

The release command is extremely useful as it actually serves as a way to create more focus when learning the wait command.

Your collie will know that once the release command is ordered they no longer need to remain in the one place. This in turn increases their focus during the time when they are ordered to wait as they know it will come to an end and will need to remain alert and focused for their release command.

Get a physical barrier

In addition to training your collie to wait by simply using a command, it is advisable to invest in a physical barrier to physically prevent your collie from running out the door.

A dog gate is an immediate solution to a door-dashing collie but should be used in conjunction with taking the time to train your collie to wait.

Extra exercise

Collies mainly door dash because they have excess energy and want to roam around outside or are seeking some extra attention. Ensuring your collie gets at least two hours of off-leash exercise every day will help tire them out.

Exercising with your collie not only tires them out physically, it also strengthens the bond you have with each other which will in turn make the whole training process much easier as you will have a greater level of trust and respect.

The main thing is, a tired collie will be more interested in snoozing on the sofa rather than dashing out the door. So, do yourselves both a favor and get outside for some extra exercise!

Tips for training your collie not to run away when you open the door

It’s not a surprise you want to be able to open the door to your home without the fear of Fido making a break for freedom so below are a few tips to help aid with the training process.

Stay Calm

If your collie runs out the door to then be captured by an extremely angry owner your collie will associate being caught with negative emotions. Collies do not respond to a heavy hand and perform better for praise and positive reinforcement.

So, when your collie makes a break for freedom, try not to get mad as then you’re reinforcing the idea that bad things happen when your collie is caught.

This will only make them even more challenging to retrieve in the future as they cunningly evade all your attempts to catch them knowing they will be punished.

practice often

Practice makes perfect and collies pick things up quickly. Once your collie has learned it’s more fun to stay inside the home and yard with their human pack members you can pretty much guarantee their darting habit will be a thing of the past.

Collies are inherently people pleasers and mostly they are just craving some extra attention so once you have practiced opening the door and your collie has learned making a break for freedom does not result in a reward but rather staying close by does, you can be assured your collie will stick around like Velcro.

Luna prefers to play with her Skunky toys rather than dash out the door. Tug of war anyone?

always use the same command

Collies are the Einsteins of the canine world and are exceptionally fast learners. However, collies are sometimes so neurotic about learning that they will only respond to a command if said in the same way, using the same tone and using the exact same word or phrase.

So once you have decided on the command such as ‘wait’ stick to it and only ever use this word. Collies love predictability and consistency so ensuring you use the same command will help your collie understand exactly what is being asked of them and they can perform the command confidently, boosting their self-esteem.

practice with a leash on

Until you are confident your collie won’t run away, always practice whilst having your dog on a leash. This will prevent them from running out the door into a possibly dangerous situation and will reassure you that they will not get into harm’s way during practice sessions.

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!