are border collies good off leash

Are Border Collies Good Off Leash? Don’t Make These Mistakes

Traveling to almost any park, shopping location, or restaurant that allows pets, will generally require a dog to be kept on a leash. This is to protect both other people, your dog and other dogs. Anything can happen when you let a dog lose, and you should always keep this in mind.

Of course, some dogs are generally able to behave appropriately even when a leash is not attached to their collar. Owners of Border Collies might be wondering if their beloved pets are among the well-behaved, loyal, and obedient breeds that fit into this category.

In this post, we’ll be answering the question of are Border Collies good off leash, we’ll be going over some reasons why they’re considered amongst the best options, and also give some tips and resources on how to best train your Collie for when you decide to go off-leash, and more.

are border collies good off leash

Are Border Collies Good Off Leash?

Border Collies are amongst the most obedient, trustworthy, and safe dogs to have without a leash that there are (as long as you’ve trained them correctly). They’re extremely loyal and can completely ignore any distractions like other animals, cars, toys, kids, or food if you’ve built a strong enough communication system with them. Any Border Collie can become excellent off-leash as long as the correct queues are set in place for the dog to know exactly what to do at all times. 

With that said, being a Border Collie doesn’t make it immune to natural dog instincts and impulses. There are other factors that come into play when it comes to your dog sticking to the plan of not running away and always listening to you.

Some other factors to take into account are the age of the dog, the maturity level, and the amount of training the individual dog has received and is used to.

A Border Collie dog that has had some basic training beforehand, will be much more receptive and will learn quicker. 

Additionally, each dog is its own world. Some dogs will be much more obedient than others. Even gender is a variable to keep in mind, since female Collies are generally more obedient, whereas males tend to be a lot more unstable and unpredictable.

Generally speaking though, Border Collies are world-class off leash dogs.

Do Border Collies Run Off? 

When left to their own devices, almost any dog across the board will be tempted to run away and chase something that catches its attention. Since Border Collies have an innate desire to herd whatever is in their vicinity, it can be difficult to keep an untrained dog close by without using a leash of some type.

No matter the level of training a Border Collie has received, there are a few reasons that it might be tempted to escape while off-leash, which you should keep in mind.

  • If a Collie spots a potential mate, it might find the attraction too much to resist. This is especially true for males, which are known to escape even their homes, just to mate. Spaying or neutering your Collie at an appropriate age can help keep these tendencies under control.
  • Since Border Collies are super energetic and love to go on adventures, a sense of boredom might propel them to run away and explore their surroundings. Maintaining an active lifestyle and providing plenty of opportunities for exercise will reduce these feelings of boredom in most dogs and is usually enough to have your dog be beside you at all times even off-leash.
  • Loud noises or unfamiliar situations could cause a Border Collie to become shy or scared. Getting to know what sounds or environments make a particular dog feel uncomfortable is a great way to combat these negative reactions.
  • Distractions. Younger Border Collies (3-6 months) are extremely playful and get distracted easily, meaning that they might need a lot more time to get the training integrated and they’ll have to prove themselves a lot more before getting to go off-leash.

With all of this said, it only takes a moderate amount of time and energy (around 2 weeks of practice or so in the beginning) to work with a Border Collie to restrain those natural instincts and build the traits needed to avoid running off whenever a leash is removed, so it’s totally achievable.

As you can see, there is a lot of mutual trust involved so the communication between you and your pup needs to be spot on.

When Is A Border Collie Ready To Go Off Leash?

So how do you know if your Border Collie is ready to go off-leash?

Truth be told, a lot of dog owners allow their furry friends to go off-leash, way too early, before having the chance of getting their dogs exposed to as many different distractions and situations as possible.

It’s hard to not let puppies and young Collies go about and have fun, that’s understandable.

But as the saying goes, it’s better to prevent, than to cure.

Some of the main tell-tale signs that your Border Collie is ready to go off-leash include:

Spot On Flawless Recall

Before letting your pup go off-leash, having a solid, immaculate “come” cue is crucial. Your dog, must be able to turn around and come to you even if they’re in mid sprint chasing a frisbee.

This can be practiced with a long leash in a controlled environment allowing your dog to explore its surroundings, while at the same time not being completely on its own.

Distracions To A Minimum

If your pup regularly asks you for permission to get distracted, instead of just running off into the woods or running off to approach other people and other dogs, then you’ve done a good enough job to consider letting your dog go off-leash.  

Regular Check-Ins

Regularly checking in on you, to see where you are and to know that you’re watching while at the same time staying relatively close by, is a great sign that your dog is ready to go off-leash.

It Just “Feels” Right

How well do you know your dog? Do you know what it’ll react to? Does it react abruptly to kids? Is it easily distracted by other dogs? Is it extremely food motivated? How does your dog do with more freedom? What about cars?

Although you don’t want to rely too much on how it “feels”, there comes a point in time where it just feels right to let your dog go loose.

If you know your dog, and trust that it’s been through enough iterations and situations where you can almost predict the response, then off with the leash!

Other Things To Consider

  • Microchipping: In case your dog gets lost, it’s important to make sure that you’ll be able to get a hold of it, if someone finds it.

  • Neutering/Spaying: Roaming and mating is increased in intact dogs, and so, having your pup neutered or spayed decrease the likelihood that it’ll randomly try to mate with other dogs while off leash.

  • Fully vaccinated or on flea preventives: You want your dog to not catch any unnecessary diseases or fleas while off leash. This can easily be prevented with proper vaccines and anti-flea treatment. 

When your Border Collie is sufficiently trained, there are many places that could present it with the perfect environment to demonstrate its off leash abilities. Some of these are:

  • A wide open area like a park, far away from streets or highways.
  • Hiking trails or similar terrain that provides the dog with a clear path.
  • Beaches are also great options, with varying terrains and natural delimitations.
  • Any yard surrounded by an adequate fence or barrier. A baseball field or soccer field are good options.
Are Border Collies Good Off Leash 2
Border Collies are great off-leash dogs. You can gradually transition to off-leash from being on-leash, in a controlled environment with just a bit of training.

How To Make Your Border Collie Come Back While Off Leash

The key to ensuring that any Border Collie will avoid running away or becoming lost upon being let off of its leash, lies in proper training and preparation of what is called “recall“, which we mentioned before.

Starting at an early age, owners should begin instilling simple commands such as recall “come”, a simple “stay”, and the heel.

After a Border Collie masters these skills in a safe and protected space, that’s when it usually goes to the heel off-leash walking, then the long leash training, and eventually, letting it off-leash completely.

Upon completely going off-leash (in a protected space), allow the dog to explore in a secure area and then practice recall exercises. You can even allow your dog to scour the surroundings before you let it go, so that it’s drive to discovery is met without having to go off-leash.

Next, simply call your dog just like you would when you do normal recall, and reward it when it responds with the desired action. You can keep repeating this with variations, introducing toys, modifying the amount of treats and so on.

It’s crucial to have a good recall. If your pup isn’t coming back to you while off-leash at all, it’s probably best to keep practicing the recall.

Should You Punish Your Border Collie For Running Away?

Even the most careful owners and obedient dogs can sometimes become separated. It happens.

Whether your Collie is distracted by a specific scent, a new outdoor area to explore, other dogs, a plane in the sky or whatever it may be…it is possible that the dog will wander away or run off.

With that said, In most cases these intelligent creatures will eventually find their way back to their owners, and it won’t be a big deal. 

It does pay however, to prevent your dog from having the opportunity to ever get away from you. If it happens, using previous training, recall and obedience cues in an effort to entice the dog to come back while avoiding reacting harshly when reunited, is the way to go.

Punishment might be good to stop undesirable situations, but it doesn’t teach what the desired situation is.

Plus, it only ever works while the situation occurs (ideally when it starts) not while it’s over, since there will be no association by your dog between the event and the wrongdoing.

If you can, not punishing your pup for running away would be ideal. It’s better to prevent than to cure and punishing any dog can result in the animal fearing you, becoming traumatized, losing trust and even becoming aggressive.


Border Collies are among the top best off-leash dogs that there are, and with a little bit of recall training, positive reinforcement strategies, and some patience, almost every Collie can become an excellent off-leash dog. 

With that said, your role as an owner is absolutely crucial to help them develop the confidence and self-control they need.

You must get a feel for what your dog reacts to and maintain the balance between allowing and denying, it’s up to you to create the boundaries of what is right and wrong.

Although it will become clear when a Collie has effectively shown that it can be trusted to go off-leash, always remember that even if a dog is extremely obedient, never assume that it will always come back when the leash is removed.

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