Do Border Terriers run away?

Oh yes, you heard: DO BORDER TERRIERS RUN AWAY? The reason why I am ‘shouting’ this question is because most Border owners will think this as an unlike event. ‘My Border is such a good girl, she is most loyal and cherish our company and being part of this family. She’s extremely well-trained and would never even attempt to run away’ is, I am sure, what most Border owners will think of those grumpy yet angelic faces. Or ‘My Border can try as much as he likes. He would never be able to squeeze in between the gate poles’. Well, be prepared, as if you own a Border, it is not all plain sail as it looks.

But what to do if your dog runs away? And how to stop your dog from running away? Let’s find out.


With Indy we had a lucky escape

Fortunately I only had a small taste of the extreme sense of independence of Borders when we first adopted Indy. We took him to one of his first walks in a nearby forest, let him off the lead, and the boy was gone! – probably distracted and attracted by the smell and rustling noise of creatures in the undergrowth. I swear, we have had scary times with our Indy, but that was possibly one of the scariest. We thought we had lost him for good – literally. Until he decided to turn up exactly to the same point where he had left us, some 15 minutes later.

Indy walking with Granny (me)
Indy has always loved walking in the woods!!

You will be thinking of me as a drama queen, for Indy only disappearing for 15 minutes or thereabouts. But believe me when I say those were by far the longest 15 minutes of my life. Try calling your dog desperately without hearing anything back – no panting noise, no patting of his paws running back to us. I would not want to wish that experience to my worst enemy!

Borders can have the most wonderful selective hearing. But the sense of independence sometimes let their olfactory takes over any other loyal and obedient tendencies, to the point that Borders can in fact run away from home. Yes, from our homes!


Borders are not naughty, Borders are nosy

So, what makes Borders master escapists over other breeds? Is it because they are an unmanageable breed? Too naughty for a potential owner to even bother with? Not at all.

Sense of Independence

I shall never tire to say that Borders are one of the most loyal, adaptable breeds of dogs you can think of. They are extremely intelligent, and as such they respond very well to training. They will be very good with basic commands and with house training – I cannot think of Indy ever having had a toilet accident since he has been with us, not even after he had surgery at his ‘bum bum’ last Christmas when we were told to expect a bit of incontinence.

But, when it comes to more complex training, such as walking with and by your master, they don’t take too kindly to be bossed around. You know that they perfectly understand what you expect from them, but they remain in charge of whether they are going to do what you ask, or whether they’d rather do what they like.

And of course, like with Indy all those years ago, there is nothing more appealing than the smell of squirrels or deer in a new and never before unexplored forest land. That is the perfect scenario – in fact that is Border Heaven!

Ancestral Fox Hunting Instinct

The problem with Borders is that not only they like to appeal to their natural sense of independence during walks, but also when indoors.

Recently I have read on Facebook about a few cases of Border that managed to run away from a seemingly tightly secured home garden. And all to follow the smell of foxes, or squirrels, or even neighbouring cats.

Let me take you back to the origins of Border Terriers and the purpose for which the breed became so popular. Borders were bred to hunt vermin and foxes away from farms and farm land of the Northumberland borders.

And Borders retain that interest to these days. Because there is nothing more appealing to a Border than dig into a hole to catch a creature. One of Borders’ favourite games is to go under a pile of old cushions or blankets and towels to ‘catch’ a tasty treat.

Nothing would stop a Border, especially a bored one, from doing the same in a garden, where he can dig under a fence when attracted by favourite smells and noise of prey.

Slender Body

And finally – and that’s what made Borders so apt to the purpose they were bred for – their slender body.

With long skinny legs and a slender body, Borders can of course push themselves very easily into burrows. And they can dig holes very easily under fences to get through the other side.

You can see why, for all these reasons, a Border could easily win Crufts in an imaginary Best At Escaping class!Harness or Collar, what's best for your Border Terrier?


What do you do when your dog runs away

OK, to the serious stuff now.

I hope you never, ever, ever, ever find yourself in this position. But what to do, should you take your Border for an adventurous walk which makes him or her overexcited? Or what do you do if you come home to find your Border is not there, but left a big hole along the back garden fence?

The most important thing you would have done when getting your Border is to microchip him or her. Once your Border is microchipped (and this is now finally compulsory in UK), (s)he will stand a much better chance to be found.

Microchipped dog
Once your dog is microchipped, when found it will be easy to identify the owner’s details

You will want to inform the local police station as well as your local council. Most councils have a stray animal service, where they can be contacted to collect a pet that may have been found by resident roaming the streets with no identification.

Likewise, you may want to alert the local vet surgeries, in case a Border may be handed in with injuries. Remember, Borders do not seem to have road sense at all – they would not wait for a car to drive by before crossing a road.

And finally, thankfully nowadays we have a wonderful plethora of social media which help us keep in touch much more easily. Some find social media too intrusive, but let me tell you that in such circumstances like when you lose a pet, they can lend a great hand.

If your Border has made a disappearing act, take to social media immediately by posting alerts as often as possible.

There are also online services which can be linked to the microchipping company that stores your dog’s data, and which will equally post notices online, as well as getting in touch with local shelters.

And primarily, try if at all possible to keep your cool. The fact that your Border is missing does not necessarily mean bad news.


How to stop your dog from running away

As they say, naturally prevention is better than cure. And that’s exactly what we want to do with our Borders.

So, here are a few basic measures we can all take to train and dissuade our best fur friends from escaping:

  1. When walking on unfamiliar grounds, always keep your Border on the lead;
  2. Likewise, when walking in areas covered by bushes and hedges that may prevent you from seeing where your dog goes, keep your Border on the lead;
  3. Practice recall with your Border extensively – this is one of those commands that your Border thinks (s)he is charge of, where that innate sense of independence may often take over;
  4. If your Border decides to come back on a recall command during a walk with a lot of tempting distractions, do reward him or her with treats;

    Border terrier in walled garden
    A walled garden is best defence against the powerful digging action of a Border.

  5. At home, before bringing a Border home, both when little or if you adopt an older one, ensure your garden is firmly secured – ideally you might want to have a garden wall, but with a wooden fence, you might want to ensure you put wooden planks at the bottom of your fence panels, and dug deeply in the ground so that your Border tries to dig, (s)he cannot go to far down;
  6. And finally, please always ensure your doors are closed – you might be talking to a neighbour or the milkman outside your house with your door open, and rest assured your Border will be out like a flash if (s)he sees something or somebody of interest.


Have you ever experienced run-away attempts?

What about you and your Border? Am I being too melodramatic, or have you experienced escapades by your Borders too? And what have you done to solve the problem and to prevent from reoccurring? You are very welcome to leave your comment below to share your experience with the great community of Borders and dogs lovers here at Living With A Border Terrier!





  1. // Reply

    YOur experience of selective hearing and Houdini like proclivities mirrors mine exactly. As does the affection, inquisitiveness and sheer fun. Wonderful breed of dog and everyone who meets my two loves them.

    1. // Reply

      Affection, inquisitiveness, sheer fun: you couldn’t have put the essence of Borders in better words. Thank you ever so much for stopping by, David, and for your kind contribution. I’m sure your Borders are just smashing ❤️❤️❤️

  2. // Reply

    We adopted our Mason from the Humane Society at age 7. he is now 10 The first year or so if given the opportunity, he would dash out running top speed only catchable by us shouting at someone to grab him.
    But in the last year the wind has blown both side gates open and in a flash he was out, and we didn’t miss him. Another time a painter didn’t latch the gates securely and again he was gone. I was out looking at paint samples when I got a call from the Coconut Fish Cafe 2 blocks and across a busy street away. The owner said she watched him come to the street along with some Apple workers headed her way for lunch. He sat quietly ( I taught him to SIT when we were walking) until the light changed and came across with them. She then saw he had no leash, and picked him up and called me. BUT, he wasn’t running wildly, he most likely smelled the fish cooking and thought he could get a treat. Another time he was out, my neighbor spotted him at the local Tpumps tea shop, he was visiting with all the customers. He was out for a social occasion (that might involve treats) in his neighborhood. He just loves to explore. Yes, he is chipped and other dog owners in the neighborhood know him. we have put more secure locks on the gates and have him off the property when repair people come.

    1. // Reply

      Trish, I know it’s not laughable matter at all, but I can’t help smiling at your boy’s intelligence. He likes food, and he’s inquisitive – he can’t ignore the pull of curiosity, but in doing his escaping act, he doesn’t forget the good training. Which has possibly been what has prevented him from getting run over. You must be worried sick, mind you. I guess your idea of reinforcing your gates and try to keep your Mason always under your watchful eye are very good precautions.
      Thank you ever so much for passing by and for talking to us about your experience. By all means, do come back and feel free to contribute on any of the articles and review you find here. Thank you 🙂

  3. // Reply

    We have an 18 month old border terrier, Freya. The cutest , most loveable and friendly border you would ever hope to meet. But she is driving me MAD with her running off! We have an extra gate outside the front door to try and Freya-proof the house but whenever she hears the bolt on the gate go she will be out like a flash. She goes to visit a doggy friend down the road or just tears between gardens under hedges and fences for the sheer hell of it. And she will only come back if she damn well feels like it. If she doesn’t feel like it you can be chasing her around for half an hour or more. My children are regularly seen running around the neighbourhood without their shoes on having just taken off after Freya. And escaping from the house is only the half of it. There is hardly anywhere we can let her off the lead now as she just takes off after squirrels etc etc. And boy we were smug when she was a puppy, she was SO well trained!! Borders are good for teaching humility!!

    1. // Reply

      Kara, sorry for the late reply. I know it’s no laughing matter, but I can’t stop laughing picturing your children running after a little ‘cheeky monkey’ 🙂 On a serious note though, Kara, may I suggest a couple of things that may help young Freya curb down her escapist desires?
      The first one comes from my husband, I must say (I had to read your comment to him, as your Freya partly reminds me so much of our Indy with squirrels!), and he suggests giving Freya very long walks. Once she gets home tired, she will have no time and energy for much else other than a sound sleep. But, I say, she is also very young, so you may also increase play time indoors. Naturally she is curious about the great outdoor and discovering all that it’s out there, including the so much interesting squirrels. Now, the thing that I personally advise though is not to let Freya off the lead – or at least, not until she has fully mastered the recall. For sure I am not the best person to talk, as my Indy does not come back, even now. I have quite a couple of videos on my YouTube channel, where even at this age I can show you Indy’s great independent personality. That’s Borders for you. At the same time, you may want to start taking young Freya to classes, so that you practice the recall with the aid of a professional trainer and in an enclosed environment – so, no fear of Freya running away from there!
      I bet your Freya is the most beautiful young lady ever. It would be lovely of you to send us pictures, if you like, so that I can add them on this site (of course giving you credit). My email is or this website email
      Thanks for your comment, Kara, really much appreciated. And of course, I hope to hear from you soon again 🙂

  4. // Reply

    I have 2 Border Terriers, one is 6 and one 9 months. I started taking them uphill into the woods. The 6 year old is great and comes back off lead no problem. The 9 month old was great to start and responded to whistle, however after a couple of weeks it was like his confidence was better and on one walk even though he was with my other dog and my friends dog he took off and disappeared for 20 mins!!! I was worried sick. I stayed in the same spot and he came back like he was doing this every day. Now I’m scared stiff to let him off the lead. Was he too young to take on such a great adventure, but he loves running with his friends, also I asked the other 2 dogs to find my puppy and they just looked at me like I was daft! Any advice would be appreciated.

    1. // Reply

      Oh my goodness Tracy, I bet those were the scariest 20 minutes of your life. I had a similar episode with our Indy shortly after we adopted him, when he disappeared for what to me felt like half an hour – in reality it was probably no longer than 10 minutes. But he just came back as if nothing had happened, and yes, he gave me the look as if to say ‘What are you fussing about for, woman?!’.
      On one hand, I can see why you want to leave him off the lead, and why you walk him with the other dogs – that’s so good for his socialisation. But remember, Borders are curious, and love woods, where they can smell undergrowth creatures and lovely scent of scattering prey.
      I am no expert, but having missed out on taking Indy to training classes, and having struggled with his recall on a number of occasions, my personal advice is that you really firmly train your little one to recall like a pro – in fact, as if his life depended on him!!!
      I have found an online dog training program, which is deemed to be rather good – although, I am planning to review my review, after being advised they can be a bit ‘hit and miss’ with payment facilities. Otherwise I am sure you can attend one of you local classes. There are so many wonderfully qualified and expert trainers available, and if you are based in UK, let me know, so I can help you find one.
      Thank you for your input, Tracy, and let us know how you get on 🙂 Speak to you soon, I hope!

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