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.
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.
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!
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.
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:
- When walking on unfamiliar grounds, always keep your Border on the lead;
- 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;
- 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;
- 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;
- 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;
- 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!