We live in an area where the number one goal people have for their dogs is to have them off leash when hiking or in official off leash open spaces. Having a trained and reliable off leash dog is uber different than taking your untrained dog off leash and letting them run around.
When you take your dogs leash off you are making a powerful public statement that your dog is under 100% voice control, under all circumstances and distractions. This is advanced training. Puppies and adolescent dogs should be on a leash while training. Youth is youth, and they will make some pretty youthful choices.
First and foremost, if a sign says ‘dogs must be leashed’ than please use a leash. This advice is for areas that dogs can be off leash legally.
- Know your dog and hope that your dog knows you. If your dog likes you and trusts you than being in your space off leash is reasonable. If your dog doesn’t trust you than you need to spend time working on your relationship before you even attempt off leash work.
- Keep your dogs call name valuable. While working in a contained area, every time you call your dog, reward heavily. Repeat this often and vary your rewards (whether it is a game of tug, fetch or food rewards).
- As far as value, your call name rewards should be crazy high value, don’t mess around with so so rewards, pull out the meatballs, left over chicken, beef, your dogs wacko favorite fetch toy. Coming to you should mean the BEST possible thing in the world. You build power in their call name by doing this, it’s association and it’s powerful. If there name means that meatballs fall from the sky, well then, WOOP!
- Add distractions slowly. If you have a reliable recall in your yard, put a long line on your dog and go into a field and practice, then try a trail with low activity. Slowly build up to more distractions. note – Don’t let your dog fail. If you have your dog off leash in an open/free area before they are ready, and they fail and run away, you are encouraging them to pattern an unsuccessful and potentially dangerous behavior. Stay in a contained area for as long as you and your dog need.
- When you move from a contained area to a trail, open space or park, have your dog on a long line, it’s insurance, and it’s cheap.
- When you are ready to try off leash, ALWAYS carry a leash or long line in your hand.
- When you are ready to be off leash on a trail or open space, keep your dog with you. This isn’t the time to think about your check book, dinner, or pending engagement. And it for sure is not the time to take your phone out and start texting. When you are ready to be off leash, your dog needs your undivided attention. You are working your dog with your verbal leash, your voice. Engage, stay interactive, reward for being in your space.
- If there are distractions that are over your dogs skill level, please put the leash on. Stay successful.
- If you are out and about with multiple dogs off leash, know all of their skill levels and use their leashes fluidly when distractions change. Off leash with multiple dogs is more management and work for the handler.
- Advanced training takes; time, consistency, and maturity. Don’t be in a hurry to take your dog off leash if you haven’t put the time in. Keep your dog successful, they’re your responsibility.