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There are few things that dogs love more than being able to experience being outside without being tethered to a leash.
You can imagine how they feel when they get that unexpected bit of freedom!
You might be tempted to let Fido run free, but take care before you let your pooch off the leash.
Consider a few important factors that will help to keep you and your pooch safe. Know, too, that cities and towns have leash laws.
Those laws are meant to keep everyone, you, others, your pooch and other pets safe.
You are responsible to know the leash laws in your area, so before you engage in any off leash activities check with local authorities to find out what you need to know.
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Off Leash Dog Training Tips
Here are some tips to help you get yourself and your beloved pet ready for some off leash freedom.
Know that your dog has ingrained instincts. Those instincts are not something that you are going to be able to eliminate from your pet.
There are some breeds that might not be able to be allowed off leash safely.
Breeds like Airedale Terrier, Greyhounds, Irish Wolfhounds, Bull Terrier, Springer Spaniel, and Siberian Husky all have an ingrained instinct to chase prey if they see it.
Even little Chihuahuas are very reactive to moving objects and can be off like a flash.
It could be difficult to train those breeds of dogs.
Unneutered male dogs like to roam and can be a bit more antisocial, so off leash walking for them could prove hazardous.
You know your dog best, and you should have an idea if they will be a good candidate for off-leash.
Your pooch must have an excellent “recall” to be able to allow them off leash. That “recall” is coming back to you when you command them to do so.
When they are off leash, there will be so many distractions. All kinds of sights, sounds and scents that will be irresistible to your pet.
The treat that you used in your fenced backyard or living room will have very little sway with them under those circumstances.
Make sure your pooch has an immediate “recall” response before you consider letting them off leash.
It is also good that they have reliable “sit” and “stay” commands.
Practice in an area that is safe. It is not advisable to let Fido loose in a field on the first day of practice.
You need to be in a contained area, where you can work safely but also an area that has some distractions. Those distractions will be part of the teaching aid.
Let your pooch go out to explore with the “go” command. Then call them back with a reward for returning, like one of their favorite small treats. Be sure to give plenty of praise.
If you don’t have some type of treat, your pooch won’t have any motivation to come back right away when you call.
It is not that they are being bad or naughty, this is just the nature of the beast. Your pet needs motivation to do what you ask.
Keep practicing this routine until you are confident with your dog’s recall skills. This needs to be second nature for your pet.
Use a double ring collar. This type of collar will have a second ring on the back of the collar.
This type of collar makes it easy to quickly leash your dog again when needed. You won’t have to reach under your dog’s chin or search to find the connecting ring.
This type of collar ring will be very helpful when you need to connect them back up in a hurry.
Select a safe off leash dog training area for the first time unleashing your dog. Parks and hiking trails are some of the places that have off-leash areas for walking your dog.
Do research ahead of time to find the best place to go.
Do several “trial runs” with your dog on a leash so that they are a bit familiar with the area, rather than being overly excited with the new venue.
Have a map of the area or trail that you will be exploring. You don’t want your dog discovering an area such as a river or cliff before you do.
Be aware that in places like national forests or other remote locations, depending on the season, there could be hunters in the area too.
Bright orange vests for you and your pooch will allow others to see you, and give you the needed visibility to keep your dog in sight.
Unleash in an area that you feel comfortable in. An area that is safe, away from hazards such as roads and temptations like thick woods or underbrush.
Once unleashed, let your dog explore for a bit and then do a practice recall. If that is successful, continue on your way and intermittently recall your pooch and reward with a treat.
Keep the leash in your hand at all times in case you need it again quickly.
If during your walk you encounter other people or pets, leash your dog out of courtesy until you pass them by.
Not everyone shares your love for your pet and some people are afraid of dogs, so be respectful.
Another reason to keep Fido leashed when you see other dogs is that you never know how other pets are going to behave (or not!).
Recall your dog and keep leashed until you are out of view of other people or animals.
Pay attention to your dog when they are unleashed. Don’t let them get too far ahead or behind.
Know that you will encounter others that may come upon you quickly, like joggers.
Know that you may encounter snakes that could bite your dog.
Be watchful that your pooch does not start digging in a critter’s burrow or start to chase the wildlife.
You don’t want your pet to get lost because they are on the chase.
Wildlife needs to be respected when you are out in the great outdoors.
Keep your pet in sight at all times as you also don’t want your curious pooch to take a roll in a dead carcass.
That would make for a very unpleasant ride home and off leash dog training day!
Keep reinforcing the “recall” command. A good time to practice is when they are engrossed by something interesting.
Make sure that you give plenty of praise and treats when they come back.
This is not a constant command to be given, just a reinforcement of a learned command.
It will be a gauge to assess how they are doing in being obedient.
It will also give you confidence that your pet will respond when you need them to.
Pick up after your dog. Just because you are in the outdoors, or on a hiking trail or in the woods does not mean that you don’t need to pick up after Fido.
Those same rules apply no matter where you are.
Before you attempt to teach your dog how to walk off leash, consider the risks that are involved.
Have an unbiased and accurate idea of your dog’s temperament. There are some dogs that just will not have it in them to walk off-leash successfully.
It will be an instinct for them to run too far ahead and to chase what they consider prey.
Don’t have unrealistic expectations for your pet as doing so could result in some direct consequences.
Some dogs get spooked by loud noises or unexpected occurrences and could bolt out of fear and get lost in the process.
However, if you take precautions and put in the time to train, off leash dog training can be a rewarding experience for both you and your beloved pet.
Ian is an avid outdoorsman and dog lover. He lives in Central Florida with his wife Heather, and their 2 dogs – Panda (Purebread Rough Collie X English Golden Retriever) & Kuma (Blue Merl Purebread Rough Collie)