off leash dog walking
Category_Dog Knowledge

Everything You Need To Know About Off-Leash Training for Dogs

by Andrew Ehlert

Letting your dog off-leash is quite a contentious topic. You’re required to keep your dog on the leash in many cities unless you’re in specified areas, such as an off-leash dog park. With so many restrictions, is off-leash training necessary? Are there benefits to off-leash training or just risks?

If you’re considering letting your dog roam off-leash, then there are a few things you should ponder and prepare before you do.

Is My Dog Suitable or Ready to be Off-Leash?

Some dogs are just not meant for freedom without a leash. It has a lot to do with temperament (sometimes it correlates to the breed) and how far along your dog is with training. If your dog is any of the below, then we recommend against letting him off-leash.

  • Your dog’s a chaser - If your dog has the penchant to take off after people, other animals or things, then he is a chaser. It can include cars, other people, small animals or other dogs.
  • Your dog is noise sensitive - Dogs who are a little skittish and are scared of loud and sudden noises shouldn't be let off-leash.
  • Your dog is reactive or hyperactive - Dogs who exhibit signs of aggression or overexcitement to stimuli (which can be people, things or other animals).
  • Your dog has an unquenchable need to explore - Some dogs simply want to explore too much and may run away while completely ignoring anything you say or do.
  • Your dog isn’t fixed - Female dogs who haven’t been spayed run the risk of getting pregnant and intact males bear a strong desire to mate - which can send them running after females in heat without regard.
  • Your dog cannot be IDed - Just in case your dog runs off, he needs to be microchipped or at least have ID tags in order to be identified.
  • Your dog is not fully vaccinated - If your dog is not fully vaccinated or has not kept up with vaccinations, then it’s more likely that he will pick up transmitted diseases and illnesses from other dogs and animals (and suffer more severe symptoms).

Preparation Before Off-Leash Training

If your answer is “yes” to any of the above, then we strongly suggest reconsidering off-leash training. If your answer to the above is “no”, then the next step is to make sure your dog is adequately prepared for freedom.

Your dog should be an expert or at least familiar with the following basics:

  • Loose leash walking - The leash is loose (not taut) while your dog walks next to you at the same pace
  • Your dog understands “heel” - This command needs to be obeyed both on and off-leash. It’s when your dog knows to be directly next to you and stay close to your heels.
  • Your dog is easily recalled - When you use the correct keyword (come, touch, here, etc.), your dog returns to wherever you are without hesitation.
  • Leave it - When told to “leave it”, your dog doesn’t touch whatever it is he is focused on.
  • Drop it - Your dog drops whatever he has in his mouth without hesitation.
  • Stay - Your dog remains in the same position he is in when told to “stay”.
  • Go _____ - The place will vary, but your dog understands that when this command is used, he is to go to the designated spot.

Considerations Before Letting Your Dog Off Lead

  • Where do you want to take your dog off-leash? Busy city streets are not the best, but quiet neighborhood sidewalks could be lower risk. Not all places are suitable for off-leash training, so make sure the location is not so buying.
  • Are you permitted to take off the leash in that area? It’s not legal to take your dog off-leash in many areas, including city parks, larger parks, beaches, and lots of other public areas. Make sure that dogs are permitted to be off-leash in that particular area. Pay attention to the time of day as well. Some off-leash dog parks will specify set periods where you can do this.

It doesn’t matter how perfectly behaved your dog is off the leash; you can never be too careful or account for the actions of other dogs, animals, humans, and unforeseeable circumstances.

  • Can your dog handle more freedom? Have you tried the retractable leash or extra-long lead yet? If not, these two accessories can help you gauge how well your dog does with more freedom. It still gives you control over your dog but allows more leeway for him to roam and explore. Long leashes can come in various lengths, so you can gradually increase the distance before letting your dog fully off-leash.

Invisible fences and e collar for dogs are excellent tools to help you train and track your dog to keep him safe but still mimic the full off-leash experience.

Know the Risks

Make sure you understand the risks that come with off-leash training. As we mentioned, there is no foolproof way to prevent accidents from ever happening. There is a chance of accidents no matter how well-behaved your dog is. A big reason is that you can’t control or be responsible for the actions of others.

Some unexpected occurrences that could put any dog at risk include:

  • A sense of wanderlust and your dog chooses to ignore your warnings and run off
  • A sudden noise, such as a car backfiring, sends your dog running in the other direction.
  • A squirrel or mouse runs across the way and sets off your dog’s instinct to chase.
  • A speeding car rounding the turn and not noticing your dog.
  • Your dog notices a cool new thing on the lawn, which happens to be a poisonous mushroom, and takes a bite just when you’re not looking.

Benefits of Off-Leash Training

We get it, it’s scary, and there really isn’t a 100% guarantee that your dog will be completely safe, so should you even attempt off-leash training?

The freedom of being off-leash allows your dog to explore, follow his natural instincts, and just be a dog. The key is to have precautions in place and be able to keep your pooch away from harm. He will then get to have fun with another dog the way he wants to without being restricted to a 6-foot radius.

It is also more convenient if you’re dog will naturally walk by your side without you having to tug them along. Having your little Velcro dog stay near you is definitely easier.

What to Do about Runaways

There are bound to be mishaps during any type of dog training, and it’s only natural that off-leash training is the one that will cause your adrenaline to spike. If your dog does run away, make sure to:

  • Remain calm - Don’t set your dog off even more or give him reason to interpret your panic as excitement. Stay calm and use your recall command.
  • Bring out the high-value treats - Sometimes, a bribe is all it takes. Make sure to show your dog you have a rare snack.
  • Don’t chase him - Do NOT chase him because your dog will think it’s a game and run further.
  • Turn the other way - This works well when your dog looks back. Turn away from him. This may prompt him to come back in an effort for your attention.

Final Takeaway

We believe that with consistency, patience, positive reinforcement, and determination, most dogs who are suited for off-leash training can enjoy a level of freedom a 6-foot leash cannot provide. Just be sure the location and time to practice off-leash training are appropriate.

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