Having your dog off leash is a major responsibility. In fact, it’s a responsibility that most dog owners aren’t prepared for. Your dog can’t simply be released and then be expected to automatically obey blindly like those dogs that you see on television. The real world is full of dangers and unexpected obstacles that could easily injure your dog, or worse. Know that your leash is the lifeline that keeps your dog (and others) safe when you’re away from home. Unless your dog can follow these rules for off leash behavior in a perfect fashion, keep the leash firmly attached.
1. Make sure that your dog is well socialized before they are trusted off leash. A well socialized dog can be trusted, while on leash, to get along with everyone that they encounter. This means that you need to know how your dog is going to react to toddlers, small children, older children, other adults, other dogs, wildlife, and toys that belong to others. Your dog needs to be just as comfortable around the three year old who starts crying as they are around the elderly person using a cane.
2. It is important that your dog obeys everybody, every time, for every command that is given. Having dogs off leash means that you trust your dog to behave perfectly. Regardless of who is issuing orders, your dog needs to obey the command without any problems, and without any hesitation. If your dog’s obedience isn’t perfect, keep him on the leash until you have complete control over him at all times.
3. Ensure that your dog is trained at being off the leash before trusting him without it. Off leash behavior requires tailored training and should not be attempted for the first time in a public place. See to it that your dog is obedient when off their leash in your own backyard before taking any chances in other places.
4. Ensure that your dog is well behaved in public. Without your ordering her otherwise, your dog must be trusted to not jump on other people or harass them, even if they have food. Your dog must likewise know that other dogs are to be left alone, and that toys that are lying around aren’t theirs to be played with. Without a leash to pull your dog back, this understanding is important for your dog’s safety when off leash.
5. Make sure your dog knows to follow you closely at all times. Trusting your dog’s off leash means that you are confident your animal will stay at your side at all times. Unless fetch is being played, your dog should know to stay at your side and keep up with you while you walk. Even when you and your pal are playing fetch, your dog must know to retrieve the toy and return straight to you.
Remember to stop your puppy whenever he mouths or bites on his leash. Firmly say “No” and take the leash out of his mouth without playing tug-of-war. If he persists, repeat the word “No” followed by a firm but gentle tug upward with the leash to free it from his mouth. The handler should always be thinking ahead and anticipating what the dog might do next. It is a skill easily acquired if one becomes disciplined enough to pay constant attention to the dog. Without good timing, training degenerates into a question of strength. Below are some final points to keep in mind about training your dog off-leash:
1. Your dog does not have to be off leash every minute of an off-leash walk. If you meet a friend, see a great store window or find some other tempting distraction, snap the leash on your dog until you can once more give him your full attention.
2. Always keep a leash with you, even when you plan to keep it off the dog.
3. Once in a while, remind your dog that you are the leader of the pack. The best nonviolent way to do this is with the long “Down” (one-half hour).
4. Never expect great concentration from your dog when he is all pent up and needing exercise. Always give him a good run before off-leash street work.
5. When seeking fine control, don’t forget to play some games and have some laughs.
6. When training and behavior starts to look messy, don’t be afraid to go back to square one and tighten everything up again, on leash.
These rules are essential to keep your pet safe when off leash. If you are not confident that your dog has the ability to follow these five commands at all times, keep the leash attached and practice until you know he will obey perfectly.
For more information about how to teach a dog off leash, chick on the official dog training website.