How and When to Go Off Leash
Ahhhhhh people always want to skip ahead to off leash obedience, usually without teaching… well, obedience.
The thing about off leash obedience is that your dog has to understand on leash obedience in all situations, under all kinds of distractions before you can expect off leash obedience.
It is like the article I wrote recently about the person who thought using a leash, especially inside the house, was cruel.
But I want to give my dog a “leg up” and an understanding in all kinds of environments before I risk his life with off leash obedience.
Let’s face it, unless you are in a fenced in and very secure area with no other animals having your dog off leash can kill him.
He could get hit by a car, he could get mauled by a dog, or he could even be mauled by a wild animal (if you think hiking off leash and away from roads is a good idea).
Off leash obedience can be very dangerous stuff and you had better be sure that your dog is either expendable (which is super sad) or very, very well behaved and that he understands the behaviors and what you want.
I also recently wrote an article about why I think using a shock collar can be sad and is often misused, and although many use these collars for off leash training, I worry about it being just as dangerous. Many dogs don’t understand why they are getting shocked so once they are running away and the owner keeps shocking, the dog keeps going just to get away from the pain.
ppy ask me last week how he could keep his puppy from running away, or running in the street.
I know it is hard to read tone, when you are reading (unless you are reading a descriptive novel). Text messages, emails, posts can all come off quite condescending or angry and that is not the case; I take no tone, I just simply mean that using a leash and teaching your dog is the best way to keep him out of the street, especially a puppy.
If you have a door rusher, click here for help.
But I must reiterate, leash manners (for that click here ) is basic dog obedience.
But off leash obedience is really ADVANCED DOG OBEDIENCE
If your dog doesn’t listen to you when he is on a leash outside, or he doesn’t obey when he is off leash inside, there is no way he is ready for off leash obedience!
Don’t fool yourself, don’t rush, and don’t push it!
If he is not 95% obedient all of the time under distractions like squirrels, other dogs, deer, cars, people then don’t even try! Go back to your basic or advanced obedience.
Find a safe place to train.
I never just “hope” my dog will respond and do well off leash. I take them to a LARGE fenced in area.
That way if my dog thinks “yipeeeee! I can RUN” I know he won’t be run over by a car or eaten by a bear, or lost forever!
Baseball parks and dog parks early in the morning are great off leash trial areas.
The Next Trick
Use 2 leashes.
I know that sounds funny and against what you are trying to do but think about it.
Every time you unsnap that leash, your dog gets to run.
Usually it’s when you come home and he is inside, or you unsnap it outside; but the unsnapping means RUN FREEE! Even if that is not what you have meant to teach him… that is what you have taught him.
So typically when you unsnap the leash he is gooooone! Even if he comes back, most dogs get unsnapped and run around doing a happy dance.
I use two leashes (one usually a long line) and I unsnap one while still giving him the command to heel.
If he should decide to run, I have the ability to remind him he is always on leash and needs to listen!
This is a very important moment and message. If you do it right he will always think you have a leash on and are in control!
Once you are over this hump you can use the long line and work your way to dropping it and then going totally off leash.
But, this is a process and not a privilege all dogs should have!
- Do you have a dog aggressive dog?
- Do you have a people aggressive dog?
- Do you have a dog that doesn’t like kids?
- Do you have a dog that can’t help but chase small or even big animals?
Then He Shouldn’t Be Off Leash, Ever!
That doesn’t mean you can’t take him to a fenced in and controlled area and train for it in case an emergency ever happens; but not all dogs can be safely off leash.
And, always obey your leash laws!
If your city, or county says no dogs can be off leash; don’t do it! It’s not worth the fine!
And, remember not all dogs are friendly.
Your dog may be friendly off leash, but you had better have enough control that he leaves other dogs totally alone or someday he might find a dog that wants to kill him.
If you take your dog off leash, it should be a law abiding activity and you should have total control.
And, with that I say go train and have fun!
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.