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How to Teach Your Dogs to Walk Off Leash

Updated on July 28, 2012

Me and my two rotties, Petra and Kaiser off leash

One simple rule that many dog owners tend to forget is that keeping a dog off leash is a well earned privilege, something that only dogs that have great leash manners should be entitled to. Perhaps off leash privileges are the ultimate gift for dogs that are well under control, reliable beings that have successfully passed many goals of advanced training. If you own a dog that pulls,lunges, slows down or does as it pleases such as barking at stimuli and doing his business, then he is not ready for being a reliable off leash companion

In order to teach your dog to be a reliable off leash dog, therefore, he must already be familiar with the following commands: sit, stay, heel, let's move on, watch and a choice command that prevents your dog from going off the path. Never take off leash a dog that tends to escape, chase animals or leaves your side to go meet other dogs or people. Again this training is for dogs that have been able to demonstrate the capability of being able to resist distraction, the urge to chase or has attained the ability to obey to your commands in order to redirect his attention to you.

How to Train Your Dog to Stay Off Leash

You will need:

  • A leash
  • A collar
  • Treats

Some Important Considerations

Always keep your dog's collar on and bring the leash along. You want a leash that can be snapped on quickly upon crossing a trafficked area or a place where there too many distractions that may overwhelm your dog. Never trust your dog 100%. A day may come where your dog may run off and get run over. It takes only one mishap to make you sorry.

1) Is Your Dog Ready?

A dog ready to be off leash trained must be very good on the leash. Signs of good leash training are the following:

-You can walk your dog on a slack leash most of the time

-You hardly feel your dog is on the leash

-Your dog does not pull to meet other dogs or people

-Your dog is perfectly under control when wild life runs by

-You are able to get your dog's attention when he appears distracted

-Your dog has an almost bomb proof recall

If your dog is not able to the above, then you need to work more of that weakness until your dog is more reliable. There are various training programs to teach your dog to be distraction proof trained. If your dog is ready in your opinion then you can follow step 2.

2) Find a Good Area

You may want to try a long country road where there are little distractions. Stay away from areas frequented by other dogs or people. If this is difficult try the early hours of the morning. There must be no cars or traffic. Bring along a map of the area and a cell phone. Be prepared on what to do if your dog may run off at some point.

3) Use High Value Treats

When you head to the area do not forget to bring along high value treats. These are not your average dog treats. Think of something your dog really like a lot. Some common favorites are sliced hot dogs, pieces of cheese, ham, cut up steak strips or if you really want ot use something the pros use, try freeze dried liver.

4) Warm Up

Before snapping the leash off for the first time, try to walk at least half hour to drain some energy off your dog. A dog backpack works wonders in making dog more tired especially when packed well with bottled water and other necessities. Warming up will make your dog more relaxed.

5) Snap the Leash Off

Snap the leash off once your dog appears to be walking comfortably. At this point if your dog is very well leashed trained, he may hardly notice he is free. However, to make sure he does not take advantage of his sudden freedom, leave some leash dangling so he thinks he is still on leash. Hands free leashes are good to use as a training aid before off leash training.

6) Moderate Pace

The most common problem in off leashed dogs is a tendency to take off or walk too ahead. Train your dog to understand a word command that will slow him down and come back next to you. Something like ''Slow down' may be helpful. Remember to always reward your dog for coming back next to you!

7) Remove Privilege

If your dog is not ready for being off leash, then snap the leash back on and take away the off leash privilege for some time. Your dog does not need to learn all in one day. Rather it takes some time for him to learn to stay always besides you.

8) ''Let's Move On''

If your dog instead tends to slow down and sniff things, walk faster so he feels left behind and tell him ''Let's move on''. Upon catching up, give a treat and a pat. But do not get him excited, excitement often makes dogs want to walk faster.

9) Distraction Proof

A major problem of walking off leash, is the variety of sensorial stimulation that derives from wild life. You must be able to teach your dog to leave the squirrels and rabbits alone. This can be done by catching the first signs of trouble swiftly. Watch your dog's posture: if your dog is walking with his head high, ears pricked forward and eyes fixated, then he has tracked something and getting ready for action. If your dog chase and had high prey drive these tips will be helpful: Dog Prey Drive and Chasing

Break this cycle before it is too late. Train your dog to stay nearby you no matter what. Grab a treat and dangle it up his nose saying ''watch'' but he cannot have it until you have passed the rabbit or squirrel. If he looks away give a negative marker'' and have him look at the treat again. Once the distraction has passed, allow your dog to sit and have it. Keep high-value treats always handy for this. Slowly try to take the treats away and substitute the treats with only the word watch. Your dog should make eye contact. You can always give treats every now and then.

10) Make him Attentive

Teach your dog to pay attention to your steps. You want a dog that slows down when you are slowing down and a dog that picks up the pace when you are. Any time you are changing direction give a body cue like slap your hand against your hips or walk heavily making louder stepping noises. At times, stop suddenly, you want your dog to stop as well and look at you. Praise every time your dog makes eye contact and give your attention.

Off leash training as seen is the ultimate gift dogs and owners may enjoy after having graduated from basic and advanced training. It is very well worth it because the satisfaction deriving from having a reliable dog on and off leash is remarkable.

Your Dog must be perfect on leash before going off leash

Hands free leashes are a good tool to use prior to off leash training


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    • Gypsy Willow profile image

      Gypsy Willow 8 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

      Another sensible hub Thanks