Off Leash Training
By Jon Dunkerley
Having the ability to walk with your dog unleashed at your side is probably one of the more fulfilling aspects for me personally. Passing other dog walkers on the trail and knowing that they are looking jealously at my dog and I as we freely stroll along gives me a sense of pride as well as pure glee. I know these people are thinking to themselves, “wow his dog is well behaved,” and “man I wish my dog was half as well behaved as that guysâ€™ dog!” I get equal satisfaction out of watching them as they fight with their little riled up, frenzied bundles of energy, trying to drag them away, franticly trying to escape the embarrassing situation that they have caused. They will yell at their dog, utter crazy English that they believe the dog understands when we all know they donâ€™t, generally making the situation worse than it has to be.
What are the factors that allow me to be so free with my dog? Well the answer to that is many but predominantly just two. These being:
A) My ability to use a leash correctly
B) My dogâ€™s level of obedience
I am going to assume that you do know correct leash technique. Being on the same page with your dog is crucial before you even think about allowing him the freedom to roam leash free. Your dogâ€™s obedience level that is necessary to attain before considering off leash activity is one of a very high standard, as the safety of the dog, other dogs/people, and even yourself can be jeopardized by irresponsible activity. This article is not meant to discuss basic obedience, therefore I am not going into detail on the subject. It is meant to promote safe off leash training, and below I have listed helpful training exercises that you can work on with your dog to help bolster on leash to off leash training.
The below includes the assumption that your dog is well versed regarding basic on leash obedience:
Retractable leash Drills
– Sitting drill â€“ Put your dog in a sit/stay, and walk sideways until leash is taught. This should put the distance between you and your dog at approximately 20 feet. Dog should remain sitting, if not, lessen the distance, and rework the sit until you achieve a sit stay at the full 20 feet. You should work the same drill moving in any direction. Sideways left and right, forward, and backward.
– Do the above exercise with your dog placed in a down stay.
– Command your dog while offering distractions. (If dog wavers, you need to revisit basic obedience.)
– Command your dog at a distance. (It is critical to attain a proper response from your dog when you command him/her from a distance, so when off leash, your dog is used to responding to you while not at your side.)
– Emphasize the importance of heeling. (command your dog to heel while you are moving and your dog is either in front of you, or otherwise not at your side. Keep moving making your dog work in order to return to heeling position. When your dog is off leash, commanding him/her to return to you will usually result in the dog returning to heel position.)
– While your dog is on the retractable leash, it is important to convey the message that further than 20 feet away from you is not an option. If your dog attempts to increase the distance by pulling, insure that you have a bent leash arm so you can straighten and correct this inappropriate behavior.
– I am assuming that you have a release command for your dog. This is key because it tells your dog that he/she can go from a formal heel, to informal behavior, whether it be sniffing a bush, jaunting ahead of you, etc. This command also tells your dog that without that specific command, leaving your side is not an option.
These are just a few exercises that you should consider working on with your dog before offering your dog leash freedom. When you first attempt actual off leashing, do it in a secure place. By doing this, you can monitor your dog without having to worry about external distractions.
Sometimes when the dog realizes that you have removed the leash, he/she will decide to take advantage of this freedom and suddenly forget all that you have been working on. To put a stop to this, try attaching thin cord (fishing line) to the collar before removing the leash. The dog will have a hard time seeing this line, giving you something to control him by if necessary.
Practicing these exercises in your yard and in public is like singing in the shower and singing in public. Remember this and try to work your dog in populated areas to emphasize obedience with distractions being present.
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