Training your dog off leash
Training your dog off leash
You can start by playing a simple follow-the-leader game the very first day your puppy is home. Follow him and tell him what a good puppy he is. Follow him, let him explore and sniff around, making sure he’s safe and within his boundaries. After about a week he will happily walk and follow or walk and be followed on a leash. Every time you take him outside, encourage him to follow you the same way you did at home. If you lean over, put your arms out to the side, and use your sweetest voice, he’ll happily peel himself off and run straight to you.
When training your dog off-leash, stay in a safe area for at least the first month of training. You can start handling your dog in the park. Use both short and long ropes so that when you remove the ropes, the dog is still carrying something. Once he’s working well on the rope, take it off and remind him to lean right back. If he lags or moves sideways, give him a sharp correction with the tongue and then praise him. Only work for a few minutes, so the moment you quit, it’s still working fine. Don’t push him into mistakes. Instead, build in the time that he will stay with you and obey you smartly without his leash and in this exciting, new environment.
Continue to work all previous commands and all new safety commands with the regular strap, rope, tab, alternating with no particular pattern. As you work, test your off-leash safety devices with a bolt-on fence. Try “Drop” on call, urgent down, serious “Come”, “No” and “Wait”. However, don’t strain your dog to death or make him play.
After months and months of training your dog off-leash in a fenced area, at the park, with a leash and a tongue, you have mastered your dog and his behavior. When you’re really confident and sure your dog is sharp and obedient to all safety commands, start trying “Stays” and “Comes” from a distance in the park, first with a drag on the long line and then with just a tab.
If it is now careful and obedient, you can start working it on the street. Start with a heel exercise, holding the tab of the strap. Drop the tab and tilt it half a block. Before you get to the corner, stop, make him sit, then praise him. Take the tab and put it away. Build his confidence with each session. If you like the idea of taking your dog for a quiet, off-leash walk down a busy city street, you’re well on your way to that goal. You must continue to work with your dog’s collar tab and your full attention on him. Soon, this kind of practice and enjoyment will become second nature to both of you.
Be sure to stop your puppy when he starts mouthing or leash biting. Firmly say “No” and remove the leash from his mouth without playing tug-of-war. If he persists, repeat the word “No” followed by a firm but gentle pull up on the leash to release it from his mouth. The handler must always think ahead and anticipate what the dog might do next. This is a skill that is easily acquired if one becomes disciplined enough to pay constant attention to the dog. Without proper timing, training degenerates into a matter of force.
Below are some final points to keep in mind about off-leash training your dog:
1. Your dog should not be off-leash every minute of an off-leash walk. If you meet a friend, see a great store window, or find another tempting distraction, snap your dog’s leash until you can give him your full attention again.
2. Always keep a leash with you, even when you plan to keep it away from the dog.
3. Occasionally remind your dog that you are the leader of the pack. The best non-violent way to do this is with the long “Down” (an hour and a half).
4. Never expect a lot of concentration from your dog when he is stopped and needs exercise. Always give it a good run before off-leash street work.
5. When looking for fine control, don’t forget to play games and laugh.
6. When the training and behavior starts to look messed up, don’t be afraid to go back to the beginning and tighten everything up again, on a leash.
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