Zen and the Art of Dog

Off Leash Training for Dogs – How I Train My Dogs to be Off Leash

Having your dogs off leash is a ton of fun. There is really nothing like being outdoors, with space to roam, and letting your pups spread out. Or finding that enormous field, loading a ball up in the ball launcher and letting it fly. The speed and athleticism of my dogs always impresses me.

Unfortunately, not every dog owner gives their pups off leash training. Most dogs can’t handle that amount of freedom untrained- they will bolt after skunks, porcupines or worse.

Your hike might be going great until your dog catches an irresistible whiff; you’ll be searching for hours.

I’ve heard plenty of horror stories about dogs that are off leash and run up to leashed dogs wanting to meet. The leashed dog is frustrated and restrained. Dog body language signals get crossed and boom, there’s a fight.

Not pretty.

This is why you want to give your dog full off leash training on multiple commands, most especially the recall command.

Here’s a brief introduction to how.

Introducing the prong and shock collar

I use a prong and a shock collar for off leash training. These devices have bad reputations in some circles, but really they are just training tools.

The idea is basically this: we use a leash and prong as a guide for the physical behavior we want and we use a low level on the collar to provide a stim as an extra reinforcer. Once the dog performs the behavior we are asking, the stim is released.

Training recall is pretty simple once we understand this training paradigm. The command “come” is given, leash and prong pressure is applied in our direction and the shock collar stim begins. Once the dog has committed to moving to us we release the stim and the prong pressure and give a “good boy (or girl)”.

Using a Long Line

Off leash training in preparation of a hike or freedom in a park requires the use of a long leash. I use a 30 foot leash for this training. A long line like this simulates the dog being off leash while you still have them tethered.

Train with long line around distractions

Finding a location with a ton of distractions is a great way to test your dog’s ability to be off leash.

Outside of a dog park is great for this. Or, better yet, training them with the long line in the exact location you want them to be off leash really grounds the training in reality.

Other Commands

Recall isn’t the only command you can use to prepare your dog to be off leash.

Other commands I’ve taught my dogs are:

  • Sit/Down at distance
  • Heel (with no leash pressure)
  • Place at distance

If your dog can handle all three of these commands and the recall command around distractions then they are ready for the freedom of being off leash!

Are you ready for off leash? I know Benji is!

Benji, the (sometimes) off leash pup

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