We have all seen what seems to be the ultimate mark of a well-trained dog: one who walks nicely beside his owner without the hindrance of a leash, comes when called and does not run away even without a lead. However, while it is possible to train your dog to walk off leash, it is not advised to do so unless you are in an enclosed area.
The rest of this article will detail how to train your dog to walk off leash, why you should never allow your dog off leash unless you are in an enclosed area, and why it is still worthwhile to train your dog to be off leash even if you do not allow him to do so regularly.
Table of Contents
- How do I get my dog to walk nicely off leash?
- How can I train my dog to be well behaved on the leash?
- When can I let my dog off the leash?
- Why shouldn’t I let my dog off leash all the time?
- What if my dog really is perfectly trained?
- Why should I bother training my dog to walk off leash?
- Are some dogs better at walking off leash than others?
- Can’t I train my dog to be less reactive?
- What is the best tip for training my dog to walk off leash?
- What if training isn’t working for my dog?
How do I get my dog to walk nicely off leash?
Training your dog to walk off leash is a process which will involve patience and consistency. In order to be well behaved off leash, your dog must first be perfectly behaved while on the leash.
This means that you must train your dog to walk nicely beside you with slack in the leash. He must not pull on the leash at all, and he must listen to commands such as “Come,” “Leave it,” “Stay,” “Look,” and “Heel.”
How can I train my dog to be well behaved on the leash?
To teach your dog the commands necessary to be well behaved before you begin off leash training, you will need some high-value food treats. If you intend to use clicker training, you will also need a clicker.
Every time your dog does something correctly, reward him with lots of praise and a treat. For example, when teaching your dog to stop pulling on the leash, even if he only makes it a few steps with slack in the lead, make sure to reward the progress.
When can I let my dog off the leash?
When your dog responds perfectly to all of the commands listed above, you may begin practicing with your dog off leash.
Start off in an enclosed area with minimal distractions and begin walking with your dog beside you. Use commands like “Come” and “Heel” to keep your dog with you. Make sure you reward him every time he stays by your side without the leash! This may be a slow process, but your dog will eventually catch on.
Why shouldn’t I let my dog off leash all the time?
Unfortunately, even if you successfully train your dog to walk off leash, it can still be dangerous to allow him to do so outside of an enclosed area. No dog is perfectly trained, and one slip up can result in a horrible accident that could have been prevented if your dog was on a leash.
What if my dog really is perfectly trained?
Again, no dog is perfectly trained. There is always going to be some shiny new distraction—wildlife, other dogs, cars—which has the potential to distract your pup and prevent him from listening to you.
However, even if your dog really was perfectly trained, there is no way for you to control external factors. For example, if another dog escapes from its leash and chases your dog into traffic, there is nothing you can do if your dog is not on a leash.
Why should I bother training my dog to walk off leash?
You may wonder if it is even worth it to train your dog to walk off leash if you cannot do so outside of enclosed areas. However, the answer to that question is YES! It is always worth it to train your dog to be as well-behaved as possible.
Just as you cannot control external factors when it comes to your dog walking off leash, you cannot do so in other aspects. For example, if your dog escapes from the yard, or slips out of his collar while you are walking, you will easily be able to catch him if he is trained to come and to heel perfectly every time.
Are some dogs better at walking off leash than others?
Yes, some dogs are more suited to walking off leash than others. If your dog is a breed with a high prey drive, they are at risk of distractions such as chasing small animals like squirrels, rabbits, or cats. If your dog is very anxious or reactive to dogs or people, they may be more at risk for running or fighting off leash.
Can’t I train my dog to be less reactive?
Although you can train some tendencies, such as squirrel chasing or car chasing, out of your dog, they will rarely completely disappear. This is why it is dangerous for you to allow your dog off leash in large open areas.
What is the best tip for training my dog to walk off leash?
The most important thing to remember when training your dog to walk off leash is that you want to make it valuable for your dog to stay close to you and listen to you.
Most dogs misbehave in ways such as pulling on the leash because you are inadvertently rewarding them for doing so, either by taking them to the park or allowing them to continue on their walk. You want to make it more rewarding for your dog to stay close to you than to run away. This can be done using praise or treats, whichever is more appealing for your dog.
What if training isn’t working for my dog?
You must remember that not every training method will work for every dog, and not every dog is suited to being off leash.
If you want to allow your dog the experience of being off leash without the dangers, try taking him to a large fenced in area where he can run and play without the risk of escaping.
You can also try devices such as a long fifty-yard lead. This way, your dog can run and play, but when it is time to return to you, you can always reel him in by the leash if he is not ready to come back.
Ultimately, training is a process, and it will take time and consistency to see results with your dog.