Training your dog to walk off-leash gives more freedom to both you and your pooch when you’re traversing the trails and parks of the world together. Your pup will be able to explore new areas, sniff new scents and run at full speeds — all at his own leisure. Meanwhile, you’ll be able to enjoy your time outdoors withoutbeing attached to the other end of a short leash. Although it takes weeks and sometimes years of training until most owners are fully comfortable letting their dogs off-leash, you won’t regret the time, money or energy spent on training once you and your dog experience your first hike of freedom. Before you get down to business, check out these five training tips for off-leash walking with your dog.
Make sure your dog returns when called
So, you’ve let your dog off-leash. Now, what’re you going to do to get him to come back? That’s why it’s important to first practice recall commands with your pup in a secure area before letting him explore! Keep in mind that there will be countless stimuli distracting your dog when he is off-leash in an open area, so make sure your dog is completely familiar with whichever command you choose for his return. When training, always use positive reinforcements when your dog successfully comes to you, such as a treat, toy or affection. Never, we repeat, never scold your dog when he returns, even if you’ve commanded him to return because of misbehavior. Dogs are smart, and they’ll begin to associate scolding with their return command, resulting in it taking longer for your dog to return.
Practice off-leash walking in areas with few distractions first
A great way to ensure your dog is comfortable with off-leash walking is to first walk in areas with few distractions. Before you head out to an open, populated park or trail, consider practicing off-leash training in a fenced dog park. If you take your pup before or after peak hours, such as during the early morning or late afternoon, your dog will encounter fewer stimuli, so he’ll be able to give you his full attention.
Don’t encourage your dog to approach every person or animal they see
It can be basic instinct for friendly dogs to approach other people or animals that you’ll encounter on your off-leash journeys, but consider training your pup to be respectful of personal space when in public. Some dogs can become aggressive when approached by other dogs, so encouraging your dog to socialize with other dogs can result in a dog fight — and no one wants that. If your dog is often approached by other dogs or animals on your hikes, a simple “Place” command can be very helpful. This command teaches dogs to go and sit at a particular location you point to, like a nearby bench or tree stump. Once your dog is at a safe distance or is on higher ground, he’ll stay there until you’ve diffused the situation. In addition, always be aware of your surroundings when in a public park or on a trail, as there are certain protected ecological areas that you and your pup should steer clear of.
Keep a leash with you just in case
At the end of the day, no matter how much you’ve trained and prepared your dogs, they can still have unpredictable behaviors when they encounter wild animals, pets and other humans in the great outdoors. That’s why it’s always safest to keep a leash handy even if you have no intention of using it. If your dog starts to misbehave, simply put him back on the leash to reinforce that he cannot enjoy off-leash freedom if he engages in these negative behaviors.
Know what to do in case of an emergency
No one likes an emergency situation, but it’s extremely important for owners to be prepared for the worst when they take their dogs off-leash in nature. The biggest concern for most people is that their dog will not return once they’ve spotted something of interest, such as a squirrel or another dog. If this happens and your dog doesn’t return with his recall command, the most important thing to do is to stay calm! Remember, you’re the one in control of the situation, and running after your dog can often encourage him to continue on his runaway path. Instead, get out your dog’s favorite treats and continue loudly repeating your command call. If that fails but your dog is still in sight, actually running in the opposite direction as your dog can trigger his return because he’ll think you’re going to the car or back home without him!
Voilà! You’re one step closer to successfully training your dog to regain his freedom with off-leash walking. If you let your dog off-leash in the yard and live in Dallas-Fort Worth, Austin, Houston, San Antonio, Atlanta, Tulsa, Oklahoma City, or the Phoenix Metro area, reach out to us today to schedule your first poop scooping! We’re the top pet waste removal service for residential properties, and all of our services are backed by our 100 percent satisfaction-guaranteed policy.See you and your pup on the trails!