Off Leash Dog Training Tips

Off leash dog training is the pinnacle to which every dog owner aspires. However, you can't reach it without a lot of on-leash practice to ensure your dog has the skills to succeed.

On Leash Training

Prior to letting your dog off leash, identify which skills he will need to be successful. If you would like to have him off leash at the dog park or hiking trails, he will need a solid recall. If you would like to have him off leash in your yard while you garden, he will need boundary skills.

Don't start teaching these skills off leash. That sets your dog up for failure. Initially, he won't understand what you're asking and is bound to make mistakes. He will quickly learn that without a leash, you have no control. Thus, he should be 100 percent proficient with his commands on leash before you ever attempt to take him off leash.

Long Lines

After teaching the commands on leash and receiving complete compliance from your dog, start practicing with a 30-foot long line. Start in a non-distracting environment and then build up to the environment in which you would like your dog to perform. This is the bridge between on and off leash training.

Until your dog can be called off a squirrel, dog, person, skateboard, etc. from the end of a 30-foot leash, he is not ready to be off-leash. Always practice with a long line in a new environment before turning your dog loose.

Using Rewards

Using rewards during training speeds the process along and ensures enthusiastic compliance from your dog. However, if not used properly, they can backfire during off leash training.

The treats that you would use around your house may not be useful if your dog is chasing a deer. Thus, you should take the very best treats on your outdoor adventures. Most importantly, though, do not let your dog see that you have them. During on leash and long line training, treats should always be out of sight. Don't have the treat in your hand when you cue the dog or he will always look for the treat. Instead, reward from a surprise place (such as your pocket) when the dog does what you ask. This prevents bribery.

When your dog is off leash, you should carry your best treats, but don't show them to your dog. When you first arrive at the new location, ask him to do some simple behaviors and reward him by surprise for a few of the behaviors. This will help your dog remember to respond when you really need him to, such as to avoid a skunk.

Practice and Practice More

Start simple when introducing off leash dog training. Take him to a quiet place with few distractions to build up to tough environments.

Practice your recalls when there are no distractions and your dog has not gone far. This will set him up to succeed so he can be rewarded and understand what you are asking. Call him to you several times during each outing, reward him and release him back to sniffing. Then he will learn that you calling him doesn't end the fun, just adds to it.

If at any point your dog fails, go back to training. You may have moved to quickly or failed to anticipate a distraction. Don't worry. With more practice, your dog will master that, too.