An Introduction to Off-Leash Dog Training

Off leash dog training helps you achieve the ultimate in dog training. Every owner strives to have off-leash control of their dog for hiking, playing at the dog park or hanging out in the yard. To obtain this, you must first achieve high levels at on-leash dog training.

On-Leash Dog Training

You can't expect your dog to listen to you while off-leash if he can't listen on-leash. One mistake owners often make is moving too soon and raising expectations unreasonably. If you move to off-leash too quickly, your dog will learn that he can ignore when off-leash with no consequences. You don't want him to learn this.

In order to avoid that error, you must practice on-leash skills ad nauseum and increase the difficulty of the environment gradually. The most important command your dog must know is come. Watch and stop are also useful.

Changing the Environment

First, you want to teach these commands in your house. Have your dog on a 6-foot leash while practicing, but don't use the leash in your cues. If you are relying on leash tugs for your cues, your dog won't be able to respond when he doesn't have that reminder.

Once your dog is responding more than 90 percent of the time in the house, move to your front yard. Remember: When you change the environment, you are starting from scratch, so don't expect him to do as well immediately. Use better treats than you used in the house because you are now competing with the environment.

Once your dog is responding more than 90 percent in the front yard, move to a park, parking lot or other distracting area, far from the action. Gradually move closer to the distractions as your dog improves. He should be at more than 90 percent before making the commands harder.

The Next Level

After your dog is responding well in several different environment, not just one park, you are ready to try a 30-foot line. This is not a retractable leash, but an actual 30-foot training line, which can be purchased at any pet store. This gives your dog much more distance than the 6-foot leash. You can gradually build up to the entire 30-feet.

Now your dog has a little freedom with which to choose if he wants to respond to your command but you still have the control to pull him back if you have to. If your dog isn't responding, you are moving too quickly.

Again, increase levels of distraction. Before you let your dog off-leash, he should be able to turn away from other dogs, squirrels, cats etc and run back to you from the end of a 30-foot leash.

When he is responding well, drop the line and let him have the full freedom (with a little insurance for you in case he's not ready). Don't let your dog get too far away. Call him back every few minutes, just to keep him checking in with you.

If your dog can do all of this, he is ready for off-leash freedom. Your training has paid off.