Knowing When They're Ready For Off-lead.

Discussion in 'General Dog Training' started by slimbek, Sep 17, 2012.

  1. slimbek Well-Known Member

    I'm curious to know how different people knew when their pup was ready to go off-lead in the park etc.

    Richo is now 9months old and we've just started having one of us leave the house (opening/closing the front door) with him just sitting inside and not on a lead. We know that he has no intention of 'escaping' - he would simply want to follow us out of curiosity - but I am sure that once outside, distractions would prevail and he'd be off on a big adventure.

    Is it simply a matter of being confident in the 'come here' command? Just knowing that wherever you were, and if he was at the end of a long lead, or a run, that a simple call would have him return?

    Where are the places that are best for testing this?
    MaryK and Tâmara Vaz like this.

  2. jackienmutts Honored Member

    Is there a fenced dog park near you where you could go possibly during quiet, off-hours (meaning, to work with your dog, as opposed to going for play time) so you could practice? It's not really fair to expect too much if there are lots of dogs to distract him - altho you still could get a pretty good idea as to what he'd be like off-leash. Some dogs are inclined to just run off, and others venture off a little ways, but still always keep one eye on mom/dad all the time, never venturing far away.

    Another thing you may want to do is get a light line - a very very light long line, they come in 30, 40, 50' lengths, etc. You can hook one to your dog and do lots of practicing with just walking along etc, just in a park or field or open space. Richo will still technically be 'connected' (leashed, actually) but the line is so light (altho very strong and safe) that he won't really notice or focus on it. You can then let a lot of it drag, and just work on him "coming with you", treating for attention, work on "come", then releasing him, etc - all the while knowing he's safe (cuz he's connected to that light long line. I worked mine this way a lot before I let them totally off-leash - this gave me a really good idea of what they were going to do once they had total freedom.
    MaryK, Dlilly, Dogster and 3 others like this.
  3. Gordykins Experienced Member

    We live in walking distance of a high school, and the track/football field area is fenced in, so when no sports practices of events were going on, it made a great place for Gordy and I to practice. We also used a long line to practice. When we first started letting him be off leash, we kept him busy playing fetch and swimming... the more we keep him engaged, the less he pays attention to other things going on. We practiced calling him to us and leashing him randomly so that he knows to expect to have to sit to be leashed sometimes when we call him back. We also practiced sit and stay a LOT just in case he is ever off leash something dangerous comes between him and I that I don't want him coming back towards me, but don't want him to continue to go farther away either. Gordy's sit or down and stays are so great that sometimes if I feel like he will hesitate to come to me I just have him sit first, then sometimes I have him stay, and I go to him, or sometimes after he sits I ask him to come to me. Leave it was a pretty important thing for him to know before he could be off leash too... I don't know if its just a lab thing or what, but in Gordy's opinion, everything that looks interesting must then undergo a taste test!! So not being able to be within arms reach of him all the time, a very solid leave it (and drop it... just in case he manages to pick something up before I can blurt out "leave it!") were pretty necessary for us!
    MaryK and southerngirl like this.
  4. slimbek Well-Known Member

    Good tips, thanks.
    We do live right near a football field that I think is fenced in almost all the way round (maybe an access gate opening here and there) so we could try him on a light line/long leash there.

    I know we are not close yet as his 'come here' is not great yet - however we have to make a start somewhere!
    Dogster and MaryK like this.
  5. Mutt Experienced Member

    In my opinion it is best to start with off leash from the first day you get them (afcourse keeping in mind that young pups shouldn't walk too much in one walk). When pups are young they will follow you, 'scared' to be left alone, af course this should always be in a safe area. So here I start from day one. Practicising the come here command at home, but mostely anticipating on the natural behavior of a young pup.
    MaryK and Mr-Remington like this.
  6. slimbek Well-Known Member

    Yes I do wish we had done that... oh hindsight!
    MaryK likes this.
  7. Mutt Experienced Member

    We learn the most by having a dog and making mistakes, when you'll ever get another dog you will know how you want to do things differently!:)
    MaryK likes this.
  8. 648117 Honored Member

    You could first try dropping the leash at a friends house with no other animals around. In the (fenced) backyard or inside. If the dog comes when you call in someone elses backyard (that the dog hasn't been to before) then it will give you an idea of how strong your recall is in a safe environment.

    If you do this then you can control the distractions a bit better then at the dog park.

    You could also try in an empty park with a long line (I didn't have a long line so I attached three light leashes to each other to get some length) then you can see how easily you dog gets distracted in a park environment.

    Then you can increase the number of distraction in a safe fenced area such as the dog park without too many dogs present.

    Make sure you have lots of good treats and give the dog treats for coming back to you even if you didn't call him so that he gets reinforced for deciding to be with you.

    The first time I tried Holly off leash I was very scared. It took me ages to try it, especially because our previous dogs did not have great recall so I wasn't confident in my training. It worked out fine and now Holly gets off-leash time everyday (in un-fenced parks and trails most of the time too) :D.

    I have seen people doing this before, but it honestly scares me a bit seeing young little puppy's off leash, especially when people do this on sidewalks next to the road (which is usually when I see it, and the road is sometimes rather busy). Obviously it should be done in a safe environment, but I'm still always scared that it will go wrong, but that's just my opinion.
    Also, I don't know that this would have even worked with Holly, she was extremely confident right from when we got her and never really followed people around (and our house is fairly large). When going for her first little walks she didn't really show a desire to follow me so she may well have run off even when little, idk, she might not have gone too far but I didn't want to risk it. I guess it depends on the puppy and how confident the owner is.
    MaryK likes this.
  9. Evie Experienced Member

    ^ this is what we did... and even in 'the most fun distracting place in the whole entire world' aka Dog park, Evie will follow us if we start to walk away. She will only play with the dogs if we're standing still there with her :p But then again she's a naturally shy dog and has some serious separation anxiety problems :rolleyes:

    I'd suggest, as said above, finding somewhere like a sporting oval which is fully fenced so that you can practise off lead, but keep in mind that even once they have a 100% success rate at coming back when they are there won't mean they will in all situations. You'll need to practise with different distractions such as other dogs, bicycles, kids with balls etc.
    MaryK likes this.
  10. Mutt Experienced Member

    Ooh but Mazzel and Boef weren't (aren't) unconfident dogs. ;)
    But let's asume you go for a walk in the woods (without trafficdanger or anything) with your 8 week old pup and you unleash him, what do you think that will happen? That he will run off in the bushes and you won't see him for an hour? I mean if the pup gets behind you, because he is sniffing something (which I don't see as a problem) and you put on your happy voice and call the dog, than I almost certainly know that the pup will come. Maybe not immediately, but he will come. Because in the end it is way more fun to go along with that happy person who is calling you than wondering of on you own, alone. And yes in the beginning they may walk along with another person/dog, but that doesn't mean that they can't be trusted when offleash.

    I personally think that the key to letting a dog succesfully offleash isn't really the recall, but the fact that the dog will stay in your sight/will be nearby you. I don't need my dogs to be glued to my leg when I let them offleash (what's the point of letting them offleash than?) and I don't mind if they will take a bit longer before coming when called as long as they stay nearby/I know where they are.

    But this is only my opinion and I'm not saying that I don't get why you are 'afraid' to let them offleash when they are so young, but why I think it shouldn't be nessesary.
    We have a dutch saying, 'jong geleerd is oud gedaan' meaning early learned means easily done later on, which a think certainly is the case with offleash walking.

    And I totally agree with you that it's very scary to let a pup offleash nearby a road, which certainly would never do (and even with a mature dog would rather not do) and if what you did worked fine for you and your dog, than that's great too.
    MaryK likes this.
  11. slimbek Well-Known Member

    Great comments by all - some valuable insights for us.

    As it turns out we let him off the leash for the first time last week!

    He has regular playdates with a friend and their spoodle where we leave him there for the day. That afternoon we all went for a walk together in a large open waterway/reserve/grassland that is off-lead friendly and our friends encouraged us to try him off the lead (their dog was off-lead too) and Richo did really well.
    He never got more than 20m or so away before checking in and returning to us, then he'd run off again with the other dog. He also rarely went behind us preferring instead to know that we were on our way and nearby (not leaving him behind).
    And he also returned reasonably well upon being called, and did very well once it was time to put the lead back on - with no running around (he seemed to know playtime was done).

    So that was really encouraging and we'll start to do that a little more in the large open spaces.
    We are also much more relaxed about simply opening the front door with him to put rubbish out etc. He simply sits and waits now.
  12. jackienmutts Honored Member

    Sounds like Richo did great!! (y) That was probably the perfect time/place too - he had a friend who wasn't apt to just take off, he had a good time, and was secure and independent - and it was all good, and all fairly near you - win/win!! :cool: Perfect!!!

    Remember (and maybe you did) - call him to you once in a while, hooray!! pet pet pet - ok, off you go!! So that he realizes sometimes you just call him to say hi cuz you love him (or want to give him a fast treat) - and let him run off again. Just cuz you call, it doesn't mean the fun is over. You did a great job, good work!! (y)
    Evie, Dogster, slimbek and 1 other person like this.

Share This Page

Real Time Analytics