Off Leash heel, any advice?

Discussion in 'Obedience Training' started by tenniskitty, Feb 26, 2009.

  1. tenniskitty Experienced Member

    We are working on off-leash heel. Does anyone have any tips for that? Every time I let Jewel off the leash she runs off. She comes when I call her but she won't stay at heel. I love her to pieces and hope that she can learn this as easily as she learned everything else! LOL! Thanks-Jewel's Mom

  2. Jean Cote Administrator

    The best advice I can give you is to train in all kinds of environments. Train in the backyard, the park, the sidewalk.

    But you will also need to gradually wean off the leash. Right now she knows that she can't go anywhere with a leash on, and she can do whatever she wants when it's off. So start training with the leash over your shoulder, and eventually with it dragging on the floor. That way you can step on it if she ever decides to run off. You can also use an old leash and gradually shorten it by cutting off six inches per week.

    Use your voice. Without the leash, the only thing giving your dog information is basically your voice. So reinforce her when she is in the heeling position and give a verbal reprimand the moment she phases out.

    Hope this helps,
  3. tx_cowgirl Honored Member

    I teach an actual 'heel' and just a good off-leash walk separately. For me, an off-leash walk is staying in position without, "enthusiasm" or eye contact. I live in the country, and most of our walks are off-leash.

    What you need to have down before hand is a flawless recall in all situations. I start off-leash training with a relatively long leash dragging. If the dog tries to run off, just a gentle, "Ah-ah," and step on the leash. I actually used, "Ah-ah, on my left," which is my command for getting in position and sitting, with eye contact. Lots of praise, petting, treats, etc here, then "let's go!" Walk a few strides, continue using the verbal cues, etc to help her understand where she's supposed to be. I also incorporated the exact same leash training methods, without the use of the leash--if she gets ahead, turn around and walk the other way. For Mud this worked fabulously. For a Border Collie this kind of walk can become very boring, so I break it up with tricks or a release command--she's free to roam to a certain extent, but call her back when necessary. Where I live this is a safe thing to do, but for you I couldn't tell you. I wouldn't do this in a park of course, or anywhere near traffic or loose dogs.

    I also teach an "easy" and "hurry" command. Easy if she's going too fast, hurry if I want to jog. One thing to remember is that dogs cannot shorten or lengthen their stride. They can just go faster or slower. Therefore, if you try to change your stride length to slow down or speed up, your dog will have trouble meeting your pace. Your stride length needs to be consistent.

    As Jean stated, you'll need to work on this in many different environments. Start this in a very distraction-less environment so she's less tempted to run off and see what she can get into. :) Slowly advance to more and more distractions. Until you know she is consistent and good with the off-leash walking, keep a leash on her. Let her drag it, but don't trust her yet without it.

    Hope this helps. Good luck! :)
  4. fickla Experienced Member

    If you're really having a hard time, you probably just want to teach her that an unclipped leash means absolutely nothing, it's not a cue to run off! Then once you have her attention you can try walking with the leash off.

    So I would start in your backyard, or even your living room. Unclip the leash and immediately drop a couple really good treats on the floor. Then if the treats are good enough she should stay around to eat them, and hopefully want more. Then you can do a couple easy tricks she already knows, reward her, and then send her off running with a release word. Once she doesn't immediately bolt, you won't have to throw the treats on the ground and you be able to practice having her sit nicely to unclip the leash and wait before taking off. I would do a lot of unclip leash, give treats, release her on your cue. Then you can start to work on an off leash heel! (And I also recommend using a long line that she drags behind her when you start that)
  5. tenniskitty Experienced Member

    I tried the long line last night in a nice place I always take her to. She saw some people and took off, I think they hit her with a stick. :-( Whatever they did, she did NOT go near them again. Poor Jewel. :-(
  6. tigerlily46514 Honored Member

    :msnmad:That's HORRIBLE they hit your dog!! Who would do that?! Poor baby!

    It is a good idea to leave a leash on a dog you are training, better to drop the leash than unhook it...uhm, i learned this the hard way.:msngiggle:
  7. tx_cowgirl Honored Member

    Try getting a 20-ft leash. If you can't find one at least that length, hunting supply stores sell "check cords"--20-30 foot leads. This will give you LOTS of room to step on it if she runs off. Right now it seems everything else is a lot more interesting than you are--so, you've gotta be interesting. Bring an annoying squeaker, amazing treats(cooked chicken/turkey/beef/whatever, rolled dog food, etc), and even run away from her yelling happily, "Jewel, Jewel, Jewel, Jewel..." I still use this if my dogs are getting a little distracted and aren't listening to the normal cue to get back in position. I'll run away, essentially "deserting" them and enticing them to chase me. They forget whatever was distracting them and run after me. I then stop, make a big deal of them coming to me, and ask for them to get back in position again. And off we go.

    Maybe Jewel needs work in the home first. Also, don't try for the full off-leash walk yet. Work on it for a few minutes, then just have a normal walk. If you try the whole walk with her dragging the leash, then you're asking a lot from her. There's so much to see, even if it is the same place you always go, and while she may know not to run away on-leash to investigate, she doesn't off-leash. That's expecting a bit much from her, so for now your goal shouldn't be to make it the whole walk. I also think Fickla's advice is great. Jewel is running off the second the leash gets unclipped, and her advice will help her learn how wonderful being near you is without the leash.

    Another thing I did with one of mine was be inconspicuous about dropping it. If you just drop it, she's likely to see it, and think, "Ooooh, it's fun run away time!" If you just kind of lean over and loosen your grip so it falls, she may not notice. Then you go on for a little while, praise bunches, and then have a good game of fetch or something---extra long leash in hand.

    Good luck. :)
  8. storm22 Experienced Member

    this is some great info, im at the stage where koda has a good recall (most of the time lol) and just staring to take her out with no lead on (the lead is in my pocket or hand) and ill def be trying some of these things with her,
    (storm from 3months was walking off leash but he knew from the start, he was always behind at heel, something from working stock breeding maybe- i dont know he just did it)
  9. snooks Experienced Member

    I can't believe they hit your dog!! How awful. I'm so sorry to hear such jerks are out walking around near any dogs. :dogtongue:

    I go back to the thing that worked so well for me and heeling. The two step, click, treat. Being sure to click while still walking then stop to treat and go again right away. Very short time between clicks so you have a high rate of reinforcement and all the stopping makes it necessary for the dog to really focus and think to get treats. Treat in the position that you want them in such as heel. Don't expect a long distance. Start short with low distractions perhaps even in a hall next to a wall where it's harder to stray.

    I always ask for a stay when i take the leash off and wait a beat then treat and give a release word. My goal is to make sure removal of the leash is not a release.
  10. tenniskitty Experienced Member

    Ah ha! Jewel finally did it right last night! She was off-leash, walking at heel!!! When she tried to run off I caught her attention from just the right angle and got her to chase me! Then I got her to come and gave her some lovins! Trying to get her attention is really hard seeing as she's blind in one eye! LOL!
  11. tx_cowgirl Honored Member

    LOL that poses a difficulty; you didn't mention that initially. ^^

    Nice work though, and congrats! Since she is blind in one eye, you might try running past her(that is, if you can catch her!). For some dogs they don't care that you're running away, but if you run past them, they're kind of like, "Bunny, bunny, bunny...hey wait, where's she going? What'd she find?" And curiousity will get the best of them, running merrily after you to abandon their bunny/jogger/duck/whatever chase.

    Good job and keep it up! :)

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