Have You Tried to Walk Your Dog Off-Leash?
29 April, 2013

One of the trickiest yet rewarding tasks for dog owners and their pups is to have the ability to walk your dog(s) off leash.  Not all owners have the stomach or desire to do this as it can sometimes be dangerous for your dog depending on where you walk your dog, but it is a good training exercise.  However, if your dog isn’t in full command on his leash, it is best to wait until you feel comfortable walking your dog on leash to try this.

As always with training your pup, have some healthy treats ready.  The training steps below are to be done with your dog on his leash until the final step of removing the leash.

Teach your dog a “look at me” command.

Try to teach your dog a command that says “look at me”. This will teach your dog to look at your face and focus on you which is the key to keeping your dog’s focus when you walk your dog off-leash. Call your dog’s name and have the treat close enough so he or she can smell it. Say “look at me,” and bring the treat toward your eyes. The instant your dog looks up and focuses on your face, give him the treat.

Have your dog on your left side and get him to sit

Next, have your dog beside you on your left side and ask him to sit.  If your dog sits, then hold your treat over your pup’s head while saying “sit.” Make sure to reward your dog the minute he sits down. The reason you are adding this step is that you are teaching your dog to be able to heel any time you stop moving (which will help later).

Next, walk forward a few steps and then ease to a stop and ask the dog to “sit” again as you come to a halt. Give your dog the treat when his hindquarters are firmly on the ground. Repeat the walk-and-stop process over time until your dog sits quickly without a command when you stop.

Make sure your dog walks by your side

Encourage your dog to walk close to your side. Talk to your dog in an upbeat voice and have the treat ready.  Keep walking and then slow down to a stop, reward your pup with the treat when he sits, and praise him for remaining in position.  Repeat this step again while incorporating turns into the routine until your dog keeps up with you and moves in step with you each time you say “heel.”

Take off the leash and combine all of the above

Now you can take the leash off and try the “look at me” command. Once your dog is focused on you, try the “heel” in a happy voice and walk ahead.  If your dog slows down, say “heel” again and have your treat handy.  Then, walk ahead until your dog maintains a steady pace in proper heel position (i.e. next to you and ready to stop if necessary). It is important to only reward your dog only when he or she maintains the correct position.   If your dog follows the commands, keep on walking and then see how he or she does.  However, always have your leash ready and with you in case you need it.  Keep practicing until you and your dog are comfortable with his being off leash.

Some dogs will be able to walk off leash with training while others never take to it.   Only you know your dog and what he or she is capable of doing.  Good luck!

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