Dogs – Off Leash Training
Ways to Make Off Leash Training Successful
Most people keep their dogs on a leash but there are times that an animal needs to be unleashed. Because of this, off leash training can be just as important as leash training. As imagined, training without having a dog controlled by a leash creates unique challenges, which is why it is so important to know the right things to do but also things to avoid. In this article, we wanted to take the opportunity to offer some helpful tips for making this a huge success.
Importance of Training
If your dog is used to hunting or competes in field trials or shows, proper off leash training is essential. This makes it possible for you to give commands and get the necessary response from the animal. In simple terms, this makes it possible for you to have control while allowing the dog to perform as needed. However, off leashing training also protects the animal. For instance, having your dog return when given a command would prevent him from being harmed from chasing a cat or ball into the street.
We also want to point out that there are strict leash laws in most cities so having the animal unleashed should be for very specific purposes and in the right situations such as those mentioned above. If you need for your dog to be unleashed, the following tips will make the training much easier. Most importantly, this type of training takes time and requires additional effort so you want to be patient and consistent.
One last thing we want to mention – in order for off leash training to be successful, your dog needs to first be trained on a leash and know basic obedience. The reason is that commands learned while leashed will carry over so even when unleashed, the animal will respond favorably.
The first thing you need to do is find a safe location where training can occur. We strongly recommend finding a park, field, or even private land where there are no other people or animals around. This will eliminate problems that come from distractions and again, keep your animal safe while training is conducted. Initially, do not be surprised if your dog runs around. Give him the opportunity to become comfortable with the environment and even burn off a little energy.
Use a Long Leash
It takes time for an animal to respond as wanted so off leash training actually begins with the animal leashed. However, the goal is to choose a leash that is 25 to 30 feet long, again giving you control while he becomes more confident with distance. For this, you want to start training by using a distance of about six to eight feet but over time, additional line would be released.
By the time you and your dog have completed several weeks of training, the distance will have stretched out over the full 25 to 30 feet. You will find at first, the more distance you provide the more tempted your dog will be toward distractions such as other dogs, squirrels, cars, people, and so on. The reason it takes time to complete off leash training is that you want your dog to respond to commands every time additional line is offered and without focusing on other things in the environment.
For both on and off leashing training, rewards have been proven to work. At first, your dog will respond in anticipation of being given something special to eat, which eventually will be replaced with praise for a job well done. Remember, unless this is done correctly, especially when training a dog off leash, it can be very detrimental to the goal.
Start by choosing treats not normally provided to your dog. You want to separate in-home treats from those given during training sessions. You also want to keep the special reward treats in your car or somewhere they cannot be seen or smelled. Some trainers place reward treats in the hand to cue a command but top experts strongly discourage this believing it causes an animal to expect food. A better option is to keep the treats in different places, thereby keeping the animal in suspense.
Each time your dog is taken out for off leash training have him go through basic obedience commands while still leashed. Then for every two or three commands followed properly, offer a special reward treat. The purpose of this exercise is to get the dog excited about training but to also encourage him to respond in the way that you want while not being leashed.
As part of the training process, it is important to maintain eye contact with your dog. Typically, eye contact means it is time to be serious and focused. By establishing this as a rule even when providing basic obedience and with the animal on a leash, getting your dog to respond as commanded off a leash will be easier.
As mentioned, off leash training takes time so you need to be prepared. Rather than become frustrated, you want to stay focused and again, be consistent. This type of training is far more difficult than any other so providing positive reinforcement in the form of special rewards and praise will help your dog understand the task at hand.