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Off Leash Fun, or Danger?


Off Leash Dog TrainingBringing a new dog into your life is an exciting and rewarding time.  You have a new friend to bond with. The two of you will share many adventures on your walks, play time, training, and relaxing times together.  You must learn his personality just as he must learn yours. During these times you may wish to give him the chance to run freely without being on a leash.  All dogs love to run. Most actually need to run to get out their pint up energy.  His personality, along with his breed characteristics and training will ultimately decide if you pet can safely play off leash.

All in the Recall

Teaching your new dog the recall, that is coming when you call his name, is one of the top priorities of commands he should be introduced to.  This command can literally save his life if you ever needed to call him away from a dangerous situation, or even from a smelly dead animal he may have had an urge to roll around on.  If your dog can stop whatever he is doing and come to you when you ask him to, not only will he be safe in emergency situations but he will also be able to fully enjoy the benefits of exercise while off leash, even in areas that are not fenced in!

When a dog is running about and doing his own thing, he is reinforcing his own behavior. If he can run into the neighbor’s yard, chase their cat or dart off in another direction to do his business on a stranger’s lawn then he is making himself very happy. Why would he want to leave that and come to you when you call to him? Because teaching him the recall should be more reinforcing than what he is currently doing.  This is how you build a strong bond, and he begins to find being with you far more fun than what that pesky cat next door is up to.

Begin recall the day your new pet comes home, no matter what his age may be. Even a 4 week old puppy, before being weaned can begin to learn recall with his name.  First, you need to make sure that what you have in store for him when he gets to you is highly reinforcing. This can be a super yummy treat like real meat or cheese, or a toy that gets him very excited.  You can begin on leash or not, the choice is up to you. If you use the leash, do not make an attempt to ‘reel’ him in if he doesn’t budge, as this will reinforce putting pressure against the leash, causing problems later down the road.  Instead, you must get his attention and make him want to be with you. Squeaking a toy, bouncing on the ground and talking in a very high pitched voice usually does the trick. When he does get to you, don’t grab him. Instead give him the reward and reward even more with play!

Always begin indoors! Never, ever begin training anything new in an environment with too many distractions, dangers, or a place he has never been before. Always start in a comfortable, quiet place he knows well such as your living room.  Simply say his name and say “Here!” “Come!” or “Come here!” Choose the command carefully, as you will use it for the rest of his life.

Recall didn’t work for me! Help!

Even though in an ideal world all dogs should be perfect at the recall, it’s a sad fact that very, very few are. Most of the time this is due to the inability for a new owner to fully understand the consistency and routine a dog needs before they can master a command.  You must also proof your command, which means continuiously increasing both criteria and distractions as you and your dog get better. That is the only way he will become perfect at it. Again, even the best trainers combined with the smart dogs will just never master the recall simply due to breed related characteristics.

This is not the rule of thumb, but most Siberian Husky dogs, sight hounds such as Greyhound, and even terriers like the Jack Russel are completely untrustworthy off leash in an area that is not enclosed or fenced in. The Husky, and even Malamutes, just love to run. Running is instinctual to them, and nothing runs stronger than the instinctual drive of animal to do what he feels he must. Greyhounds, while you may assume they also will want to run, are actually more driven by the sight of small prey animals.  These dogs are fast, and they are wonderful sprinters, but they usually choose to stay lazy as often as possible. However, when a squirrel is seen across a busy street, and he is not on a leash he will quickly take off to chase down that prey animal, as it is his instinct to hunt. Terriers are also small game hunters, and some may never be able to be trusted while off leash.

Get to know your dog while you play and train with him on a daily basis. Build your trust and bond, and you will know one day if he is able to be trusted off leash so that he, and others may stay safe during outdoor fun.  When in doubt, leash him! If he has a reliable recall and has the ability to play in a safe and distraction-free zone, then go for it! Always remember, in any situation, whenever your dog chooses to be with you instead of running he should always be praised!

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