Not even professional athletes can run fast enough to keep up with an active dog’s fully extended stride.
When we walk our dogs on-leash, they’re kindly slowing down for us. Dogs love to run at full speed, stop suddenly to sniff a tree, and then dash off again. Off-leash play is a wonderful way to provide opportunities for your dog to get exercise and interact with the environment at their own pace.
However, as fun and stimulating as off-leash adventures can be, they’re always a bit risky. Here’s what you should know before you let your dog run free.
Training Your Dog To Be Off-Leash
Dogs are terrible at generalizing. Your dog might be excellent at running when you call them into the kitchen from the living room, but they may ignore you when they’re overstimulated by all of the scents and sounds of the outdoors. You’ll need to practice recall extensively, in many different situations and environments, before you can even think of letting your dog loose.
Use a long line or several leashes secured together to safely practice recall in open spaces. Always reward your dog with pungent, tasty treats when they come back to you. Reward them for coming when you call their name or whistle, as well as for “checking in,” with you without being called. Continue to bring these yummy treats on all of your off-leash adventures.
The Dangers Of Off-Leash Adventures
If your dog does not always come when called, you may not be able to recall them from dangerous situations like chasing wild animals, getting into fights with other dogs, eating garbage or getting killed by a car. It takes time and practice to train your dog to come back to you no matter what.
Even if your dog always comes to you, there are many reasons why you shouldn’t let them off-leash everywhere you go. Some people steal dogs in hopes of making a profit, either by selling your valuable purebred or by getting reward money when you’re desperate to get your dog back.
When Can You Trust Your Dog?
No dog is perfect. Even if you train your dog to recall off a squirrel, there is always a chance that they will simply find themselves overcome with prey drive and be unable to resist a good chase. Even if you have trained a solid “leave it” with kibble on your kitchen floor, your dog may not be able to resist chowing down on raw meat spiked with poison meant for baiting wild animals.
Always be prepared for failures. If your dog does run out of your sight, how far will they have to go before they may reach a busy road? Are they familiar with the area, or are they likely to get lost?
Why You Can’t Rely On Shock Collars
Many people rely on the false security of shock collars to keep their dog from straying. These devices are cleverly marketed by manufacturers and trainers who use them as “safe” and “harmless.” While the electronic pulse, delivered to your dog’s neck muscles via two metal prongs, usually do not cause short-term injury, they must either be painful enough to scare the dog, which causes distress that can lead to behavioural problems such as aggression, or so mild that the dog may ignore the sensation and continue to run.
Questions To Ask Yourself Before Letting Your Dog Off-Leash
- Is it legal for my dog to be off-leash? Unless you’re in an area known to allow off-leash dogs, assume that you could be fined.
- Can I supervise my dog closely? You should not multi-task while letting your dog off-leash. If you need to use your phone or watch your children, your dog can easily go missing while your attention is divided. Interact with your dog – bring toys, play games and do some training.
- Have I trained my dog in this particular area? Being off-leash someplace new can impair your dog’s recall skills.
- Did I pack my dog’s favourite treats? Always bring treats when your dog will be off-leash, or returning will no longer be more rewarding than chasing a squirrel. Wouldn’t you stop working if your boss stopped paying you?
- Are there wild animals in this area? Dogs may chase rabbits, deer, and squirrels, or may attempt to play with or fight foxes and coyotes.
- If my dog and I are separated, where would they go? Is there a busy road nearby that your dog might cross? Will they approach a good samaritan, or run away if approached?
- Will my dog be a nuisance to other people? Even if your dog is friendly, some people will not want to pet them. Make sure your dog will not trespass on any’s property or chase their livestock. Some people may be training dogs for service work or working on their behavioural issues, and would not welcome your dog’s greeting.
- Do we have a backup plan in place? Make sure your dog has a collar with up-to-date ID tags inscribed with your phone number and address. You should have your dog microchipped at your vet’s office so they can be identified if they lose their collar. You may also want to invest in a GPS tracking collar that will let you track your dog’s location on your smartphone.
Train A Rock Solid Recall!
Does your dog keep ignoring your commands and running away from you? You’ll get great value from the Rock Solid Recall Training Package from Healthy Houndz. In four one-hour sessions, we’ll help you build a stronger connection with your dog so you’ll finally be able to take them on fun off-leash adventures.