Having the ability to walk with your dog unleashed at your side is probably one of the more fulfilling aspects of dog ownership
by Laura Pakis, Certified Professional Dog Trainer and Cynologist
To maintain this freedom requires enforcement of the commands and sometimes reverting to the leash. Being on the same page with your dog is crucial before you even think about allowing him the freedom to roam leash-free. Your dog’s obedience level that is necessary to attain before considering off-leash activity is one of a very high standard, as the safety of the dog, other dogs/people, and even yourself can be jeopardized by irresponsible activity.
To help bolster off-leash training, here are a couple of exercises to practice with your dog:
Sitting drill – Put your dog in a sit/stay, and walk sideways until the leash is taught. This should put the distance between you and your dog at approximately 20 feet. The dog should remain sitting. If not, lessen the distance, and rework the sit until you achieve a sit-stay at the full 20 feet.
It would help if you worked the same drill moving in any direction. Sideways left and right, forward, and backward.
– Do the above exercise with your dog placed in a down stay. – Command your dog while offering distractions. (If dog wavers, you need to revisit basic obedience.)
– Command your dog at a distance. (It is critical to attaining a proper response from your dog when you command him/her from a distance, so when off-leash, your dog is used to responding to you while not at your side.)
Emphasize the importance of heeling
Command your dog to heel while you are moving, and your dog is either in front of you or otherwise not at your side. Keep moving to make your dog work to return to heeling position. When your dog is off-leash, commanding him/her to return to you will usually result in the dog returning to the heel position.