I knew a man that walked around with his dog as if they were partners. No leash on the dog. Just walking around the neighborhood while the dog sniff the green grass and trotted along behind the owner. I was in shock and amazed. It seemed like he was doing the impossible when all I seen up until that point was people with cute little dogs on retractable leashes or people with big dogs walking their owner.
I wanted to understand the work it took to get an off leash dog. Little did i know it would be a lot of work as moving too quickly could mean risking your dog or someone else safety. First I want to say that many people move too fast when moving to this step. You have to practice these over and over.
A behavior becomes reliable the more a dog practices it and does it every time on command. Just think of it like tying your shoelace. After performing this behavior so many times it becomes automatic.
We want our dogs to perform the behavior without thinking. If your dog sometimes listens to you then he/she is not ready for off leash training. There are 3 steps to accomplishing this task. How long it takes depends on the dog in each phase. Also keep in mind that every dog is different.
You might see someone with their dog off leash, but you don't know how they raised the dog. Its been my experience that people either go through these 3 steps I'm about to share with you or they never put a leash on their dog to begin with and always let them roam free as a small puppy. The latter dogs have never known restriction and probably feel it is normal to be off leash. We must first start with the basics. We have to first teach the dog what we expect from them
We start with the dog on a 6foot leash and we teach our dog the basics. We teach the all the obedience commands that they must know. We use positive reinforcement for all of these exercises. It is important to up the distraction very slowly and to make sure you have control over the environment the best that you can.
The issue with distractions is when you have high competing motivators. Another dog might be a high competing motivator for your dog so it is important to move slowly when getting to this step. I suggest that you thoroughly work on place and the come command as they are the most important. The stay command also is important.
Work with the dog on a long line. Start with a 10 foot long line and work your way up to a 30 foot long line. Practice the same commands as in step one only with more distance first. With some of the commands, such as stay and come, when you increase distance you automatically increase duration.
With other commands, such as down or sit, you can practice distance first then duration. After they know what is expected and they have demonstrated this we proof behavior on long line with e-collar.
We first condition the dog to the ecollar. Then we use ecollar to give the dog low level stimulation to get the dog to perform the task everytime since it has demonstrated that it knows it anyways. In this step we first use the long line. After that we move to off leash freedom.