obedience

Step by step to get an off leash dog

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

Step 1.

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.

Step 2.

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.

Step 3.

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.

6 must know obedience commands before summer

Now i know you probably know a few of these like sit and down, but the rest of these are so much more important. I am going to show you how to do it and explain why you should learn them. Lets start with the basics.

Sit

Difficulty level: It is an easy command and almost natural for the dog.

Method: Luring

How to: 

  1. Take a bite-sized treat in the palm of your hand
  2. Open palm facing the ceiling hold the treat to the dog's nose
  3. Once the dog starts sniffing, lift your hand above the dog's head
  4. The dog will look up and its butt will hit the floor, Say your reward marker (YES!!!)
  5. Give dog the treat

 

Down

Difficulty level: It can difficult for some dogs and easier for others. Just keep practicing and they will get it. In my experience, the huskys and German Shepherds down easily and the pit bulls sometimes take a little longer.

Method: Luring

How to:

  1. Have 2 pieces of bite size treats in your hand.
  2. Get the dog to sit , say reward marker (YES!!!) then give the dog a treat
  3. As soon as the dog takes the treat take the other treat and put it right in front of the dogs nose
  4. Lure the dog by bringing the treat straight down the dog's chest to the floor in between the dog's paws
  5. Dog ends up in a hunch over position and so their butt slids out and their stomach hits the floor
  6. Say reward marker(YES!!!) then give the dog the treat.

 

Leave It

Difficulty level: This depends on the dogs energy level and how bad they want to get to an object or person. Hyper dogs take longer to get it and need to work more on having a calm state of mind, which is a topic for another post.

Method: Catching the dog in the act by creating the scenario

How to:

  1. Take a treat and place it on the floor in front of your dog and a treat behind your back
  2. Instead of letting the dog eat the treat you are going to cover it with your hand palm down so that the treat is no longer accessible to the dog.
  3. Most dogs will immediately go for the treat by scratching or even nibbling on your hand if they really want it
  4. You don't do anything but keep your hand there and tell the dog to "leave it" in a strong non threatening voice. You keep telling the dog this until he looks away or backs up. Then you say the reward marker (YES!!!) then treat with the treat behind your back.

Tip: Don't give the dog the treat on the floor. We practice with treats but if that was something that was poisonous we wouldn't tell our dogs to "leave it" and then give it to them. Practice for real life scenarios.

 

Come

Difficulty level: Not difficult. Make sure when you're first teaching your dog that its in a very low distraction area such as in your home. Avoid outside with lots of distractions. We will work our way up to that and if you want to really get this down check this out.

Method: slight  leash pressure

How to:

  1. Walk with your dog on the leash.
  2. Wait for dog to look the other way
  3. Back up away from dog and give slight leash pressure towards you
  4. Tell the dog to come as you do step 3
  5. Say reward marker(YES!!!) and give the dog a treat once he/she gets to you.

Tip: This is the basic version. If a dog won't come to you when you have the leash in a distraction free environment then he won't come when something else has his attention. Work slow and at your dog's level. Just because you understand the exercise doesn't mean the dog does. It gets much more complicated than this and I go over this in my advanced obedience lessons.

 

Stay

Difficulty level: very difficult for puppies( who have a short attention span) and hyper dogs (who have a hard time sitting still).

Method: Teaching the dog what we want through baby steps

How to:

  1. Stand facing the dog as the dog will also be facing you.
  2. Use open palm( like telling someone to stop) and tell the dog to stay
  3. Take a step back then return to the dog with a step forward back to the dog.
  4. Say reward marker(YES!!!) and give dog a treat.
  5. Next do step 1 and 2 the same, but for step 3 you will take 2 steps back then 2 steps forward.
  6. Say the reward marker(YES!!!) and give your dog a treat again
  7. You will work your way to the end of the leash

Tip: You must always return to your dog when you tell them to stay. If you call your dog to come all time from a stay, your dog can begin to anticipate you calling them and get up from a stay before you want them to.

 

Place

Difficulty level: Simple for the dog to understand. Your dog will just need time to understand how to get there from a distance

Method: Luring

How to:

  1. Take a piece of food and lure your dog onto the place mat( their bed).
  2. Once they are on the bed feed them a couple times and with some treats( make it so that they receive treats on the bed and don't receive treats off of the bed).
  3. After they feel comfortable going on the bed, the next step is teach them when to go on the bed
  4. Walk up to the bed and stop abruptly just before the bed
  5. Say "place" and use the leash to guide your dog onto the bed.
  6. After a while as your dog begins to understand you can increase the distance by which you stop. Instead of stopping right before the bed, you stop 3 feet away and say "place".

Tip: To break it down, the dog must first like the bed( feeding them on the bed and not off makes that association).  Then you put the command "place" to it. Then you increase the distance.

The place command helps to send your dog to their bed when a guest comes over and you don't want them charging at the door.

 

Hope this was helpful.