When it comes to letting your dog off the leash, nearly every dog owner has similar worries, such as what if your dog doesn’t come back? Or what if they get injured by a passing car, person, or get into an altercation with another dog? This can lead to some serious anxiety when it comes to considering letting your dog roam free.
When you really think about, it’s pretty easy to think of many reasons why you wouldn’t want to let your dog off the leash and risk potential injury or other incidents. There are so many hazards in the world, passing cars, unfriendly people and many other types of potential hazards that you might not even take into account. So, with all these scary situations that might come into play, what are some of the reasons why you should let Fido roam free on his own accord?
- When your dogs off the leash they get to exercise at their own pace and find brand new ways to play and explore.
- Off the leash is how your dog was naturally meant to be. Dogs used to roam the wild in packs, and they still have many of those same instincts today. It may be healthy for your dog to not be controlled by their owner all the time.
- It feels good to let your dog experience freedom every now and again. I think we all can relate, feeling leashed to something all the time can be a frustrating experience.
Letting your dog off the leash, if done properly, can be a great way for a dog to exercise, gain confidence in themselves and just experience a bit of freedom!
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It is important to realize that those these benefits are great, there are some very serious downsides to “letting the hounds roam free” so you need to be sure your dog is properly trained and that you have mitigated many of the risks before you release the leash. Do your best to keep things safe for your dog, while also allowing them to roam free.
Here are our top tips for letting your dog off the leash safely.
1. Always Be Aware of Your Dog
When letting your dog off the leash, don’t just let your dog run around and do anything they please. Keep an eye on them at all times and call them back if they are getting into something they shouldn’t be. If you see your dog is struggling with these freedom or there are just too much stimuli around, put the leash back on your dog!
2. Teach Them The Come Command
Before you ever let your dog off the leash, you need to be absolutely sure they will reliably come when they are called. There are several ways to do this, such as come to me training, clicker training and more. Clicker training and come command are similar, when your dog successfully comes to you they get a treat.
Your dog learns to associate this command with a treat, and will come running back every time if done properly! When your dog has these commands mastered, then it is the time to let them experience a little bit of the world on their own.
3. Start With A Long Leash
When letting your dog off the leash, one of the best training methods you can use is putting them on a very long leash. This gives your dog the feeling of freedom, before they are truly roamin’ free. Using this method, you can ease them into the new lifestyle and make sure that they are ready to be off the leash before you fully let them. This will give you peace of mind as you know your dog has the readiness for this new challenge.
Always be careful when using a longer leash in public areas, as things can get quite problematic. If there are many other dogs around or other obstacles, your dog can become entangled and cause you or someone else to trip over the leash. Other dogs can also be “clothes-lined” by the leash and be injured. Be very aware when using a long leash, this will also be good training for the awareness you will need when letting your dog off the leash!
4. Head to the Park
Another way to get your dog ready for being off the leash, that is both fun and great exercise for you and your dog, is to go to something like a fenced-in dog park or people park. These are great places to test if your dog is ready to be off the leash to see how they respond to exciting things in their environment!
There will be lots of things going on everywhere so this will be the ultimate test for your dog. So before you unleash your dog into this exciting new world, make sure they are ready for the challenge by first going to a dog park or recreational park. This is also a great opportunity to test your come commands to ensure they are listening even at crazy times!
5. Plan For Worst Case Scenarios
So when you are ready to take off the harness, you need to be ready for worst-case scenarios that might occur. Maybe your dog spotted another dog or a squirrel, and they just take off for it. Your first instinct in this situation would be to yell and them and run after them, but trust me, this is not the way to handle this situation! Doing this will cause your dog to freak out and run away from you even faster!
Number one you’ re going to want to be in this situation is calm. If you sound fearful, angry or anxious, your dog is much less likely to come to you than if you sound warm and inviting . I mean just think about it, would you want to come to someone who is screaming and yelling at you, and they are doing it for no reason as far as you know? Of course not!
You need to be sure you always have some treats on you as well and give them one when they return. This will give your dog a huge incentive to come back to you and to stop running away. What dog doesn’t want a nice treat! If they are far away, try shaking the treat bag or give him some kind of indication that you got treats – trust me they will probably come running back. This is where all of your training from above comes into play with a reliable come command or clicker training.
Check out Doggy Dan’s top tips for getting your dog to come back when they are called, no matter where they are!
Do not chase your dog if they are running away – there’s pretty much no chance you are able to outrun your dog. If you start running after them they are probably going to think it’s playtime or try and escape . When they are running they are going to be paying less attention because they are having fun, which increases the risk for serious accidents.
Tips for Getting Your Dog To Come Back
Try turning away from your dog, even though it doesn’t seem to make much sense. Turning your back to your dog can sometimes be the best way to get your attention.
Act like you’re about to go home or head back to the car, any of these will work. What you want to join you try to make it seem like you’re having a great time without them, and that you are ready to go home. Think of what you would normally do to try to get your dog excited and ready to play and do that.
Of course you’re not actually trying to leave them, you just want them to think that there’s something a lot more interesting happening with you and they will naturally want to be a part of that.
Do your best to be convincing because this is your chance to really prove to your dog there’s something cool going on.
When your dog does return, it is very important make sure to praise your dog no matter how frustrated angry or even scared you are. It’s very important that you show them love when they come back and not scare them or yell at them. You aren’t rewarding the fact they took off – you are rewarding the fact that they came back to you .
Don’t worry – some people think that this might be encouraging their dogs bad behavior, but if you get angry with them or scold them they are much less likely to return the next time.
6. Get Your Dog Microchipped
No matter if you’re doing off the leash training or not your dog should always be properly microchipped and their ID up to date. Just in case the worst does happen and your dog gets away, this is the best chance of reuniting with your dog. Most people will take a dog they find to some type of shelter or check their identification. It’s also a good idea to have an up to date picture of your dog for a lost pet poster, just in case you need to make one.
Now this one is something you should be learning regardless of if your dog is off the leash or not, and that is how to effectively break up a dog fight.
Just in case your dog does get into an altercation with another dog, it’s important you know how to break it up with injuring yourself or either animal. See this Youtube Video for more information.
That’s about it, and remember if you are unsure about your dog being off the leash – just put a leash on them and don’t risk it! It’s better to be safe than sorry, but if you have the right training, mitigate risks and plan beforehand, and always be aware of what your dog is doing, you can allow your dog a lot of fun by having them off the leash for a little bit.
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