On or Off?

Is my dog ready to be walking off lead? It’s probably the question I’m most often asked.

I start the recall journey with my own dogs by walking around the house either wearing a treat pouch (cue dogs following me everywhere!) or with treats ‘hidden’ in my pocket. I then randomly call *name* and “come”, swiftly followed by lots of praise and a treat.

Once we’ve achieved recall in the house, I progress to the garden and repeat calling them in the garden, from the house to the garden, and from the garden to the house.

My next step is to clip a long line onto their harness whilst in the garden, this enables them to become familiar with it trailing behind, and we rehearse as above. Once they’re comfortable with the line trailing behind them and their recall in the garden in 100%, I progress to a quiet safe space. I tend to use a bookable dog field with sole use, and I take lots of treats.

Once recall with the line is 100% with all the distractions of other dog smells (Truly even had a goat smell challenge), I progress to using the line in a field or on a park walk. You may want to think about the value of the treats you use too, the treat has to be more valuable to your dog than the exciting smells they may be distracted by. Continue to practice your recall in exactly the same way as in the dog field, remembering to give lots of praise too.

It’s worth noting that the point of using a long line isn’t as an extra-long dog lead. The line should be long enough to safely trail along behind your dog. Your job is to stay within reach of the line, while your dog feels that in all sense and purposes it is ‘off lead’. The line is there for safety, so you can quickly regain control by stepping on the end or grabbing the line if necessary. At no point should you (ever) grab or shout at your dog, this should be a fun and rewarding game! If things aren’t working out, go back to the secure field and practice lots until you’re ready for the next step. Ditto with the treats, if they aren’t working then you need to upgrade them.

I tend to maintain using a long line until I have 100% recall and I’m confident of the surroundings. You may also want to slowly transition the use of the line. If you’re in a familiar place and there are other dogs to play with, you may choose not to use the line. But, if you’re in an area you don’t know without other dogs, you may want to use it for safety.

Etiquette

If you see a dog being walked on a lead you should not let your dog approach. Dogs are walked on a lead for many different reasons. It could be because the dog isn’t friendly, because their owner is being responsible as they don’t have recall sorted yet, or because the dog has health issues. It doesn’t really matter what the reason is, if you see a dog being walked on a lead, pop yours back on theirs.

From personal experience having a dog run up to us off lead, with the owner some distance away shouting “my dog is friendly” isn’t helpful, especially when their dog is bouncing all over Jake and Truly and I’m trying to keep them all apart!

I have actually had a situation on the beach where a man shouted across to tell me to let my dog off lead, otherwise his dog would get funny. My mind still boggles, I’m pretty sure his dog wasn’t a comedian… but needless to say I didn’t let Truly off her lead. To reiterate a previous post, it is always the owner’s responsibility to keep their own dog under control.

So, if you see us walking and your dog is off lead, please pop them back on. Truly doesn’t like unbalanced dogs and Jake isn’t able to run around like he did before, so I keep them both on a lead in public places.

If your dog doesn’t come back when you call them, they should be on a lead too.

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions, I’m happy to point you in the direction of some training if this is an area you need to work on with your dog.

Until next time

Jen

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