Wondering how to how to off leash train a dog?
Having a dog off-leash trained opens up a world that you may have never thought possible with your dog; from going on hikes, being at the beach, or just playing a game of frisbee, the possibilities are endless!
If you are curious about how to off-leash train a dog, then read on my friends as we dive deeper into the steps of off-leash training your dog!
Why Off-Leash Train A Dog?
You may be wondering what the point is? Why even off-leash train your dog anyway?
Well, the answer is pretty simple; aside from all the freedom and fun things you can do with your dog, there is more to it than just that!
The truth is regardless if you plan to have your dog actually “off-leash” or not. Every dog owner should have the confidence in knowing that if for any reason your pup does happen to get off of his leash, you have the peace of mind knowing that your dog will respond and come to you when you need it.
Equipment For Off-Leash Training A Dog
Below is a shortlist of the equipment we recommend when learning how to off-leash train a dog.
Every time we begin teaching your dog something, we always recommend some high-value dog treats like our favorites Happy Howies meat rolls.
We recommend happy Howies meat rolls as they come in various flavors, and you can cut them into the appropriate size for your dog!
You’ll be needing a long line for your dog. A long line is just a long dog leash; we recommend a minimum length of at least 30 ft.
The ones we enjoy are made of biothane material because you can easily clean them without any issues, and they’re incredibly versatile and flexible!
There is more than one way to reward a dog; some dogs are exceptionally food motivated, while others prefer a good game of tug or fetch.
You know your pup better than most, but here are some of our dog’s favorite toys to play with:
How To Off-Leash Train A Dog Overview
Now that you have a clear understanding of the equipment you’ll need, let’s jump into how to off leash train a dog!
To begin how to off leash train a dog, it essentially comes down to a couple of things
We are creating a solid foundation in the relationship with your dog.
Essentially ensuring that you are relevant to your dog, your dog enjoys interacting with you and taking your direction.
Teaching your dog to have a crystal clear understanding of what the “come” command is.
Teaching your dog to leave something they may be interested in alone and still come to you
Teaching your dog to generalize everything in a variety of different settings.
Dogs are highly situational learners; just because your dog learns something in one context doesn’t mean your dog understands how to do the same thing in another context.
Phase 1: Becoming Relevant To Your Dog
When learning how to off leash train a dog, you first want to become the ultimate source of reward for your dog.
That way, your dog naturally wants to gravitate towards your and take your direction.
That also means that distractions won’t be a big concern because you will be more relevant than the distractions at hand.
This is the prerequisite before you move any further in learning how to off leash train a dog.
To begin becoming relevant in the eyes of your dog, you want to do these three things:
Use Your dog’s food for training
You want to use your dog’s food for training and reserve those high-value happy homie treats when you’re dealing with higher levels of distractions.
If your dog is just used to being free-fed, we recommend that you get your pup on a feeding schedule.
If you are struggling with using your dogs food for training or getting your pup on a feeding schedule, read our article on why my dog doesn’t eat in the morning
Play with your dog
Play is a natural behavior for dogs and, for many, is way more rewarding than treats or food!
You what to play your dog’s favorite game, whether it’s tug of war or a good game of fetch. Essentially you want to go to different environments to play with your dog and have fun.
Remember, this is all about becoming relevant to your dog and eventually being viewed as the ultimate source of reward.
Become more exciting than your environment
Living in today’s day and age, there’s going to be things out of our control, such as squirrels, rabbits, hot dogs on the ground, or even other dogs in the environment.
When learning how to off leash train a dog we want to ensure that regardless of what the environment has, we are ultimatly more exciting then anything in the enviroment!
That way, your dog begins to choose you over that squirrel or that hot dog bun on the ground.
One way you can accomplish this is by making a drastic change in movement.
Dogs, in general, are drawn to changes in moment, precisely significant contrast.
For instance, if you go from standing entirely still to immediately running away with the energy, you’ll notice your dog will be enticed and follow you!
As a rule of thumb, movement away from your dog encourages your dog to run towards you, while moving towards your dog encourages your dog to run away from you.
Through this whole process, you will always be moving and running away from your dog.
The basic gist of this section is spending time showing your pup that paying attention to you is worth it.
Eventually, you’ll begin showing your dog that the reward isn’t about the “food,” the “treat,” or the “toy”; instead, the prize will be the whole interaction between you and your dog!
There isn’t a specific amount of time to work on this because every dog is different, but essentially what you want is your dog eager to tune in and focus on you when you say their name.
This phase can take anywhere from 2 weeks to a couple of months. Depending on where the relationship with your dog is currently at, you may have more or less work to do. Regardless the more you work on this section, the better!
Phase Two Teaching A Clear “Come” Command
Teaching your dog to come when called will be one of the most important aspects when learning how to off leash train a dog.
If your dog can’t come when called, you do not have an off leash trained dog.
There are various ways to begin teaching your dog to come when called. Here is an easy drill you can work on at home.
Get your dog’s treats and begin by tossing them a short distance away from you; when your dog gets to the treat you tossed, ask your pup to “come.”
The moment that your dog gets to you, reward your dog.
Practice this until you can say “come,” and your dog runs to you enthusiastically.
There are various ways to teach your dog to come; this is just one method.
To learn more about effectively teaching your dog to come, feel opt in to our online course, “The A-Z Of How To Train Your Dog” which covers everything from start to finish.
Phase 3 “come when called” even if interested in something else
Up to this point, you should have a dog that loves paying attention to you and taking your direction; your dog should also love coming to you because coming to you predicts good things to happen!
Now it’s time to teach your dog to leave something they may be interested in alone and still come to you, whether your dog is interested in a smell on the ground, a person, or another dog.
Here’s how to teach your dog to come to you, even with distractions!
First, get your dog on the long line
Once your dog is on the long line, let him explore the environment.
When you notice that your dog is focused on sniffing something on the ground, you want to say “come” if your dog runs towards you, great your on the right path!
If your dog doesn’t turn to run in your direction, use the long line and apply a firm pop in your direction with the leash.
When your dog gets to you, reward your pups treats or a game with your dog’s favorite toy.
You want to continue practicing this until your dog snaps around to run towards the moment you say “come.”
Remember, dogs are situational learners. Just because your dog understands how to leave a smell on the ground doesn’t mean your dog understands the concept of leaving something more interesting like a cat.
Be sure to work on this drill with a variety of different distractions.
This shouldn’t be too hard, especially if you have laid out the groundwork by becoming relevant to your dog.
To see a visual of this and a broken down step by step process, check out our online course covering everything from start to finish
This is the most critical aspect of learning how to off leash train a dog.
If your dog isn’t responding reliably, you don’t have a fully off leash trained dog.
There are a few ways to ensure reliability when learning how to off leash train a dog.
To create reliability, you must stay consistent with training your dog for your dog to be consistent.
Always have the long line on until your dog begins to display consistency and reliability
Potentially Using An E-Collar
You can also opt-in for training collars such as e collars which can act as a “wireless” leash. For you are considering using an e collar, please get in touch with us here or refer to your local dog trainer.
Using this collar is best explained in person.
Using an e collar is likely the last step for ensuring 100% off-leash reliability, allowing you to use the collar to communicate to your dog at lion get distances!
Off-leash training your dog comes down to becoming relevant to your dogs so that your dog enjoys listing to you and chooses you over every distraction possible.
Once your dog has a strong foundation, it then becomes about teaching your dog how to generalize everything we have covered in a variety of different environments