Off Leash Training
Early Off-Leash Training
Megan Brooks CDT, CGC Evaluator
Berkeley, CA has a reputation for its off-leash dogs. Owners in Berkeley teach their puppies from day one to follow them, thus creating a city with streets full of dogs who follow their owners off-leash!
How do we get that sort of control?
Veterinarian, animal behaviorist and dog trainer, Dr Ian Dunbar says that the answer is you must condition your puppy to follow you without a leash while they are still very young, before adolescence hits and distracts your puppy. Off-leash puppy classes are commonplace in Berkeley and perhaps the best way to start off on the right foot and to prepare puppies for reliable off-leash work as adults. If you always teach using a leash that is the only thing your puppy will know. Owners should also take time to play following games where you have your puppy follow you and then “sit” and “wait” whenever you come to a halt. Walk deliberately and when your puppy goes one direction you go the other so that he has to follow you in order to keep up. This will stick in a young puppy’s mind that he must keep up with you, his leader. It is crucial to teach your puppy off-leash skills while he is still young enough to want to follow you always. All off-leash work is best started before a puppy is four months old. As puppies hit adolescence other things become more tempting, smells sights and distractions can take your adolescent dog’s attention straight away from you.
Dr Ian Dunbar suggests two exercises to strengthen the bungy cord between you and your puppy. Open field following and trail walking are both similar exercises designed to encourage your dog to follow you always.
In trail walking you walk away from your puppy, giving him little choice but to follow you. I your puppy doesn’t respond to your change of direction by following you, hide so your puppy must find you. In trail walking, alternate using the leash and walking off-leash. Frequently halt and have your dog “sit” and “wait” for permission to continue.
For open field following find an open area far away from traffic. The idea is to get your puppy to follow you by doing the opposite of what he does. It is at this stage that many owners naturally give in to what their puppy wants to do and follow them around, thus setting up a lifetime of the dog dictating what direction to go.
Last Updated: Monday, February 08, 2010