Dog walking provides more than just exercise for your pooch. And walking off-leash has even more benefits.
But it’s critical to maintain control, so your dog doesn’t run into the street or eat something dangerous.
Consider the risks
Jeopardizing your dog’s safety while providing him with a better outside experience is not good. Know all the risks and be prepared in case something unexpected happens.
The first thing to keep in mind is some states have strict leash laws. So, if your town or state doesn’t allow walking off-leash, be ready to pay fine.
Besides, even a well-trained dog can get distracted and suddenly start chasing other animals or dogs. Sometimes loud noise can spook your dog. If that happens, your dog might get injured, damage others’ property, or be attacked by wild animals.
Moreover, many people are afraid of dogs and do not like the idea of seeing dogs off-leash. Off-leash dogs can threaten other leashed dogs, and you risk having your dog bite or nip people even in your presence.
You can let your dog roam a little to explore the outside world with more freedom, but you must be sure your dog will promptly return to your side if called.
Obedience training can be a good foundation for encouraging this behavior. Basic commands your dog should master include:
- Loose leash walking
- Heel both on and off-leash
- A reliable recall
- A reliable emergency recall
- Look (look at you)
Don’t take any chances. If you have already trained your pooch to obey these commands, and he sometimes doesn’t listen to you, you have to train your buddy better. If you have multiple dogs, then you have to be extra careful. All the dogs have to be well-trained and should listen to you every time.
Also, if you have a dog and cat both and usually go on a walk at the same time, never consider walking your cat off-leash. Cats shouldn’t be walked without the right protective equipment. Always use a good harness and leash.
Make your dog want to be with you
Whether you use treats or praise, make your dog want to be with you. That way, when he walks with you, he tends to keep himself in an invisible moving enclosed boundary near your side.
This will be helpful when you command your dog, and he has to listen to you. Plus, keeping your dog close to you helps keep him safe.
Practice the “Look” command
Chances are good your dog will get distracted on your walk. So whenever you think your dog has found something interesting and may decide to chase something or go on exploring things, just tell them to look at you. This way, their focus will be shifted, and you can continue walking.
Use treats lavishly to strengthen this behavior. Moreover, you should never ignore them and miss to pop a treat when they by themself look at you as if asking for permission to proceed. You can also employ clicker training along as a part of obedience training here.
Start at home and make things challenging
Practice walking off-leash in your house first. You might’ve watched some videos on YouTube where a trainer commands their dog to run, and while the dog’s running, he shouts another command like “stop.” The dog stops running at once and even slides a few meters on the ground because of his velocity. Always aim to train your dogs like this.
When your dog has learned all the commands, it’s time to practice those with distractions. Make obeying commands challenging every time, and when they follow your commands, treat them lavishly.
You can practice this in your backyard or just do it with a long leash on your regular walk. Once your dog is doing fine with obeying you indoors, you can go out off-leash.
With all these tips and things to keep in mind, you should be fine while walking your dog off-leash. But the risks associated with this are high.
An important thing to consider here is the breed of your dog. If your dog has a high prey drive or wanderlust, he might ignore your commands when motivation hits him. Dogs like German Shepherds or Belgian Malinois can be easily trained for this but if you’re not sure about your dog, consult your vet or canine behavior expert first.