Bella is now 9 1/2 months old. I live in NYC across from Central Park. They have off leash hours. Bella has mastered many commands, heels, sits, lies down, stays (for a while, LOL), is well socialized. As for "come", she is not 100%. I am hoping to work with a trainer in the next week or so.
I get mixed feedback from dog owners in the park as to when you can begin to let the dog off leash. I would have to have a ball, or a Kong on a rope, something she wants and will encourage her to come back to me.
You have to be well into the Park, because you want to be away from the entrances and street traffic. The older shepherd my late husband and I had was off leash most of the time, but he had trained her. She would not run into traffic. Bella does not understand "traffic" yet. How do you know when a dog can be let off leash? She desperately wants to romp and play with the other dogs, and chase a ball, so I try not to take her in the Park during off leash hours, because she gets frustrated being on a leash.
Advice is really appreciated. My sister-in-law, an experienced dog trainer who lives far away from me, is very afraid Bella will chase a squirrel, run away and not come back, or somehow get out of the park and into traffic.
But at some point, the dog needs to be off leash. Advice truly needed.