off leash hikes - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 18 (permalink) Old 12-02-2011, 11:42 AM Thread Starter
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off leash hikes

Hello,
I went hiking once thus far with my girl (about a month ago; she's 6 months now) and because I wasn't sure how she was going to act off leash (run away; chase something or fall into something) I kept her on a leash the whole time. It was pretty stressful, we were both uncomfortable and it really held her back enjoying the hike a bit. I really wanted to let her off but I was just too paranoid.

We may go again this Saturday and I want to take her off leash. Also, it's much healthier for her. But question is, how did you manage taking them on hikes without a leash? Weren't you nervous or do these pups get curious but never stray too far. She has no recall when she's excited so that's another thing. I kept her on a long lead but it was still stressful.

Any thoughts?

p.s. she's never off leash unless she's in the dog park.


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Athena 6.09.2011
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post #2 of 18 (permalink) Old 12-02-2011, 12:32 PM
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We started offlead walks in the woods while the puppy was very young so he got used to it and developed a good recall before he got old enough to push the limits. If he shows signs of that as he ages he will go onlead for awhile.

At her age I am not sure I would take her offlead without a SOLID recall under distraction first.

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post #3 of 18 (permalink) Old 12-02-2011, 12:44 PM
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I don't know why it was stressful for you to walk her on a lead, and why you think its healthier for her to be off lead but you might be surprised to find out that she will generally stick by you. Unless she has a huge prey/hunt drive that you cannot control she should be fine in the woods. I took mine into the woods when he was about 8 months old and he never went more than 50 ft away from me. Of course he had a really good recall and anytime I would call him back come charging through the brush to get to me. Its very fun, and if you don't expect other dogs and it is an area off the beaten path you should be ok. Just make sure there are no busy streets or roads she can get onto if she does decide to make a break. Have a bunch of treats on hand and practice recalls.
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post #4 of 18 (permalink) Old 12-02-2011, 12:46 PM
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I walk my dogs off leash every single day, but they will not break a command with other dogs, people, rabbits, deer, elk, bear, squirrel or any other distraction. I was sure of it before I ever let them off leash, and that meant hundreds of walks with a leash. Even now, I have GPS collars on them just in case. I don't think you are ready yet, and really a leash should not create stress, it should reduce it. Looking for a lost dog is far more stressful. Think of the leash as the training tool needed for you to reach your goal. Once your dog has learned to "bolt", it is harder to un-train that behavior than it is to teach simple commands with a leash. I still have to leash in some parks where required by law, so I put my end in my pocket and forget about it.
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post #5 of 18 (permalink) Old 12-02-2011, 12:52 PM
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I definitely understand how it can be stressful. The dog is excited, wanting to sniff everything and pull on the lead to check everything out. I go hiking with Brody pretty regularly and only recently started having him off leash. He was really good about sticking with me. He would roam but always turns and wait for me. He has a good recall but I learned that that disapears when he sees a deer. He took off after it and it took me a while to get him back. I'd have her drag the leash at first just to see how she does and grab it when you see another person or dog.Have fun!
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post #6 of 18 (permalink) Old 12-02-2011, 12:56 PM
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Use a drag line - long enough that you can reach it if you need to, but not so long it will be getting caught up on things.

If you are just using an old leash, cut the handle off, so it doensn't get caught on things.

Once you have done it a few times, you will know what your dogs capabilites are and have a better idea of how much control you have.

A few things I require of my dogs on off leash runs (which we do pretty much everyday), is 1) they must stay in sight, so if they start to get too far ahead I either call them back, or say "wait up" and they stop and wait until I say they can go again. When they were younger I had to say it much more often, now they are so conditioned they stay close on their own, I don't have to say it much. 2) no chasing wildlife, this is where your drag line comes in handy! 3) stay on the trail, no dogs in the woods where I can't see, because a porcupine, coyote or bear is not going to be as forgiving as I. So they must stay on the trail, the only time they will go off is to go to the bathroom, and only far enough in that I can still see them.
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post #7 of 18 (permalink) Old 12-02-2011, 01:31 PM
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Only having had Viktor 1.5 months, I will not let him off-leash yet. A couple weeks ago I took Viktor for a hike through the woods on a 30 ft tracking lead (with a handle). I wouldn’t say it was stressful, but I did have some issues with my lead management. A few times it got all tangled in the branches and stuff. One time Viktor had his legs all wrapped up. And, once, he decided to do a header into a deep portion of the stream and got covered in mud crawling out.

All in good fun!!!

I look forward to the day when I can go off-leash with him though.

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post #8 of 18 (permalink) Old 12-02-2011, 01:33 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jocoyn View Post
We started offlead walks in the woods while the puppy was very young so he got used to it and developed a good recall before he got old enough to push the limits. If he shows signs of that as he ages he will go onlead for awhile.

At her age I am not sure I would take her offlead without a SOLID recall under distraction first.
6 month old - solid re-call while under distraction?

Good luck on that one.
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post #9 of 18 (permalink) Old 12-02-2011, 01:39 PM
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The rule at my house is either we start the dog hiking offleash as very young puppies, or if I miss that very young puppy phase, I wait until I've been working and training the dog for 1 year.


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post #10 of 18 (permalink) Old 12-02-2011, 01:45 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you everyone. Looks like my paranoia had some merit. I definitely won't be allowing off leash hikes until she's older and has a SOLID recall. Her recall now is nil to none


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Athena 6.09.2011
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