off leash training - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 13 (permalink) Old 05-28-2009, 08:55 PM Thread Starter
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off leash training

I have seen several pics of dogs going on wonderful hikes w/o a leash. I was wondering how you go about training off leash. I would like my dog to be able to play/be in our unfenced back yard (under supervision of course) or even be able to hike with her off leash.

She is very prey aware and at the moment if she is focused on something, will not shift her attention to me, so at this point I couldn't trust her off leash.
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post #2 of 13 (permalink) Old 05-28-2009, 09:06 PM Thread Starter
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Re: off leash training

by the way, she is 16 weeks old.
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post #3 of 13 (permalink) Old 05-28-2009, 09:19 PM
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Re: off leash training

I am not an expert on the training part, I'm sure you'll get some good advice on that, but as far as a place to do it, we used a fenced tennis court where we could contain the dog but train off leash.

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post #4 of 13 (permalink) Old 05-28-2009, 09:35 PM
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Re: off leash training

You know, I know this is awful but we just kind of tried it... we bought treats along and had her due a few commands before we let her off so she knew we had them and would be rewarded if she came back when called. Her recall is pretty good as it is, but we wanted to basically ensure that she would come back.

What is strange (or maybe not so strange) about Jerzey is that, on hikes, her recall is 100%. Seriously. She'll run ahead, but only so far. She always looks to John and I for reassurance before she presses on. She truly looks to us as her leaders. She stops when we tell her, continues on that path we point to, and comes when called. We also make a habit of calling her back to us just to pet and praise her so she doesn't associated being called with always being put on a leash... we don't want her to think that being called to us is a bad thing. Sometimes we'll call her, put her on the leash for a few steps and take her off again. We try to mix it up a lot so she's always guessing (or, rather, has no expectations.)

In the yard, this isn't the case. She won't run away, in that she'll leave the yard, but she will run away from us or not come when called if she's in a playful mood or spots something more interesting. I think she honestly feels more comfortable in her yard, rather than an unknown wooded area and doesn't feel as inclined to look to us for direction. Obviously, we don't really let her off-leash in the yard for this specific reason. In the woods, at the river, in the dog park... she definitely looks to us more and we follow what we say.

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post #5 of 13 (permalink) Old 05-28-2009, 09:53 PM
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Re: off leash training

When we got Anna at 12 weeks, we let her walk around with us off leash...we'd make it around the block or out in the front yard and rewarded her when she came when called. The first time I let her "off leash" in a park (well the creek) I was kinda nervous, but she did great! If she looks like she won't come, I just run the other direction and she comes, I put her in a sit and give a treat.

She's got to where when she hears a whistle and "Anna, let's go!" she'll come a runnin'. Sometimes I still have to do the opposite direction run, but so far it's worked.

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post #6 of 13 (permalink) Old 05-28-2009, 10:08 PM
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Re: off leash training

I think you'd have a very tough time doing it with a 4 month old, but I'm not saying it can't be done. The dog is in a puppy phase still and I don't know what you can expect of a puppy in terms of impulse control. I wouldn't worry about it yet.

I am at the point with my older dog (age 6) that I walk him daily, along with my puppy, and he is wearing a backpack with a leash wrapped around it (just in case) but I am not holding the leash. He stays with me, on my right side, and over the years, he has learned that he's not allowed to take off after anything that strikes his fancy. I am sure there are some specific training scenarios, but frankly with a puppy I wouldn't trust it's impulse control. That doesn't seem to be setting a dog up to succeed, to expect a puppy to do that..

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post #7 of 13 (permalink) Old 05-28-2009, 10:20 PM Thread Starter
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Re: off leash training

Well, I didn't exactly expect it to be an overnight training thing. I was wondering what the correct approach should be to lay a good foundation for that kind of training. I am trying to be realistic, but like to have plan of action.

I had a dog killed by being hit by a car because he didn't have a good recall. I would like to avoid that at all costs. So, while I would like good off leash training, I don't really intend her to be off leash just anywhere. if that makes sense.
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post #8 of 13 (permalink) Old 05-28-2009, 10:58 PM
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Re: off leash training


If there is ANY chance that the dog will run after a squirrel or a kitty or a butterfly and into the street, it is not ready to be off lead. Use a long line. Fence in a small area. Take her to a fenced area.

I started Arwen in obedience at about 1 year of age. Eight weeks later she was good on lead and off lead. She went for a rabbit once and I called and she returned instantly to the heel position. She passed her CGC at a show without ever practicing. She took first place in all three legs of her CD. She learned right away to run with my bike, and stop and sit when I stopped. I can put her on a sit/stay and go into a store and when I come out she will not have moved. She is an exceptional dog. But I would have NEVER expected anything like this when she was a puppy.

None of my other dogs have this type of freedom, Babsy is close to being there at 3 1/2. Jenna will NEVER be there, well, maybe at 11. At two, I have taken Heidi in the woods and was pleasently surprised to find she works very close to me. The babies at 8 months I found when off lead make a bee-line to the back of my vehicle.

The problem is that it only takes a split second for your dog to take off after something and be dead or seriously injured.

Once I think my dogs are really good on lead and off lead in a safe area. I go out after the bars close down and before the morning rush and take them into town to do a little work on and off lead. I start in parking lots that are empty and mostly enclosed. I move out into quiet side walk areas farther from the road like the courthouse property. I have to be hypervigilent for the sound of stray dogs or cats, or drunks trying to work their ways homeward.

After a short walk, I will stop in the partially enclosed parking lot and do a few minutes obedience on lead. Then I unhook the leash and do a few minutes off-lead. Then I praise and put them back on lead.

I build up the off-lead experience. I go to the fairgrounds that is enclosed by fencing, but not readily noticeable -- such a large area. We do figure eights and come fronts, sits and downs, stays and recalls. Then I give them a "RUN ABOUT A BIT" command which means go sniff, run about, at ease, whatever. After a few minutes, I do a recall.

I use ball fields and play grounds and tennis courts. All the local cops know me, because I am there when no one else is. If any horses are out at the fairgrounds, I go away. The horses' owners are paying for the use of the area. If I tick even one person off, they will kick me out. I clean poop up too.

The problem with all of this is that when other people see me running my dogs, they think it is a good idea and then they run their dogs too. They do not necessarily defer to horses. They do not necessarily clean poop. Eventually we are banned from everywhere. Between two and four AM other dog owners sleep.

Arwen will be eight in June. At this point, I feel confident enough to walk her off lead any time, any where.

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post #9 of 13 (permalink) Old 05-29-2009, 01:05 AM
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Re: off leash training

Quote:What is strange (or maybe not so strange) about Jerzey is that, on hikes, her recall is 100%. Seriously. She'll run ahead, but only so far. She always looks to John and I for reassurance before she presses on.
Not strange at all. Any dog is going to be more confident in being loose around it own territory and be more apt to roam and or take off at distractions. \Now remove this dog to unfamiliar places and the draw to stay with the pack is going to be stronger.

I start with my pups as soon as they get their shots finished we are out hiking! and they of course start off right away dragging a light long line.

Maybe you have a friend whos dog can go off leash? This is also great to help teach pups to stick with the pack when out hiking off leash?


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post #10 of 13 (permalink) Old 05-29-2009, 02:48 AM
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Re: off leash training

Even though it will probably take a lot of time to get it working due to your pups age, it's never to early to start training for off-leash walking.

The first step I would take is get a very long leash, at least 20ft, and then let your pup wander off and get interested in other things. Call the puppy with whatever come command you choose, if the puppy comes great! Treat and praise. If not, reel her in with the leash to enforce the command. Give her a treat when she comes, even if it is by reeling her in. It would also be helpful to make yourself a little more interesting - clap or whistle right before giving the command, sit on the ground, or start to walk away.
Once she's good at coming while on the long lead, find a fenced area where you can safely let her off and do the same thing. It does not have to be a large area. If she reverts to ignoring you, go back to the long lead.
Once you feel you can trust her in all circumstances(including when there are very tempting distractions such as rabbits or other dogs), then you can try off leash in other areas.

When I was still working with Cheyenne to get her 100% trustworthy on hikes the main thing I needed was for her to focus on me. Note that by this point I had the hard work done - she would not run off and would come when called, but sometimes got distracted when walking and wouldn't keep up until I called her again. To get the excellent focus I now get from her, when she got distracted, instead of calling her again, I would take off running and maybe even hide. It sounds a little mean, but it quickly taught her that the first thing to focus on was ME and where I was going and what I was doing, everything else came second. I dictate where we go and what we do, I would not wait up for her. She knows she needs to focus on me, watches me constantly for direction and will only go so far away before she appears back at my side without me calling her at all. And at the same time, if I were to call her she will instantly come to my side again.

In my experience, it will take a lot more work for her to be trust worthy in your area vs. in an unfamiliar area. With hard work this is something that could be overcome, but your hope of having her off leash in your unfenced yard will likely be much harder to accomplish than having her off-leash on a hike.

This is just my experience and what has worked for me, I'm not a trainer and not everything that works for one dog will work for another.

Good luck and have fun!
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