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We're planning on introducing off lead walks (hikes etc) to our girl. What is the best way to go about this?
 

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Do you want a close heel or just to stay with you? I dont know about best way, but for my girl, she wants to go where I am going......so if she gets too far I change directions...she will look for me and kind look like wooops! where did mom go??? It doesnt take long before she will keep an eye out for you. Also, you can carry a favorite ball or toy and reward her by stopping periodically to play. She will keep more focus on you wondering when the next play session is going to be.
 

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I could not in good conciousness recomend this book...

The Koehler method for stopping a dog from digging: "fill the hole to its brim with water. . . . bring the dog to the hole and shove his nose into the water; hold him there until he is sure he's drowning. . . . fill the hole with water and repeat the experience the next day, whether the dog digs any more or not." (pp. 178-179)

Sorry, but while this may have said as a last resort......etc...I do not believe you should abuse a dog for any reason. There are much better books IMO. Authors such as Patricia McConnell and Suzanne Clothier are more in line to training in humane and effective methods.
 

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For hikes, I'm assuming you don't necessarily need the dog right next to you. I would work on recall, so if the dog gets too far ahead or chases something, you can call the dog back. I used this method when I first got Kenya, because her recall was so great. After a while, she figured out just how far ahead or behind me I would allow and now I rarely have to call her back to adjust her distance. Try it on leash for a while and every time the dog returns, reward her (take some good treats along). Then, let her go again. A lot of dogs don't recall b/c they figure out it means the fun is ending. Do a LOT of recalls where when she comes back, she gets to do something fun afterward, so the recall stays neutral and isn't something the dog avoids.
 

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I think the best way to start is by doing short off-leash breaks in the middle of an on-leash hike/walk. Then gradually increase the amount of off-leash time.

To start, you may only have the dog off-leash in a very protected spot for just a couple of minutes. Don't make a big deal of it, just unclip the leash and keep going as before. You'll find you probably can control the dog pretty well with just your voice. Continue to call her to you while she's off leash and PRAISE big time (treats too) for coming and staying close.

As you both get more confident with being off-leash, you can extend the amount of time off the leash.

But I'd always BRING the leash with you, just in case. I don't think there's any reason to push your luck if you find yourself having to walk in traffic, through a crowd of people, or past a surprise herd of stampeding buffalo (you never know...)
 

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Make yourself the most fun thing in the world. Rafi walks off lead with me almost every day. We don't do it on streets but there are old railroad beds around here where we can walk. I did a lot of chase me games with him at first and still keep them primed. So I run the other way, call him and then keep switching directions. He loves it! I also bring a toy for him to play with. If he takes off after a bunny or something I call him immediately and give him a big reward (yummy treats). I also set him up for success. If there are tons of bunnies or other dogs then I call him, reward him and leash him back up until we're past the tempting things.

If he's gets too far away then I call him back and reward him with either a game of chase (chasing me) or a treat. I do this with him every day.

Now he's to the point where he will often walk by my side with his kong in his mouth, off lead.

With all of my other dogs I was able to progress to the point where they could walk off lead on the sidewalk too. But it will be a long time before Rafi's doing that!
 

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A good place to start is teaching her to check in with you frequently, even without a command.

A good way of doing that is carrying treats with you around the house, and whenever she looks at you or comes to you to see what you are up to, praise her and give her a reward. She will quickly learn to check in with you frequently, which will get her a reward. (Eventually, phase the reward out and use praise.)

If you want her to stay with you while walking off-leash, this method works well because she will turn to look at you every so often and also stick close. When she looks at you, you can give her a command or redirect her when you need to - sit, down, stay, come, etc. are commands you may need to use on a trail while hiking off leash.

The first couple of times you work with her outside on checking in with you, as well as on the trail, I would recommend doing it on a long line or drag leash. (If you let her drag a leash or line, make sure she doesn't go off where you can no longer step on the line to stop her ... *lol* ... otherwise the whole drag leash is a moot point.) Praise and reward her for sticking close and checking in.

This is what worked for us, pretty much. Abby gets to have some room when we hike (if we're in a place that allows it and isn't busy) and she checks in frequently and stays close. I can call her back to a heel (walking nicely next to me - not an obedience heel) or have her stop and down if there's need because she's within ear shot and checks in with me.

We don't hike off leash if it's an area that sees a lot of people. I've found that a lot of hikers don't appreciate off-leash dogs on the trail, even if they behave extremely well. Some people just aren't dog people.
 

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Exactly the method I use Chris! You beat me to it.

I do add a "check" command after the behavior is pretty solid. When the dogs are already checking in I say "check" and they will come in to me for a treat. Then I send them back to enjoy the freedom. I use the "check" when they get more than about 100 yards from me. Kayos is 5 1/2 and I still keep reward high for her on a intermitent (variable) schedule so I don't loose the behavior. Havoc as a pup is still on close to 100% reward. Startiing to get variable with him now.

The Koehler Method has some very good insight on some things. No I would probably not resort to the chapter on correcting unwanted behavior as Betsy quoted above. But even Mr. Koehler states that these are reserved for severe problems. I think Wetdog was most likely directing the op to use the long line method in the book to work toward off lead control. It is a good method and it does work and it is not inhumane. I would use a buckle collar however not a slip.
 
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