Going Off-Leash–When and How to Do It

It can be a lot of fun to take your pet off the dog leash for a while to go play. Going to the dog park or on a hike in the woods are two great ways to do it–if you and your dog are prepared. There are some important things to be sure of before you risk removing the dog leash outside.

Good Obedience Training is Key

The most important thing you can do for the safety of your pet while off-leash is make sure he will come to you when called. If your dog doesn’t follow this command, don’t risk going off-leash. When you say “come,” your dog should come without hesitation. Your dog should also follow the command “stay” before you remove the leash. These two commands are imperative, and you’re putting your dog at risk by not making sure he’ll follow them every time before you go.

It’s important to teach these commands in a variety of situations. Teaching them inside your distraction-free yard or living room is a good start, but distractions should be added to reinforce the training. A loud television, other people nearby, food within reach and other distractions should be added so that your dog can learn to follow the commands even when tempted not to.

On your daily walks where people and noises are abundant, work on the commands. Tell your dog to “stay,” then walk to the end of the dog leash. Give the command “come” to get your dog to walk to you. When there are traffic noises, voices and other things all around, your dog should still learn to follow the commands. Go to a regular park full of people while using the leash and practice them.

Off the Dog Leash in the Woods

Many people enjoy hiking through the woods, and they love taking their dogs along. If your dog is well-trained and can handle the dog park environment while off-leash, the woods are an option. Just remember that if your dog does bolt from you and refuses to come, there are no barriers to where he can go.

You know your dog better than anyone else. If you trust him to always come and stay when told, then this type of fun may be ideal for off-leash play. If you’re even slightly unsure, use a longer dog leash instead for more freedom without the worry.

Also, no matter where you take your dog, be sure you have an identity tag hooked to the dog’s harness or collar, and consider getting a microchip. If he does get lost, these increase the chances that he’ll be returned to you.