Incorporating an off-leash segment to your training routine will improve your dog’s ability to respond to commands. You both will be prepared for off-leash outings or unexpected situations. I was reading a post on the Life’s Abundance Blog. Dr. Sarah’s “Off Leash Training” refers to this as ‘vocal control’ when we are able to keep our dog’s attention on our voice rather than on distractions around us.
While you are training in voice control be sure to build into the sessions (gradually) each of the elements you might encounter while out with your pet where leashes are not required.
Make each of these training sessions into a game where he is continuously your focus. Modeling attention is one of the best ways to receive it.
Leash Free Training — Where Are We Going?
We love to take our pets everywhere our family goes such as hiking, camping, to the beach, to a friend’s, or to our family get-togethers. At each of these outings we encounter unique socialization challenges for our pets. This training will help you plan and prepare your pet to heed your commands regardless of the distractions.
Leash Free Training — How Can We Prepare?
As you introduce each of the following elements be patient and allow your pet a gradual socialization to each new element. When each element is mastered and your pet can respond to your verbal commands, focusing on you rather than the distraction, you are ready to add another small element to the mix.
- Start with two or three commands. When these are mastered, meaning your dog has repeatedly responded as you wish, then move to the off leash step.
- Stop/Wait! When you command ‘stop’ your dog should freeze right where he is. He should focus on you and wait for your next command.
- Come! When you command ‘come’ your dog should respond by coming to you.
- Sit/Heel! At this point you can leave him off-leash and extend the amount of time you request him to stay by your side gradually. When an emergency happens you might opt to put the leash on him at this point, but, during the training allow him to remain off-lead.
- Add an element of distraction into the training session. The following are examples. You may need to revise them depending on the outing you have planned. Perhaps go without your pet and observe the elements in the area. Sounds, sights, smells, startle elements (occasional loud noises), people, other animals, and so on.
- Add A Sound: Recreate the sounds you will expect to encounter during the off-leash outing. Introduce them one-by-one to allow your dog to become comfortable with them.
- Add Visual Similarities: Will there be people where you are going? Are they running, walking, sitting, and making sudden moves, and so on? Recreate the visual landscape one-by-one.
- Verbal Distractions: It is important to ensure your pet you are his focal point. Commands are relatively common. In the case where other pets and their owners are present where you are going for your off-leash outing, you will likely find other pet owners shouting out commands. This phase of off-leash training will isolate your vocal commands from those of other pet owners. TIP: It may be helpful to have someone your pet does not know, or at least not a regular part of your pet’s daily routine, for this part of the training. Because you will be implying he should listen to you and not the other person this may be confusing at first. We wouldn’t want him to assume he can ignore commands from others.
- Practice Outing: Take your dog out to a similar but less distracting place or find a less busy time to go to the location you have been preparing to go. As in each segment build upon the challenge a little at a time.
Leash Free Training – Here We Go!
Now you are prepared to take your dog out. This might be camping, to the beach, or to a friend’s house for a movie night. Any outing when your pet will be off-leash and need the ability to focus his attention on you in the event something unexpected startles or distracts him.
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