Some dogs mature and become dependable enough to begin training for off-leash work when you’re in a safe area. Most places in Beaufort County do not permit off-leash dogs, except if they are under strict owner control.
Since most of us can’t guarantee that, dogs miss out on lots of fun things to do.
One option is a remote training collar used strictly for those areas of fun and freedom and safety or to do long line work, with the eventual hope that your dog can someday be off the leash.
Caveat, MOST dogs will never be well behaved enough to be off leash. Squirrels, cars, other dogs, cats, birds, bicycles and other environmental obstacles will interfere with that.
“When will my dog be old enough to go off leash at the beach or out hiking?” I get that question a lot. “Old enough” does not imply maturity.
Each dog, like each child, matures at a different pace. Some can be off leash at 2 years old, some at 4 years old and some NEVER! The “never” group includes undependable recall and breed hunting issues like we see in many terriers, hounds and sporting breeds.
Working toward this goal is still worthwhile. Long line training allows your dog some distance and gives you control. It also gives you a great way to practice a safe recall in circumstances that are highly distracting. A beach or park setting is perfect with open areas and lots of distractions.
Get yourself a long training leash. For beach or park work this would be 40 to 50 ft. long; for your neighborhood in safe areas, only 20 to 30 ft. long.
Let your dog be distracted at the end of the line for a bit, then call him back with your best happy, high-pitched voice and play body language.
Include any pre-training done with a whistle, treats or affection, and play with specific toys as a reward or other reward systems specific to your dog. If he comes back immediately, give him lavish affection and a suitable reward. If not, then pull him in on the long line, still calling and lavish affection, but no other rewards.
Practice this three to four times in a row initially, then as many as 10 times to make sure it is effective. If he does come back immediately, let him go out again to the end of the line. If not, have him walk by your side for about three minutes, then try again.
Soon he will realize there is no bad consequence to returning immediately, but if he doesn’t return immediately he loses his freedom for a bit.
A reliable recall is a wonderful thing for fun and safety. Train this in a positive manner and some of your dogs will earn appropriate freedom in safe places.
Abby Bird is owner of Alpha Dog Obedience Training. firstname.lastname@example.org