"What if they see a deer?"
"Won't they just run away?"
"Really, you can do it in 10 days?"
To be clear, we would never advocate unleashing a pet without the proper skills to be off leash. Please contact us for assistance - We're happy to help!
When you're responsible for the safety of your pet, you tend to heir on the side of caution, as a safe dog owner. It's responsible. It allows full control of the situation, and it really ensures your dog is physically attached to you at all times. But, at the end of the day, controlling every situation is not always possible- and we love preparing for the unexpected. Uncle Jim comes over and lets the dog out, your son's friend who is a little bit flaky forgets to latch the gate, and your Mom falls walking your dog, dropping the leash. Accidents happen! We want being off leash to be normal to your puppy, not a one off event that happens when there's an exciting chance to escape.
Basic recall skills are just as important as learning to be a social dog, and perhaps even more important than learning basic obedience. You're inevitably going to end up in one of these "out of control" situations in life, and we want you to be prepared. I refer to the age before adolescence as the "duckling stage". These little darling duckling puppies that you've had since they were young follow you everywhere without a second guess or thought about moving in another direction. This, my dear friends, is the time to start teaching your puppy that being around you is the BEST place to be.
Does your puppy check in with you every 10 feet on the trail? Praise, and treat.
Is your puppy just an expert with the cue "Come!" in the house? Praise, and treat.
Did your puppy get slightly insecure about a new experience and come running back to you? Praise, and treat.
When your puppy turns into a 6 month old adolescent, pushing boundaries and exploring alternate paths to get what they want, you're not going to want to introduce off leash for the first time without proper precautions. Boundary pushing, and a newfound off leash habit is a recipe for a bit of a disaster. We run a popular off leash program, to introduce this concept in a safe, reliable way. This program offers: 1. Consistency, 2. Repetition, and 3. Fun!
From managing the environment (stopping any bolting or distracting behavior with a long lead line attached while we practice) to creating positive associations and plenty of repetitions returning to their human, we create consistency in recall for 2 weeks. My dog will be less motivated to chase that squirrel than they will returning to me if (and only if) they receive plenty of rewards for returning to my side. Alternatively, taking natural drives into consideration will lead us to how many repetitions will be needed, what environments we will need to practice in, and what we will need to desensitize to lead to an off leash trained dog. That being said, in any environment, we can't always predict what your pup will be most interested in. So, starting with some long-lead training is the safest way to complete this training. Alternatively, practicing in a fenced in area can help too!
We run an off leash course at least once monthly. We'd love to help with any pup whose owners are struggling with off leash recall.
***DISCLAIMER: Off leash skills are important for all puppies in training, but we feel that these sessions should be overseen by a professional whenever possible, if your puppy is older than 12 weeks, if your puppy has ever bolted away from you, or if you have an adult dog. If a dog has gained rewards for bolting away from you, that is a much different and more structured process. We need to be careful to work through your dogs natural drives, desensitize them to stimuli as needed, and monitor their personal reactions to stimuli around them.***