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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
My dog listens fine on a dragging lead. I tried removing it once before, but reliability decreased, so I put it back on, and have been doing some focused "off-leash" reliability training. How do you know when your dog is ready to have it removed? All our fencing is barbed wire for the cows, (except for the goat field, and I don't trust the billy with her lol) so I can't put her in a big fenced area to test it.
 

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If you're having to ask then it's not time. There's dogs that you just know won't take off, in my experience it's when they are about 8 years old 🤣
I keep an Ecollar on my dogs for added security after losing my Pit Bull after she chased a pronghorn far into the desert, I won't make that mistake twice.
 

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Honestly? It's a leap of faith at some point. But I guess the more important question is this: What additional positive experience are you hoping/expecting that your dog will gain from being totally 'off leash'? If your dog is getting sufficient mental + physical exercise, then I don't see the absolute necessity to push beyond your comfort level & allow full off leash freedom in an unsecured area. What's the harm if she has to drag a leash? or be on a long line? Depending on your immediate vicinity & environment, pushing the card & potentially 'losing' her could be a huge deal, or not much of a problem in the least (as long as she wanders home at some point) So... it's pretty much up to you. If you're worried - keep her on leash & don't worry about depriving your dog of some sort of magical dog experience. As long as she's happy, healthy & you provide proper enrichment experiences that allow her to 'dog' from time to time, then I think it's all good.
 

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Yep I second BKaymuttleycrew. For the dogs under my care, "off leash" is simply dragging a long line. Have you tried to clip on a traffic handle to mimic the effect of her dragging a leash? I've heard that working for some other dogs.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Honestly? It's a leap of faith at some point. But I guess the more important question is this: What additional positive experience are you hoping/expecting that your dog will gain from being totally 'off leash'? If your dog is getting sufficient mental + physical exercise, then I don't see the absolute necessity to push beyond your comfort level & allow full off leash freedom in an unsecured area. What's the harm if she has to drag a leash? or be on a long line? Depending on your immediate vicinity & environment, pushing the card & potentially 'losing' her could be a huge deal, or not much of a problem in the least (as long as she wanders home at some point) So... it's pretty much up to you. If you're worried - keep her on leash & don't worry about depriving your dog of some sort of magical dog experience. As long as she's happy, healthy & you provide proper enrichment experiences that allow her to 'dog' from time to time, then I think it's all good.
Well, it would be more convenient for me to have her off leash while doing chores on the farm. It would also be more fun for her if she could hike off-leash with me. And dragging leads are such a hassle, they get stuck on things, or tangle in barbed wire, or scare the horses (I guess they think its a snake lol). I definitely will not do it until I'm sure- as you said, it could turn out to be a huge deal. However, I think in my situation, and with a wicked-high energy border collie/spaniel mix, the benefits outweigh the risks- once she's trained.
Thanks for the input, it's been helpful! :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Have you tried to clip on a traffic handle to mimic the effect of her dragging a leash? I've heard that working for some other dogs.
Interesting, I've actually never thought of that- I'll try it, thanks!
 

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i would never have a drag lead on a dog in the vicinity of horses, that has risks to both dog and horses more than just the dog taking off

a traffic lead might be helpful and fairly safe on a harness, would not use on a collar though for trip hazard

like said above, its a leap of faith but one that should be tempered by need and benefits to be off leash

My prior dog, I introduced to off leash on a horse farm with four board fencing. A good visual barrier but not a physical barrier. He took well to that and came when called even in the large pastures. However, he was never allowed to join us for a hack out on the trails because the risk was not worth the reward (he stayed in a cozy barn stall).
But I misjudged his reliability of staying within the visual boundaries of the board fence as being true come-when-called reliability. I let him off leash while hiking a winter evening in a very large urban park and he took off after a deer. I was lucky and he ended up finding his way to a police horse barn (probably from scent) and I got a call to pick him up safely the next day but it was a brutally cold night and powerfully scary to me to wait through.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
i would never have a drag lead on a dog in the vicinity of horses, that has risks to both dog and horses more than just the dog taking off
Okay, I realize that my comment was vague. I always keep a barrier between the horses and the dogs, when we are with the horses. (with the cows I don't because she helps a bit with herding, but then she doesn't need a drag lead, she doesn't want to go anywhere.) But if the horses are on one side of the fence, and she's on the other, and they see the line in the grass, they freak out, which isn't fair to them or safe. Because of this, if we're around the horses, she has to have a handheld leash, which is, of course, a pain. That is (part of) why I want to improve her off leash- so that when dealing with the horses, I don't have to leave her inside. (to further clarify, it is technically the farm of a relative, so I can't really make any major changes)
 

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The barbed wire would worry me too. That stuff can be nasty and has done serious damage to dogs who hit it at speed. We also lost Sam for over an hour once most likely because his drag line got tangled when he went off the trail and out of sight. He made his way home but sans harness or drag line - never found them, either, though we combed the area he disappeared in. We assume he got tangled, eventually backed out of the harness, but by the time he succeeded he no longer knew where my wife was (since she was moving around looking for him - I was home recovering from surgery) and backtracked instead. Our local convenience store spotted him before he showed up back at our apartment, because we walk him down there frequently for quick errands, lol. He's a good boy, even if he scared us half to death.

On the other hand, loose dogs and horses can be a scary combo too. I remember watching a jousting show at a local Ren Faire one year only for someone's Boston to get loose and start tearing around the ring, hassling performers and their horses. Thankfully those horses were darn near bombproof but I was convinced I was going to see a dog get killed that day. It was "bring your dog" day, but that little guy had no business being there, he was clearly amped up and freaked out.

Sorry, rambling a bit. If you're good at following online classes and have the money to spend on it, Susan Garrett's Recaller's course is very thorough and builds strong recall through lots of games. Very much a 'you get what you put into it' scenario though, so it's not a great choice if remote, self-motivated training doesn't work for you. Control Unleashed is a far cheaper option since it's just a book, but also has a lot of valuable information on games and training to improve off-leash behaviors in varying scenarios, especially ones that are stimulating or stressful. It's aimed at sports dogs initially but helpful to just about any dog. Puppy Program is better than the original - it's more organized, essentially - but she has a new edition "from Reactive to Relaxed" that is the most up to date. Don't have that one personally though.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
The barbed wire would worry me too. That stuff can be nasty and has done serious damage to dogs who hit it at speed.
Definitely. We did extensive training with our dog- she got a few minor (thankfully) scratches when we first got her, but because of the way the wires are spaced, there's a pretty low probability of her getting seriously cut. Also, in many areas, it's electric, and she hears the noise and avoids it entirely. I'd encourage anyone with a farm dog to do rigorous training with barbed wire fences.
Wow, what you said about that Boston is crazy- yeah, you really can't be to careful around horses. I don't plan on ever working her up to being loose with them- she is always going to be separated, I've heard too many bad stories to do otherwise.
I had actually heard of recallers, but had never had it recommended to me, I was a bit unsure. I might check it out now. I'll look at those books too, Thanks!
 

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My personal experience with Recallers was that it was too expensive for what it is, but I also don't do self-directed online classes well so I can absolutely believe it's a better value for some people than it was for me. I've since focused on Fenzi classes which I tend to find better value for the price, even if I don't always finish every course or work through things linearly. I recommend it because I do think the games are effective and practical, but it's a YMMV thing. I also don't know what she's charging for it currently - I did it several years ago at this point so there may have been major changes in the meantime.

Control Unleashed talks a lot about fearful/reactive dogs, but it's also a lot of really great advice for dogs who are excitable and environmentally focused. Many of the techniques translate well between anxiety and overarousal in my experience.
 

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I've heard some good things about the Absolute Dogs programs, too. They have one going on called their 'Sexier than a Squirrel' challenge & also a Whistle Recall that's on sale right now. It's all game-based training. I've not actually bought one, so far, but like I said, I've heard pretty good things.
 

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There's always going to be a risk...only you can decide if you want to take it. I, too, live in a rural area, and my dog is off leash pretty much all the time. The leash only comes out when we go to town for agility classes. But, he's almost 6 years old, he's a herding mixed breed (i.e. velcro dog), he is incredibly food motivated, and he is not prone to wander.

I probably wouldn't trust him to the extent I do now until he was at least 2 years old, and even then I would have kept a much closer eye on him. About a week after we moved to our place in the country, I forgot I let him outside, panicked 3 hours later, ran outside, and found him sleeping under a tree. I knew then he was probably pretty safe off-leash, and that he didn't really have any desire to wander too far.

In addition to working on recall, always make sure to reward for voluntary check ins. I love it when my dog makes a good choice like that all on his own! I also found that recalls were much more fun for the dog when I didn't do them very much...they can quickly become a boring drill. Like others have said, find recall games. Hide and seek, round robin, keep away.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
There's always going to be a risk...only you can decide if you want to take it. I, too, live in a rural area, and my dog is off leash pretty much all the time. The leash only comes out when we go to town for agility classes. But, he's almost 6 years old, he's a herding mixed breed (i.e. velcro dog), he is incredibly food motivated, and he is not prone to wander.

I probably wouldn't trust him to the extent I do now until he was at least 2 years old, and even then I would have kept a much closer eye on him. About a week after we moved to our place in the country, I forgot I let him outside, panicked 3 hours later, ran outside, and found him sleeping under a tree. I knew then he was probably pretty safe off-leash, and that he didn't really have any desire to wander too far.

In addition to working on recall, always make sure to reward for voluntary check ins. I love it when my dog makes a good choice like that all on his own! I also found that recalls were much more fun for the dog when I didn't do them very much...they can quickly become a boring drill. Like others have said, find recall games. Hide and seek, round robin, keep away.
My dog's a border collie mix, she does like to stay close, but I'm so afraid I won't be able to call her back from a potentially dangerous situation. There's always the possibility that the "mix" will take over too, I suppose, lol
I will start rewarding for voluntary check-ins, I had heard that, but I guess never really did it much. Thanks!
Is round robin the one where you call the dog back and forth between a bunch of people?
 

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My dog's a border collie mix, she does like to stay close, but I'm so afraid I won't be able to call her back from a potentially dangerous situation. There's always the possibility that the "mix" will take over too, I suppose, lol
I will start rewarding for voluntary check-ins, I had heard that, but I guess never really did it much. Thanks!
Is round robin the one where you call the dog back and forth between a bunch of people?
Yes, round robin is getting called by a bunch of different people, generally people in your family/household. I guess I don't care very much if my dog fails to respond to a stranger's recall, haha. We used to like to run around and kind of play "tag" with it. It works better if you have 3+ people, because a smart dog will figure out that he can just bounce back and forth between two people for treats, regardless of whether a recall cue has been given or not.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Yes, round robin is getting called by a bunch of different people, generally people in your family/household. I guess I don't care very much if my dog fails to respond to a stranger's recall, haha. We used to like to run around and kind of play "tag" with it. It works better if you have 3+ people, because a smart dog will figure out that he can just bounce back and forth between two people for treats, regardless of whether a recall cue has been given or not.
Thanks!
 
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