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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Piper is now 10 months old, and her training is going very well. However, I am having a hard time trusting her off leash. Yes, having her off leash isn't necessary, but it would definitely improve both of our lives. Her recall on a long line is very good, but I just don't know when or where to take the plunge and let her off leash. Any recommendations? Stories you'd like to share? I would very much appreciate some advice in this situation. :)
 

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Piper is now 10 months old, and her training is going very well. However, I am having a hard time trusting her off leash. Yes, having her off leash isn't necessary, but it would definitely improve both of our lives. Her recall on a long line is very good, but I just don't know when or where to take the plunge and let her off leash. Any recommendations? Stories you'd like to share? I would very much appreciate some advice in this situation. :)
I am by no means an expert, I currently let my 12 week old puppy run around without a leash every day, we do both leash and off leash training.

But if you haven't had her much off leash, I'd try going somewhere remote first to see how it goes, without many distractions around, and then work your way up.
And if her recall is good, it shouldn't be much of a problem. ^^

Someone else can probably give you a better answer though, much luck to you both.
 

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Find somewhere that is fenced, or largely fenced, and as safe as you can make it before you even try it. Some dogs transition fine. Some absolutely do not because the weight of the line is gone, they know it's gone and they just forget everything they appear to have known. I would avoid roads but I would absolutely NOT go somewhere super remote because you then risk things like 'bounded off after a deer and is now in 500 acres of wilderness'.

And for all that I like to let my dogs off leash and do so often and start early, Thud lost his 'puppy recall' (puppies have a hardwired desire to stick close for safety) somewhere around 6 months old and was on a long line a lot until he was like 3. Because prey-drive meant his ears turned off and his brain shut down, so while I'd start practicing in those safe areas, work up to wide open fields with few distractions and where you can see everything, and gradually add to it as her training and your confidence builds.

The other dogs didn't lose their recalls, but the other dogs are highly, highly, biddable and handler focused breeds or breed mixes with naturally close 'orbiting radius'. Ie: It's partially training but the dog's inherent nature there is a huge contributing factor. Trying to pry them off my ankles is usually harder than getting them to come back.
 

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yes the fenced area.. That way you are completely relaxed , you can focus on learning your dogs moment, key in on very tiny changes in them (this way you can learn to see them and understand them quickly, and see where they lead to and be able to be one step of head of them before your pup commits to them) you also learn how to use (you) not having that physical control to fall back on.. your voice your moment, your presence (trial and error, hit and miss type of learning) all in a safe environment.... until the two of you develop hands free team skills for having a place to practice them again and again and again. it's a nice feeling that the first time they see other animals, or people at a distance and go to bolt and you give the stop word and recall word ( I use OUT / here ) and it works lol ... keep practicing you long line skills ... I've used base ball fields that i can shut the dug out and other gates,, tennis courts. even small fenced in areas at parks that are used for skate board areas.. You figure out the day of the week and the time of day that people are not using them..
 

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I have no advice because I don't trust my dogs.... but

Some absolutely do not because the weight of the line is gone, they know it's gone and they just forget everything they appear to have known.
I read an article / blog post (that I'm sure I can't find now) about this issue. The author's solution was to buy a cheap long line that you don't mind sacrificing and gradually cutting it shorter as you practice going off leash. The idea is that by slowly making the leash shorter and lighter the dog doesn't notice an abrupt change from on to off lead.
 

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A word of advice about tennis courts - the surfaces are sandpaper rough. They're fine to walk around in or do obedience stuff but running/playing tends to result in bloody feet. Like I've used them for rally course set ups and not had issues but it takes about 3 ball tosses or 5 minutes of play without another dog before one or both have ripped up feet.
 

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Like the others have said, go to a remote area or a fenced-in spot first (like an off-leash dog park but go super early in the morning when nobody else is there). Be sure to bring her favourite treats/toys to help keep her close to you or to practice recall. Just do small distances at first - don't let her get too far away from you before calling her back.

Some dogs do better in a new location where they've never been before. They're more cautious and want to stick with you where it's safe. Others are the total opposite and want to explore everything! You probably know which your dog is.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thank you all for your advice! I should add that although Piper definitely has a prey drive, she has never even showed interest in small furry creatures when she's on a long line (I don't hold it). And she doesn't run up to dogs or humans--at least not while on a long line. She definitely is velcro, and if I ran the other way, or fell down, she'd definitely come back, but I don't want it to get to that point, and I'm worried she'd suddenly change if she realized there was no fence or leash to speak of. There is not really anywhere fenced that is nearby besides tennis courts, but like CptJack mentioned I don't think that'd be a good idea. Even the dog beach by my house (which is empty during off season) is not fully fenced. About 1/2 of it is fenced, but there is a large area that isn't that leads to the park, and then two sides that are just the lake. I think I'll just try it anyway, though, as this seems to be my best option. There is also a HUGE dog park but it is farther away, and I wouldn't want Piper acres away from me, especially with other dogs there.
 

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You could also test her a bit by taking the leash off for just a second to see how she reacts. It sounds like she'll be fine though.
 

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Most of the velcro dogs that I've seen: Pits, Dobbies, Aussies, maybe retrievers [?] don't tend to run off ... they run after something or to a distraction. My current Lab mix will chase after something for a few moments and then come back. If I see the distraction first [he does 'warn' me, by raising his ears] and call him before amygdala hijack [ prey drive], he may stop before running off. But, otherwise, he stays close, nearly a heel, stopping to sniff as desired.

I walk him off leash in the morning before the squirrels start running, and at this stage, I find off leash to require more of my attention than using a leash. On the other hand, he seems calmer and tired out after an off leash romp.

I guess my suggestion is to find out what distractions might entice Piper to run off. Then, teach her to look at you when you see the distraction or situation. ... Also, I taught Mikee to be prepared to Sit-Stay if a car comes by.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I know her biggest distraction would be a person she knows, so I think I'll practice calling her when they're talking to her and calling her and see how she reacts. She is definitely not the type to run off, but the idea the she COULD scares me. Oh well, I guess one of these days I'll just have to take the plunge and let her off!
 

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Having people look at her and talk to her may be OK. But, if anyone calls her or, especially, if they use her name that may be too much of a distraction at this level.

In beginning training classes, we may have some of the owners as silent distractions or obstacles when teaching "Come."
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Having people look at her and talk to her may be OK. But, if anyone calls her or, especially, if they use her name that may be too much of a distraction at this level.

In beginning training classes, we may have some of the owners as silent distractions or obstacles when teaching "Come."
I should've mentioned I have practiced this already but only inside, not outside! I practiced on a 40 ft lead with lots of distractions (including a deer) and Piper did super well! Even recalling after my mom called her! I was very impressed with her.
 

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Cool! I'm putting a stamp on Mikee's nose right now to send him to you ... to teach him to recall from squirrels and deer! ;-)
 

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Good for Piper! Have you heard of the 'Emergency Recall'? I'd teach that to her, too, as a back-up.

I doubt Michaela will ever be off-leash in an open area, her prey drive is too strong and when she hits a scent, everything else goes out the window, even on leash. She's also a bit DA (likes some dogs, dislikes most) so dog parks are out.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Cool! I'm putting a stamp on Mikee's nose right now to send him to you ... to teach him to recall from squirrels and deer! ;-)
Lol, it's mostly Piper, not me!

Good for Piper! Have you heard of the 'Emergency Recall'? I'd teach that to her, too, as a back-up.

I doubt Michaela will ever be off-leash in an open area, her prey drive is too strong and when she hits a scent, everything else goes out the window, even on leash. She's also a bit DA (likes some dogs, dislikes most) so dog parks are out.
Yeah, I was thinking of using a whistle? I think that may get her attention quickly.

It's hard to give advice without seeing your dog and how it acts around you, but if you have spent a lot of time together since it was a young pup, and have bonded, there's no way your dog is going to run away from you. However, if you've basically just fed the dog and kept it crated and on a leash it's entire life, there's a good chance it will.

I would say do what others have suggested and try it in a LARGE area that's fenced. Chances are you will be surprised at how close your dog will want you around. Ways to make that instinct even stronger is to hide behind a tree when its not looking and make them panic to try and find you. Also, if they wander and don't want to come back, don't chase, but do the opposite ran away in the other direction! Works every time.

Good luck, but PLEASE do work at it until the dog can be trusted to hang around. Their lives are SO much better than the dogs whose owners are "leash happy."
Piper does tend to stick close; I'm mostly worried about something random catching her attention and her forgetting I'm there! I am working at it for sure, as I know she'll be happier, but my first priority is making sure she'll be safe. A 40 or 60 ft lead is perfect in the meantime! I am SO looking forward to her being able to enjoy the full freedom of no leash, though!!
 

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Have you ever read the book "Really Reliable Recall"? Read that and get that work done FIRST. You MUST have a reliable recall with a dog off leash.

I do something different and I am certain I will be maligned for it but here goes. I do recommend the first time you try this option to have someone with you that knows dogs, can read dogs, can read YOUR dog and has done this before.

First, I make absolutely CERTAIN my dog knows his recall word. We have had him on a long line, in the house and so forth and there has been reinforcement. I have both shown my dog how to and because it has been positively reinforced, he wants to come when called. However, around 12-14 months old, most will develop "selective hearing" and recall can get sketchy. Here is where and when they need to learn they HAVE to come.

I go to a solidly fenced area and put an e-collar on my dog. I let them wander around.. and most will get quite far away. I call and at the same time stim the dog in the upper low range. The dog will turn and run towards me and I make it all VERY exciting to get to me FAST where I have something absolutely delicious (deli meat etc.). Getting to me is the biggest party ever.

I then rinse and repeat.. usually no more than 3 times is required.

After this my dog can be off leash, but that e collar is on. Typically a low stim level is all I have to set it on. Dog stays with me and now understands that along with how to and want to, there is also HAVE TO. Recall is not a discussion. It is required immediately. At this point, the dog is never off leash without the e collar on. It might be worth it to know that after that first lesson, RARELY is a stim necessary to obtain a recall. I live where it is very rural and that is an important factor.

Eventually with most dogs I have had, around 3-4 years old, the e-collar for off leash hiking and so forth is no longer needed unless I am concerned about a high prey drive situation (deer is the biggest worry since they go FAR and not like squirrels who go for the nearest tree). E collar goes on and it is a case of rather have and not need than to need it and not have it!

HOWEVER, even with all of this I leash my dog when walking in cities, busy town parks and places where there are a lot of cars and people and even other dogs. The dog is still a dog first and its own being and those situations are too busy, too distracting and too dangerous to have a dog off leash.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Have you ever read the book "Really Reliable Recall"? Read that and get that work done FIRST. You MUST have a reliable recall with a dog off leash.

I do something different and I am certain I will be maligned for it but here goes. I do recommend the first time you try this option to have someone with you that knows dogs, can read dogs, can read YOUR dog and has done this before.

First, I make absolutely CERTAIN my dog knows his recall word. We have had him on a long line, in the house and so forth and there has been reinforcement. I have both shown my dog how to and because it has been positively reinforced, he wants to come when called. However, around 12-14 months old, most will develop "selective hearing" and recall can get sketchy. Here is where and when they need to learn they HAVE to come.

I go to a solidly fenced area and put an e-collar on my dog. I let them wander around.. and most will get quite far away. I call and at the same time stim the dog in the upper low range. The dog will turn and run towards me and I make it all VERY exciting to get to me FAST where I have something absolutely delicious (deli meat etc.). Getting to me is the biggest party ever.

I then rinse and repeat.. usually no more than 3 times is required.

After this my dog can be off leash, but that e collar is on. Typically a low stim level is all I have to set it on. Dog stays with me and now understands that along with how to and want to, there is also HAVE TO. Recall is not a discussion. It is required immediately. At this point, the dog is never off leash without the e collar on. It might be worth it to know that after that first lesson, RARELY is a stim necessary to obtain a recall. I live where it is very rural and that is an important factor.

Eventually with most dogs I have had, around 3-4 years old, the e-collar for off leash hiking and so forth is no longer needed unless I am concerned about a high prey drive situation (deer is the biggest worry since they go FAR and not like squirrels who go for the nearest tree). E collar goes on and it is a case of rather have and not need than to need it and not have it!

HOWEVER, even with all of this I leash my dog when walking in cities, busy town parks and places where there are a lot of cars and people and even other dogs. The dog is still a dog first and its own being and those situations are too busy, too distracting and too dangerous to have a dog off leash.
I haven't, I'll look into that now, thank you this is very helpful!!

I have been looking into e collars!! I just need to find a trainer in my area (Chicago) who is both a good trainer but also uses e collars/isn't 100% positive. I was thinking about the mini educator, what do you prefer?
 
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