Some dogs, as they mature, become dependable enough that when you are in a safe area, they can begin training for off-leash work.
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, our dogs miss out on lots of fun things to do.
An option is a remote training collar used strictly for those areas of fun, freedom and safety or, to prepare for that, to do long-line work with the eventual hope that your dog can someday be off leash.
Caveat: Most dogs will never be well-behaved enough to be off leash. Squirrels, cars, other dogs, cats, birds, bicycles, etc. 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 generally includes dogs with undependable recall, or breed hunting issues such as many terriers, hounds and sporting breeds. Fortunately, owners already know if these are theirs.
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 feet long; for your neighborhood in safe areas only 20 to 30 feet 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, affection and play with specific toys as a reward or other reward systems specific to your dog.
If he comes back immediately, lavish affection and give suitable reward. If not, then pull him in on the long line still calling and lavish affection but no other rewards.
Practice this three or four times in a row initially, then as much 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 3 minutes then try again. Soon, he will realize there is no bad consequence to returning immediately, but if they don’t return, they lose their freedom for a bit.
A reliable recall is a wonderful thing for fun and safety. Train this in a positive manner and your dog will earn appropriate freedom in safe places.
Abby Bird is owner of Alphadog Training Academy. AlphadogTrainingAcademy@gmail.com