Training for Off-Leash

Training for Off-Leash

Many people want their dogs to be able to go off-leash for many reasons, e.g., a better workout for the dogs and being free from having to hold a leash are just but a couple of them.  People’s methods for training their dogs to run off-leash vary from person to person at least so we’ve found.  That being said, the following article is how we train our dogs to run off-leash.

It’s important to note that there is no cookie-cutter method for training dogs.  Dogs are quite unique and different from each other; therefore, they respond differently to different techniques.

To make this article an easy-read, we’ve outlined our strategy, for training dogs, using the following format.


  1. Basic Commands: We want to make sure that basic training has been established and our dog is proficient at performing basic commands along with hand signals (preferably), not just verbal-only commands.  The basic commands that we’re referring to are “come”, “sit”, “down”, “wait” and “stay”.  (Some people use either “wait” or “stay” and others use both depending on the situation they’re in.  For example, we use “stay” if the dogs are heeling and before the command “go” is given, which is the command that gives them permission to run ahead of us to explore if we will.  If they’re having fun ahead of us and we need them to stop where they’re at (prior to possibly giving them the command to “come” back), we say “wait” (some may use “stop”, we use “wait”).Note:  Dogs being proficient at understanding and operating with these basic commands will keep them safe while they’re running off-leash and keep we in control.
  2. Leash Training: While we’re busy working on training the dogs using basic commands (by the way, we constantly use these commands each day…they’re continually in use), we also are busy walking the dogs on leash making sure to walk them correctly [on leash] (big point here!).  We want to make sure that our dog heels next to us (a good measuring point is making sure that in your peripheral vision, you cannot see your dog next to you because he/she is far enough behind you to be heeling correctly).  Why do we do this?  This is a constant reinforcement that the humans are the pack leaders, not the dogs.  Chaos ensues if a dog has taken the position of Alpha over humans.  When this happens, other issues usually develop such as aggression issues (fear or dominant aggression).
  3. Trial Runs: After we have determined that their training has been accomplished and the dog is ready to start the next phase, before we just ‘let ‘em loose’, we do some trial runs first in a contained, fenced area.We take a long training leash or a retractable leash giving them the command to “go”.  When the dog is sniffing around about 15’ or so from us, we give it the command to “come”.  The response should be immediate.  Once the dog starts to walk toward us, we simply verbally praise it.  When it reaches us, we give it a hug and tell it to “sit”.  Why the extra command to sit you might ask?  We’re trying to keep the energy down to a low-roar.  We don’t want to get the dog so hyped up on praise that it gets flighty or loses focus.  It’s simply praise followed by a direct command to do something else (sit, stay, down, etc.).
  4. The Next Level: At this stage of the game, the dog is very responsive to us.  It knows that we’re the leaders and we mean what we say.  Since dogs always want to please and be an effective member of the pack, the dog will respond—gladly.Okay, so the last thing we do is do a mock run on a trail.  The dog is still on a retractable but we want to make absolutely sure that in the woods and with many distractions, the dog’s recall is what it should be.  It most always is at this stage but it never hurts to make absolutely certain that he/she is ready to launch.
  5. I’m Free! This is the point where all of our work is finished and our pup is trained.  This is our point where we can exhale, laugh and really bond with our dogs like never before!


Note:  Some may be wondering if it’s necessary to use a remote shock collar.  Sometimes, it is necessary to train a dog using the remote shock but only for training on a short-term basis, not long-term where they’re constantly having to wear it.  Once the dog is trained, it should be able to go without it.  Cases where the remote shock might be a necessary tool to use are for dogs with high prey drives, dogs that have been flight risks in the past (mostly speaking of rescues here)…just to name a couple of examples.