Having your dog off leash is a major responsibility. In fact, it’s a responsibility that most dog owners aren’t prepared for. Your dog can’t simply be released and then be expected to automatically obey blindly like those dogs that you see on television. The real world is full of dangers and unexpected obstacles that could easily injure your dog, or worse. Know that your leash is the lifeline that keeps your dog (and others) safe when you’re away from home. Unless your dog can follow these five rules for off leash behaviour in a perfect fashion, keep the leash firmly attached.
*1. Make sure that your dog is well socialised before they are trusted off leash. A well socialised dog can be trusted, while on leash, to get along with everyone that they encounter. This means that you need to know how your dog is going to react to toddlers, small children, older children, other adults, other dogs, wildlife, and toys that belong to others. Your dog needs to be just as comfortable around the three year old who starts crying as they are around the elderly person using a cane.
*2. Make sure that your dog obeys everyone, every time, for every command that is given. Having dogs off leash means that you trust your dog to behave perfectly. Regardless of who is issuing the commands, your dog needs to obey the command flawlessly, and without hesitation. If your dog’s obedience isn’t perfect, keep him on the leash until you have complete control over him at all times.
*3. Make sure that your dog is practiced at being off the leash before you remove it. Off leash behaviour requires tailored training and should not be attempted for the first time in a public place. Make sure your dog is obedient off their leash in your own backyard before taking any chances elsewhere.
*4. Make sure that your dog is well behaved in public. Without your commanding her otherwise, your dog must be trusted to not jump on other people or harass them, even if they have food. Your dog must likewise know that other dogs are to be left alone, and that toys that are lying around aren’t theirs to be played with. Without a leash to pull your dog back, this understanding is vital for your dog’s safety off leash.
*5. Make sure your dog knows to stay close to you at all times. Having dogs off leash means that you must trust your animal to stay at your side constantly. Unless you are playing fetch, your dog should know to stay at your side and keep pace with you while you walk. Even when fetch is being played, your dog must know to retrieve the toy and return to you immediately.
These rules are vital to keep your pet safe when off leash. If you can’t trust your dog to do all five of these commands at all times, keep the leash attached and practice until you know he will obey perfectly.