Written by:  The Dog Adventure

Controlling your dog during walks can be tricky. There are so many new sights and smells, which can make them easily distracted even if they’re well-trained. This makes off leash training even harder since you have to put a lot of trust in your dog. So, here are some tips for how to train your dog to walk off leash.

When is it Okay to Walk Your Dog Off Leash?

Unfortunately, your dog can’t be off leash on a regular basis. Most public areas require that you keep your dog leashed for your dog’s safety and the safety of those around you. However, there are a few exceptions.

Fenced-in areas are great places for dogs to walk off-leash. This often includes backyards and dog parks. Also, if you have a private property, such as a farm or campground, your dog can be off-leash as long as they stay on your own property. Many places have designated off-leash spaces for dogs as well. 

So, it’s always important to check your area’s leash laws before letting your dog run free. When in doubt, keep your dog leashed for safety reasons.

How to Train Your Dog to Walk Off Leash: Step-by-Step Tips

Walking a dog off leash requires plenty of patience and preparation. Before you even get started, you should always make sure their identification tags and microchip are up to date. That way, if something goes wrong and your dog gets lost, it’ll be easier for them to come home.

Step 1: Establish Good Behaviors Overall

Your dog should already behave well before they are allowed to walk off leash. If your dog has a mind of their own or if they are easily distracted, then you should work on basic training before moving on to off leash walking.

The most important thing your dog should know is to come when called. This can be done by using treats or a clicker as positive reinforcement. Move a little bit away from your dog and extend your hand to them, encouraging them to come to you. As soon as they come closer, reward them for good behavior.

Then, repeat these steps, but move a little further away each time. Also, make sure you use a consistent command, such as “come.” Once they get the hang of it, you can practice it in areas where there are distractions, such as toys, people, and other dogs. 

Some dogs are much quicker to learn this command than others, but consistency, patience, and positive reinforcement can make all the difference. Always make sure your dog listens well before you try taking them off leash.

Step 2: Practice on a Longer Leash

The next step is to work on loose leash walking with your dog. This means that your dog can walk nicely without you gripping tightly onto their leash. Using a longer leash can be a great way to test how your dog will behave with a little extra freedom.

While walking your dog on a loose leash, be sure to use your “come” command every time they try to wander off or pull. This should be practiced in an area with very few people. If you’re in a busy public area, you should have better control over your dog’s leash.

Step 3: Practice in a Fenced-in Area

Once your dog learns to walk on a leash without you having to pull them back or correct their behavior much, then you can move on to off leash walking. Yet, you should still start in a fenced-in area like a dog park or yard just to be safe. 

 Make sure you bring lots of treats on this adventure because being off leash can be exciting and overwhelming for some dogs. Practice some commands before you let your dog run off and do their own thing. Dog parks are often full of distractions, so this will be the ultimate training test.

Step 4: Take Control of Your Dog When Problems Occur

Only walk your dog off leash if you feel completely comfortable with their behaviors. Even if it’s a designated “off leash” area, it’s not safe for untrained dogs to roam free. Complete all the following steps before letting your dog off leash at the dog park or walk leash-free on a hike.

 Yet, no matter how well-trained your dog is, problems can still occur. You should always be ready to take control of your dog if something goes wrong. If they run off to chase a squirrel or get into trouble with an unfamiliar dog, stay calm. Use your “come” command and be ready to reward them when they listen.

 If you can’t get your dog’s attention, do not chase them. Chasing is often a fun game for dogs, so you running to get them might only make them run faster. Instead, it can be beneficial to turn away from your dog. Act like you’re heading home without them and don’t give them the attention they’re seeking. This often makes dogs more likely to come to you than chasing does.

No matter how long it takes your dog to listen, make sure you praise them when they do. Showing frustration will only make them less likely to behave again in the future. Positive reinforcement is the best way to help them understand you. If at any point you feel like your dog is not behaving well off leash, you might want to revisit the earlier training steps.

Which Dogs Should Never Walk Off Leash?

If your dog is unpredictable or difficult to control no matter how much training they receive, then off leash walking might not be for them. Not every dog can safety walk without a leash, and that’s okay. It’s important for you to pay attention to your dog’s behaviors and cues to decide whether or not they should walk freely outside.

Dogs with predatory instincts, dogs with aggression toward others, and dogs with anxiety might have troubles walking off leash. These dogs can often be uncontrollable even with lots of training. So, you should always take responsibility for your dog. It’s up to you to ultimately decide if your dog can walk off leash or not. 

Final Thoughts

Dogs can be unpredictable, but with enough training, you should be able to teach them to walk without a leash. Just remember that in most places, your dog should be on a leash no matter how well-behaved they are. It’s up to you to know when it’s appropriate to let your dog roam free. Always pay attention to leash laws and to your dog’s behaviors before trusting them to go outside without a leash.