Teaching your puppy to walk off leash
by Emily Larlham
You can teach your puppy to walk off leash safely by using a long line attached to the harness your puppy is wearing. Make sure you never attach the line to your puppy’s collar, as you can seriously damage his neck if he were to run and hit the end of the leash. Walk your puppy on the long line and before the puppy hits the end of the long line, call your puppy to you and feed him an amazing treat for coming back. When your puppy is walking within a distance from you that you like, praise him and feed or toss your puppy a treat. By doing this, you will be building walking close to you as the most reinforcing thing to do when on an outing. Call the pup back whenever he roams farther than the distance you wish him to stay in relation to you in the future when off-leash. If your puppy doesn’t have a great recall, you can try running in the opposite direction of the puppy to entice your puppy to want to chase you and follow you. Then reinforce the puppy with treats for following you.
Here is a video on how to train a recall to use for this exercise:
Puppy Recalls- Teaching come clicker dog training http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rjd99MlmqqI&list=UU-qnqaajTk6bfs3UZuue6IQ&feature=player_embedded
The long line will give the puppy the feeling that he is off leash, but also prevent him from ever learning the frightening habit of running away. You may have a puppy that always stays with you, but perhaps on one walk your puppy will see a rabbit and chase it without coming back when you call him. This one incident can be so reinforcing that it will be very hard to un-train in the future. If that same puppy was on a long line for safety, he would not get that extreme reinforcement for running away from you and would be much easier and faster to train to be off-leash around rabbits in the future. Only when your puppy is ready can you start walking him off leash in safe areas. The long line is basically like a safety net to prevent your puppy from learning to run away as well as keeping him out of danger. Make sure that if you are near a road, that there is not enough lead for the puppy to run into the road if he were to do so.
When your puppy is ready and in a safe environment you can let the long line drag behind him or take him off leash.