There are a lot of romantic images in my mind, and maybe in yours too, of a dog out for a walk with me in the countryside, free to explore and have a glorious time. (Those images don’t include the cases of poison oak I’ve gotten after my dogs DID run free…)
Other images in my mind include an off-leash dog responding quickly to my call to come or to stay, in any circumstances. I’ve actually achieved this to a considerable degree, especially the “Come” part. I do like to impress our guests when we are sitting on our front porch and LarryDog is down by the front gate, where he likes to keep track of passers-by. “Larry, Come!” results in him dashing up the path (over 50 yards), leaping the last flower bed and sitting next to me, looking eagerly to see if there will be a treat this time.
But he doesn’t always come. If he is busy barking, it’s later for me.
That’s why I was so pleased to discover the Really Reliable Recall method of dog trainer Leslie Nelson. (“Recall” is dog training language for “come when called.”) She has some very specific ideas that can make a huge difference. Here’s my article on the site about this:
As you can see from that page, I am really stoked about this!
Letting Your Not-Yet-Reliable Dog Loose?Not a Good Plan!
While you are working towards having a dog who comes to you when you call, you may be tempted to let her run free to get more exercise. It’s really safe to only let her run free in secure areas, such as a fenced yard or a dog park. This may seem obvious but many people do let their dogs loose when they don’t yet respond reliably. I much prefer to use a retractable leash before the dog is reliable. And even when your dog is quite reliable, I advocate a leash — long or short — for walks where there’s any busy traffic.
I like my dogs to know that going out into the world with me can mean two different things:
- Sometimes it may mean going to a place where they can run free, though since I’ve been lucky enough to have a lot of fenced space where I’ve lived, this option has rarely been a major priority for me. When my husband and I sold our llama ranch and moved into town some time back, we made a habit of taking our two dogs to the nearby National Forest for a day outing about once a week. We knew places that were free of poison oak.
- Much more often, it means my dog will be on a leash, usually a retractable one. I use a command word I made up myself (I bet many people have special words like this!) “Amble” meant simply keep the leash loose and if you do, you can go left or right, in front of me or behind me (and it was my job to switch hands with the leash as needed to keep from getting tangled up!)
If your dog doesn’t have a REALLY reliable recall, keep your off leash work in fenced areas, or to having a leash on when in areas of distraction or danger! And work on that recall… I do , even with my dogs as they get older.