No one can underestimate the pleasures of a well-trained dog. In recent articles, we went over leash training techniques. Master these before you begin the exercises described in this chapter. As you work toward off-lead control, don’t get too bold. You’ll have less control. Your dog has a choice. If he doesn’t want to come and he’s free to run, you may be standing there helpless. Off-lead work means constantly reading your dog and being aware that your dog is reading you. To have control, you must look like a leader; be confident and self-assured, so your dog will want to trust your judgment.
To further your mental preparation, keep these three steps in mind:
Stay Cool: Frustration makes you look weak. As you wean your dog to off-lead commands, your dog may act confused and unresponsive. There is a reason. The guidance step of the command sequence is gone. You used to give the command and guide her with the lead. Now, something’s missing. It will feel awkward. Whatever her reaction, stay cool. Any corrections will add to her confusion. Jazz up your body language and use some pep talks to encourage her toward you.
Stay Focused: Eye contact communicates control. Your dog should be watching you. If the reverse is true, you’re the follower. To avoid this, make sure you’re working in a confined area so that you can ignore your dog when she disobeys. If you’re near your house, walk inside. A graceful retreat is not a failure.
Step Back: Your dog is responding off-lead beautifully until… someone rings the bell, a chipmunk runs across the drive, or another dog’s around; then everything’s out the window. You’re back to being ignored. Let me tell you a secret. Off-lead control takes time. If your dog is good, but still having trouble in a stimulating situation, use your Teaching Lead®. Using it helps control the situation while simultaneously conditioning more appropriate behavior.
Using Some New Equipment:
As you work toward off-leash obedience, you’ll be practising exercises that extend your control to farther and farther distances. Before you start, round up these items:
- Flexi-Leash®. This retractable leash is invaluable for advanced work. The longer, the better.
- Tree Line. You attach this line to a tree and practice distance command control. Purchase a canvas leash or make your own out of a clothes line attached to a dog clip, which you can purchase at a hardware store.
- Long Line. You’ll be using this for distance control with “Wait,” “Heel,” “Down,” and “Come” commands. Purchase a canvas lead or use a clothes line.
- 10-foot Line. Make this in the same fashion as the 30-foot line. You’ll use this line to reinforce house control.
- The Short Lead. This is an additional training tool. It should be long enough to grab, though short enough not to distract your dog.
- Grr. Attach all lines to your dog’s buckle 1 collar, not her training (choker) collar.
Off-lead dogs aren’t created overnight. Training is a step-by-step process. You’ll be using your new equipment to increase your dog’s focus, but don’t get itchy fingers. Just because she behaves well on her Flexi-Leash® one day doesn’t mean she’s ready for an off-lead romp the next. Take your time. Though I’ll explain how to train with each piece of equipment separately, you should use them interchangeably in your training exercises.