Before I address questions, let me warn you: Practice all initial training in an enclosed area. When you start off-leash, your dog may turn into a little comedian and bound away from you just for fun, so keep it safe until he’s reliable. You may be wondering many things at this point. Here are a list of questions I’m asked most often:
When will I know that I can trust my dog off lead? You should feel it. It’s never a smooth road in the beginning; some days you’ll get a quick and happy response, others will feel more like your first day of training. Stay cool though. Frustration is a sign of weakness and you’ll lose your dog’s respect. Keep your dog enclosed as you practice so that if she starts to act cocky, you can retreat immediately. And don’t hesitate to go back to Long Line or Teaching Lead® exercises for quick review.
It’s so frustrating when my dog ignores me. I know I shouldn’t, but I really felt like hitting my dog. Feeling like hitting is fine. Hitting your dog isn’t. It would erode your relationship and diminish his off-lead trust. If you’re really angry, walk away calmly. Remember, a graceful retreat is not a failure.
Can I use treats for the off-lead stuff? I don’t recommend it. Treats become very addictive and, as you’d soon find out, dogs taught with food are less responsive when the food’s not around. Training should focus your dog on you, so make yourself the treat!
My dog breaks every time I leave him in a “Sit-Stay” on his Flexi-Leash®. Increase your distance slowly. For example, if your dog gets up every time you walk out 15 feet, practice at 10 feet for a week, then 11 feet, 12 feet, and so on. In addition, don’t face your dog as you walk out. Walking backward invites a “Come” response. Instead, walk out confidently, back toward your dog, and pivot at your final destination. Remind him to “Stay.”
There are times when my dog crouches and barks at me. Don’t look at her. She’s trying to turn all your hard work into a game. Ignore her until her antics subside. Work her on the Teaching Lead® if she’s being impossible.
Don’t the lines get caught around trees and doors? Yes they do. Clip all lines to the buckle collar and never leave your dog unsupervised.
When I go to position my dog, she stays just out of reach. Watch that body language and negative eye contact. Being off the Teaching Lead® is nerve-wracking for both of you. Look at the ground as you return to your dog. If she’s still out of reach, kneel down and wait. When she approaches, take her collar gently, reposition, and work at close range.
My dog picks the end of the line up in her mouth and prances around me like a show horse. Clever girl. Try soaking the end of the line in Bitter Apple® liquid or Tabasco sauce overnight. If she’s still acting cocky, quietly go inside and watch her discreetly from the window.
When I place my dog on the short lead, I can’t get near her. You’ll need to work on your 10-foot line for another week or so. When you try the short lead again, place it on with your 10-foot line and correct her by stepping on it when she darts away.