If your dog is on a lead, pulling and begging to join in too it can be tempting to just let them go.
The obvious first rule is that you should only let your dog off their lead if you are sure they are going to come back. Secondly, you also want to know that they are going to behave well around people and other dogs, otherwise it is not a fun experience for anyone.
If your dog won’t come back to you in your garden they are certainly not going to come when called in a field or park where there are loads of interesting smells, other dogs or animals.
If this sounds like your dog, then it’s time to do some training:
It’s best to start in your garden or house. Call your dog’s name to get their attention then say ‘come’ or ‘here’ or choose another word that you’re going to use. Using a whistle can be good as you can’t whistle angrily! But bear in mind that you’ll always have to have it with you on walks. If your dog doesn’t come when called then you should turn round and walk or run away. When they do finally come then reward them with a treat or a game of tug or fetch.
As they get better at coming gradually phase out the treats, rewarding them only when they come really quickly. Once you are happy that your dog will come 80% of the time without treats then you are ready to let them off the lead in the big wide world.
Be aware of others. If your dog jumps up at a stranger, whilst you may know they are just being friendly, others don’t, especially if that person or child is terrified of dogs. Not everyone is a dog-lover and an encounter with an over enthusiastic pet, especially if they are large, can be really upsetting for some people.
Did you know: You can be prosecuted if your dog jumps up and knocks someone over or if they are out of control in a public place.
Don’t take your dog on its first walk without a lead to the middle of a busy park – you will just be setting them up to fail. Go to a nice quiet place where there are no distractions. As time goes on you can gradually go to busier places.
If something proves too much for your dog and they don’t come back try and resist the urge to keep shouting; you are just encouraging them to ignore you. Instead try running in the opposite direction, asking them to come and play with you. If this doesn’t work you’ll have to put them on the lead again, take them home and go somewhere less distracting the next day.
If your dog’s behaviour off their lead is a nightmare and you can’t see a way to sort it out then try taking them to a local training class or getting some professional help.
With patience and the right training even the most stubborn dogs can learn, so soon you’ll be able to watch your pet bound off into the distance, confident they will come back.