Taking off

I've never had a runaway.  The whole idea of removing a dog's leash and having them charge off into the distance is a bit strange to me, I have to admit.  Of course there are reasons why a dog might feel the need to take a small run around but to actually leave and not come back?  Strange.  I rarely meet dogs that will really run away and not come back.  But many people think that their dog will and that is caused by having never taken the leash off.  Leashes need to come off so that you have a confidence about taking it off.

I know what you are thinking "Sherri, there are leash laws."  Yep, and being the rebel that I am, that law needs to be broken now and again.  How will you ever know if you don't do it?  You will always have that fear of taking the leash off if you've never tried.  When we lived back in Canada on two acres surrounded by farm fields it was much easier to know.  My dogs were always off leash; only on a rare  occasion did they have a leash on.  Here in Southern California it is much harder to take it off.

As well as a rebel I am a safety freak so when the leash comes off there are many security protocols followed.  The first is proximity to traffic.  Traffic can mean the death of a runaway.  Next is other dogs, are there any around?  If there are and they are not with you then don't do it.  Don't take the leash off when there is a good chance that your dog is going to charge off to go visit.  People who have dogs on leash do not appreciate off leash dogs running at them.  I know that I surely don't.  So when you first start taking it off, do it in a very secure area.  School yards are probably your best bet.  Yes I know, most school yards are off limits to dogs but there are times when no one is there.  Just be sure to bring your poop bags and pick up.

Practice, practice, practice.  Practice makes perfect right?  Wrong.  With regards to a recall (calling your dog to you) it makes it reliable but not perfect.  Dogs are dogs and there will always be that one thing that a dog cannot resist.  Keep your dogs attention on you.  If they are a retriever type, hype up that ball, give it magnetic powers.  Bring your best treats ever and use them when your dog comes on their own as well as when you call them.  

Slowly introduce distractions at a great distance so that you and your dog can succeed.  As dogs age most lose the draw to go to see every dog.  Luke has never lost this, he is very social and it was a struggle when he was young. Even if a dog was on the other side of a football field he'd go for it.  That is until a mature white German Shepherd female gave him a lesson he'd never forget.  He ran far across a field to see her, in his young and foolish ways he ran straight at her.  He should have made an arc as he approached out of respect but he didn't do a whole lot of thinking in his younger days.  As he got to about 4 feet in front of her she charged him.  Scared the crap out of him and he came running back in a flash.  I smiled knowing that it had been a very good lesson for him.

Using other friend dogs helps when you first start letting your dog off.  Dogs will stay with dogs, especially if they are playing.  Not too often will a dog leave a pack of playing dogs simply to run off.  Of course there are dogs that need to run and the desire to run is stronger than anything in the beginning, before you have a bond.  For those dogs, hook'm up and go for an urban mush or buy a hook up for your bike.  But be sure to let them indulge in running with you.

As far as dogs that run out of doors?  Well, for that you need to teach boundary training.  You train your dog that they never, ever go out trained doors without being asked.  This is probably one of the best things that you will ever teach your dog.  Again, there will be times when they feel the need to break the boundary but with age and training you can get it to where you don't panic every time the door is open.

Dogs that run away have had no training.  With proper positive reinforcement training you will be helping to build the bond that creates your relationship.  Once you have a relationship, you're in and you are where your dog wants to be.


  1. I think you do have to consider breed. Sighthounds & bird dogs are slightly different than other dogs (I've got a field english setter). It's not impossible to train a really reliable recall with them, but you have to work much, much, much harder than with most dogs.

    It's also a bit different when you adopt a dog as an adult; the dog might have a long history of running off & having a great time. It again takes a lot of training & filling up the rewards bank of sticking close to the handler, to overcome prior great experiences of self-rewarding by going off to hunt or explore on their own.

    Oh & btw, some sighthound & bird dog rescue organizations put it in their adoption contracts that the dogs must never be offleash except in fully fenced areas. Many of these dogs end up in rescue because they ran away.....

  2. I completely understand. As a dog trainer I have worked with dogs that should never be off leash. This was an "in general" blog like most of my blogs unless otherwise stated.

    It can take a great deal of work to create a good enough connection to feel comfortable taking a leash off. This is one reason a sight hound is not for me.


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