The best way to reinforce the bond you have with your dog is by going on regular, frequent walks. It’s good for both of you. Regular walks strengthen your relationship, get you two closer, and gives both of you some exercise. It gets both of you out of the house and keeps your dog healthy and stress-free. It also gives you a great opportunity to teach and discipline him.
Now, what you also want is to give your dog as much freedom and space as possible. Of course, you don’t want him to run off and get lost. So, one thing you can strive for is teaching your dog how to walk with you without a leash. This allows both of you to spend time together outside in a completely new way and gives you a lot more freedom than you had before.
1. Teach him some basic commands
The first thing you need to consider when teaching your dog how to walk without a leash is whether he knows some basic commands. These are important not only because they help you actually teach him how to walk without a leash, but also because you yourself learn how to train your dog. You get to learn how he responds, how stubborn or obedient he actually is.
So, go with the basics. You want him to learn how to wait, sit down, stand up, shake, and how to come when you call him. You also want him to be properly socialized, just in case.
2. Call and reward is very important
Your dog will undoubtedly get distracted once you go out for a walk. You never want to lose sight of him, nor do you want him to get so far away that they end up getting confused or scared. You need to know that when you call your pet, no matter how far, he will start coming back instantly. Practice this as much as you can, even if you think your dog mastered it. Trust us, this is the most important command your dog needs to know if you want him to walk by you without a leash.
To practice, let him run as far as he can without you. Then, call him back to you, and give him a treat. Basic positive reinforcement. Do this regularly, an hour per day, for at least a couple of weeks. Then, slowly wean the dog off the treats, let this command become instance, and let him work without a treat. And remember, even if he is old, you can teach an old dog new tricks much more easily than you think.
3. Teach through games in a safe environment
When starting out, you want to have fun, but to also be safe. So, go to a park that is relatively quiet (or at a relatively quiet time) and as far away from traffic as possible. Without too many distractions your dog will be able to stay focused and calm.
You should hold the lead, but don’t actually have any control over him. Leave things loose for 10 minutes at a time, and then see if your dog is going to respond. In other words, keep the lead on, but figure out how much control you have over the dog when you’re not using the actual lead. Then, if the dog is responding properly, extend that time period. This will take some time, especially when we consider how long basic training lasts (if you haven’t got that over with).
You also want to play hide and seek with your dog as often as you can. You want to see how your dog responds without visual contact, only hearing your voice. This is very important if you start walking around areas that have a dynamic environment (i.e. – lots of trees and such) that obstructs the dogs view. And, per usual, give your dog a treat once he finds you.
4. Crete a safety net
Of course, a big part of why people avoid teaching their dogs to walk without a leash is the fear of them running away, or losing control and getting into trouble. Now, this should not, and will not happen, if you do things properly. And what will make the process easier and less nerve-racking is getting a good safety net? If your dog really does get lost, you know you will be able to find him.
So, one of the things that will give you at least some peace of mind is getting some identification item. For example, get a strong collar with an ID tag like the ones at PetIDTag, and register your dog as soon as possible. The ID tag should contain your name, phone number, address, and even e-mail address. Furthermore, get your dog a chip soon too. You will have much more confidence keeping him off the leash if you have this kind of safety net behind you.
5. Puppy steps
Finally, know that this all takes time. Taking baby steps is vital because biting off more than you can chew will just get you into trouble. Training him for hours on end will get you both burnt out, and it will simply not be fun. And if you set very high goals for a very short timeframe, you will start to get annoyed and disappointed and trust us, your dog will feel this. Don’t just decide to go on a multi-mile hike without his leash the very first day you take it off. Rather, go on your usual right, and with each passing day, try to walk a bit longer, and a bit further.
If you want to teach your dog how to walk without a leash, you need to be thorough and prepared. First, teach him some basic commands. Then, be sure that he always comes back to you when you call him. Training can last for some time now, but you don’t want to risk the dog getting lost or side-tracked when it’s off the leash. You need total obedience, otherwise, may get into trouble. Getting a good safety net, like a proper ID system, can give you some more security when taking care of your pooch.
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