The Invisible Leash

If your dog can control himself while he's off-leash, you have even more freedom and more opportunities to have fun together. Off-leash training gives you a companion who will choose to respond to your direction over distractions, one who will listen to you reliably and choose to follow your direction.

The transition from on-leash to off-leash control takes patience and time, and it means constantly reading your dog and being aware that your dog is also reading you. Because you have relied on the leash to communicate and reinforce your direction, its removal can be disorienting for both of you. For this reason alone, your off-leash goal will be a gradual progression, incorporating different types of leashes, and a blend of on-leash and off-leash exercises, until you are both confident in each other's responses. To have control, you must look like a leader, a team captain—confident, self-assured, and with a plan in mind. Only then will your dog trust your judgment.

Be sure to master the leash-training techniques in chapter 6 before you begin the exercises in this chapter. Of course, while this chapter is about the goal of off-leash training, you should continue to use some sort of containment during the process, especially when you are near a road or community. Throughout this chapter I will refer to leashes and other tools that can help you in your off-lead aspirations, and I will touch upon exactly when you can trust your direction without a leash. Find out how to get there in the pages ahead.

Practice Paying Attention 110

Hands-Free Control with a Short Lead 112

An Off-Lead Concept of NO 113

When Your Dog Breaks 114

Reinforce the Three Steps of COME 115

Know When to Trust Your Dog to COME 116

Avoid Overusing COME 117

Deal with Less-Than-Perfect Reactions to COME 118

Work Around Distractions 120

Train with a Retractable Leash 122

Work on a Ten-Foot Security Line 123

Use a Long Line 124

Emergency DOWN 125

Default Behavior 127

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