Offleash Training

The secret ingredients for off-leash success lie in the foundation you set during fundamental obedience training. Those ingredients are consistency in reinforcing patterns and commands, distraction-training distance commands, and simple respect for your relationship. Maturity on the dog's part, coupled with these other ingredients, is the final piece of the puzzle. Remember that you can't rush maturity.

For most of your basic obedience • command teaching and reinforcing, you are physically close to your dog (typically from immediately adjacent to six feet around). Beginning the off-leash process involves increasing the distance from which your dog will respond to your commands. Practice your distance commands (front SITS and DOWNS), and perfect them on a six-foot leash at that distance. Your dog should be able to do this discipline-building command set at all angles around her, with leash in your hand, with no corrections, and with distractions.

Gradually work farther away from the dog, reinforcing commands the first time using the same verbal pattern NO and re-command if necessary. Increase the distance in two-foot increments. If your dog begins to fail repeatedly, decrease the distance two or four feet and work on the commands from all points around your dog.

When practicing your off-leash • training exercises, you must approach your dog with the same confidence you would in a regular session; otherwise, he will notice a bigger difference and play on that weak-leadership portrayal.

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