Walking your dog without a leash doesn't only require confidence in your dog and his ability to come back, but also knowing the rules!
Teaching your dog to walk without a leash
Before even thinking about letting your dog off-leash, it is necessary to be sure that he comes back and therefore to teach your dog the recall order!
At what age can you walk your dog without a leash?
Your dog can learn to walk without a leash very early: you can indeed start to consider it as soon as you pick him up from the breeder!
Beyond his age, you will especially need to make sure he is able to come back when you call and that he is safe during his first steps – we'll talk about both right afterwards!
Learning the recall technique
Recall – your dog's ability to come back to you – is one of the first things you teach your dog. It's this learning that will determine your ability to let him off the leash later on!
To teach your dog to come back, here are our three steps:
- Start with some small exercises at home. Clap your hands, say your dog's name and give him an order – “come here”, “here”, “heel” (always choose the same one). If he answers your call, use this opportunity to congratulate and reward him. Make it fun so your dog will consider this a game.
- It's time to go outside! The first day of training can be scary because it's hard to consider how he'll react. Our advice: start out in a large, enclosed space such as a big, private, fenced garden. Limit distractions at first, like other dogs or people.
- Finally, it's time to venture out in public. With the risk being present, take a few precautions. The best is still a public park with few trees and people so that you can see your dog at all times. To reassure you as much as possible, it is best to be two and have the dog pass from one to the other at first. Depending on how successful he is, continue alone and then walking.
Other interesting orders
In addition to recall, getting your dog to respond to the “Stop” command is essential. This will allow you to reattach him or get him to stop in a hurry – in case of danger for example.
Another interesting command is the “Leave it” which will allow you to divert your dog's attention from food he finds outdoors, another dog or a human.
Walking your dog without a leash: advice and legislation
Is your dog behaving well to recall? Now it's time to push the exercise a little further and take him for a walk with you, off-leash. Here are some tips for first walks without a leash and where you can walk him safely.
A few recommendations for a serene walk
- It's normal that the first few outings are stressful for you and your dog. There will be stupidities and mistakes on both sides. Try not to be aggressive towards your dog and reattach him abruptly. He could mistake the leash with his enemy and not come back to you next time for fear of retaliation. If he does something stupid, don't yell. Breathe and call your dog in a relaxed tone. You will need to learn to train your dog to commands such as “Leash”.
- Your dog is out for a walk: he's enjoying a relaxing moment. Don't harass him with commands of any kind and don't yell at him. Enjoy yourself too. Walking with your dog at your side without a leash is a pleasure.
- In general, even when you are relaxed, always be alert to dangers and stupid things your dog can do (like jumping into the water, crossing the road, throwing himself under a bicycle…). Over time, you will get to know him and he will learn to know your limits and prohibitions. If you anticipate an issue, it's better to tie him up than to stress, shout or hit him.
- Don't decide to never put a leash on your dog: in some situations (stressful for your dog or for you), you may need to put the leash back on, pass the obstacle and untie him again. Putting your dog back on a leash is not a punishment.
Where to walk your dog without a leash?
Once your dog is capable of walking without a leash, the next step is to find places where you can legally walk your dog. Indeed, you may be surprised to learn that normally, you are not allowed to walk your dog without a leash!
In most public parks, you are not allowed to walk your dog without a leash. Many people take the liberty of doing so however, but you could be fined.
Nevertheless, you can do so without any problem in the forest, on country paths and in fields. Some hiking trails are forbidden to dogs on the loose due to wildlife protection issues – check before you set off. Likewise, national parks are usually off-limits to dogs, even if they are on a leash.
Passionate about dogs since I was a child, I adopted my dog from a shelter 4 years ago. Thanks to her, I learned many things: the most adapted food, education, how to welcome a dog… I keep on discovering new things and share them with you here!