The most important piece of equipment for off leash reliability is a remote training collar. A remote collar is the best tool for off leash reliability because it’s used to get the dog’s attention when they are distracted. If you can get your dog to look at you, you’ve got him/her. What is off leash reliability? Off leash reliability is the ability to control your dog when not on a leash. It is having solid recall. Does your dog come when called all the time, even when distracted? If your answer is “yes” then you have off leash reliability.
I start training off leash reliability as soon as I bring a puppy home. The key tool for teaching control is a leash. I put a leash on as soon as the pup is 8 weeks old. I let the pup drag a leash around inside and outdoors. Do not buy expensive leashes because they are going to chew them. I secure the pup to furniture in the home surrounded by a variety of toys. A leash is your best friend next you building your relationship with your pup.
As the pup grows I put a 15’ line on when outdoors. In the video above this pup is 15 weeks old and on her first hike with me and my boys. She had a great time and burned up a lot of puppy energy. This is the beginning of off leash reliability. You need to start on lead first and as the pup learns to listen I will put lighter lines on them. As the pup grows I introduce remote collar training and eventually we no longer need a leash.
My adult dogs rarely wear a leash. I use the “let’s go” command most of the time. Let’s go this way let’s go that. If I want my dogs to stay in one place I say “down”. Down means to lay and do not change your position or get up until I give you permission. My wife taught a German Shepherd not to go into the woods by using a long line. This dog would not enter the woods even if his ball bounced into them.
Training is all about consistency and the leash gives you consistency. You only need a reward system to follow up with the line. Come to me means I’m going to get a treat or ball. Do you want your dog to bring a ball back to you? You need two balls. Your dog will always want the one you have. A long line and two balls is all you need to teach your dog control and a reliable fetch. Isn’t dog training fun! I sure think so.