It’s 65 degrees and feels like summer time after a long cold winter. The people in my protection dog classes are looking for competitions for the summer and others have started agility. Some of the dog owners I have worked with are going out on hikes with their dogs enjoying some off leash fun. One owner stated, “Early morning nature walk….off leash, but still on command!!”
Whether you compete, participate in a dog sport for fun or just want to hike with your dog, off leash reliability is the key. Once the dog has the basics the next step is teaching focus with distractions. What is focus? Focus is the dog staring at you no matter where you are. First we start with focus in our homes. Some people like to use the “Look” command. When the dog looks at you, we treat him/her. Once they figure out look equals treat, you got em!
The next step in focus is working on it with distractions. Many times when distractions occur the interest in food goes out the window. The dog, doorbell, cat, squirrel is much more interesting than a treat. That is why dogs do well at home but as soon as you leave the driveway forget about it. They won’t listen, they bark, run, and don’t come when they are called.
That is where I come in. I teach off leash reliability. If you want your dog to come when you are at the lake, you have to get there attention. Sometimes it’s a squeaky toy but sometimes the squeaky toy doesn’t work. No matter what your choice of positive reward is for your dog there will be times when what you have isn’t as interesting as what the dog’s distraction is.
Once people learn my secret to off leash reliability the next step is to practice, practice, practice. While practicing, you need patience, repetition, reward. The final step is to practice in a variety of environments. Every time the dog is in an area he has never been to before there are a wealth of new odors he/she has never experienced before. It’s good to let them have a few minutes to sniff around and investigate. It’s like when you go on vacation. You don’t just jump in heads first; we look around and see what all there is available at our vacation spot. Dogs need the same thing. They need to have a few minutes to check things out, look around, and make sure there are no scary things there.
If you are competing in a dog sport check with the host to see if their trial fields will be open the day before to practice. If it is take advantage of this time. Your dog will perform much better if it’s not all knew to him/her.
So, if you want your dog to have manners and listen to you when you are away from home, you must train with them away from home. Don’t expect them to listen and have good manners unless you practice in a variety of environments. This is part of our board and train program. The first week is teaching skills at our training facility and the second week is performing the same skills in public. We take the dogs on field trips to the lake, parks, and stores. They participate during private and group lessons. The board and train dogs get to experience a variety of distractions so when they go home, they are a very obedient and happy dog.
For more information on off leash reliability, schedule a free demonstration.