How to Prepare Your Dog to Go Off‐Leash

Three Parts:Teaching Your Dog Basic CommandsDetermining If Your Dog Is Ready To Go Off-LeashLetting Your Dog Go Off-Leash

Would you love to be able to let your dog run around without his leash? Many dog owners enjoy letting their dogs spread their legs and enjoy some freedom. You'll need to consider your dog's personality before letting him off the leash. Make sure you're confident that your dog will listen to you and respond to training. Take the time to gradually expose your dog to freedom from the leash. By working with your dog and choosing your training environment carefully, your dog will be enjoying leash-free walks soon!

Part 1
Teaching Your Dog Basic Commands

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    Accept the responsibility of training. Once you've decided to let your dog go off-leash, be prepared to put in some effort. Don't just let your dog run off without the leash or any training. Your dog could get injured or hurt someone or another animal.
    • Start training your dog as soon as you can. It's best to begin while you're dog is young. Just wait to take your dog out for walks until he's gotten all of his vaccinations.[1]
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    Teach your to "come." Keep your dog on a long leash and let him get some distance between you. This may mean that he's five or six feet away from you. Say "come" and then take a few quick steps backwards. Your dog should start moving towards you. You may want to wave your hand towards your chest as you say "come" so your dog associates a visual cue with the verbal cue.[2]
    • If your dog doesn't immediately move toward you, gently tug on the leash and repeat the command cues.
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    Train your dog to "sit." Stand in front of your dog and look him directly in the eye. Hold a treat right over his nose while you say "sit." He'll have to sit down in order to see the treat. When he does, say "yes!" and give him the treat. Keep practicing until your dog responds to the command without you needing to hold the treat over his nose.[3]
    • You should also use a physical gesture to teach him to sit. You might want to place your palm in front of your dog's head and pull your hand up and into a fist while you say "sit."
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    Teach your dog to "stay." Your dog should start by sitting. Turn to your dog and hold your palm in front of his face while you say "stay." Say "stay" several times and then take one or two steps backwards. You should keep your hand out, urging your dog to stay put. If he stays put, immediately give him a treat or reward.[4]
    • If your dog stands up to follow you, say "no, no, no." Make him sit down and keep practicing.
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    Use positive reinforcement. When training your dog, use treats and verbal praise as rewards and incentives. For example, if you're teaching your dog to stay, hold your hand out and say "stay" to keep your dog from approaching. When your dog stays, you can say "okay, good job," open your hand, and give a treat.[5]
    • In addition to using verbal commands and visual cues, you might want to use a whistle. This way, when your dog goes off-leash, you'll have another way to call him back if you need to.

Part 2
Determining If Your Dog Is Ready To Go Off-Leash

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    Consider your dog's personality. If your dog is aggressive, you probably shouldn't let him off the leash. But, if your dog is socialized (does well around other dogs and people) and good-natured, your dog won't be a liability off-leash.
    • Think about how well your dog responds to your commands. If he regularly obeys, he'll probably do well off-leash. But, if your dog fails to listen to your commands, you might have a hard time training him or recalling him off-leash.[6]
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    Microchip your dog. It's always a good idea to have identification tags on your dog, even if you don't let him off-leash. But, it's even more important to have these I.D. tags current once your dog has freedom of movement. You may want to microchip your dog if you're worried he may lose his tags or get stolen.[7]
    • Microchipping your dog is relatively inexpensive and might increase your chances of finding your dog if he becomes lost. Just make sure to update your contact information periodically.
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    Think about spaying or neutering your dog. If your dog is off-leash, there's always the possibility that he'll get loose from you and run off. If he does, make sure your dog won't impregnate another dog. If you choose not to spay or neuter your dog, you may want to limit your dog's freedom during certain times (like if your female dog is in heat).
    • Some cities require dogs to be spayed or neutered in order to go off-leash. This is another reason it's important to check your local off-leash regulations.
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    Check your state's leash laws. State regulations cover a variety of situations. Some states regulate what time of day your dog can run off-leash, whether your dog can run off-leash during a rabies quarantine, or whether female dogs can run off-leash while in heat, for example. Find out regulations in your area before letting your dog go off-leash.[8]
    • Some states require you to be with your dog at all times when he's off-leash. If your dog is off-leash and causes damage to someone's property, you'll be liable to pay for it.[9]
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    Try boundary training. Create a small visible boundary so your dog sees his limits. Choose a quiet area to begin training. For example, you might place flags along the edge of your backyard so your dog sees that he shouldn't go beyond them. Keep your dog on a long leash so he has freedom of movement. Let your dog run off (while on the leash) and call him back.
    • Keep letting him run off and calling him back until he consistently and immediately obeys your command.
    • Boundary training is a good way to give your dog a chance to run off and respond to your calls.[10]
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    Take your dog to the dog park. Once your dog masters small boundaries with a long leash, take him to a dog park or other active area. Keep him on the long leash. Again, let your dog run off and command him to return or stay. Your dog will need to learn how to focus on your command while being distracted in an exciting environment.
    • If your dog isn't paying attention to your or isn't following commands, consider clicker training him. When he does eventually come to you, make the clicking sound and give him a treat. He'll quickly associate the clicker sound with a treat and will eventually return to you when he hears the sound of the clicker.[11]
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    Practice in a secure environment. Give your dog a chance to run off-leash in a large fenced-in area. This gives you a little control while testing your dog's ability to follow commands. Make sure he consistently obeys your commands while in the secured area.
    • If your dog struggles to listen to you, go back to training him with a long leash. Your dog might just need more time with training before going off-leash.

Part 3
Letting Your Dog Go Off-Leash

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    Let your dog burn off energy. If your dog is overly excited when you start training, it may be harder for him to focus on what you want him to do. Give him a chance to run around for a few minutes and stretch his legs. When he calms down a bit, start training.[12]
    • Don't start playing and getting your dog worked up before you begin training. Just give him some time enjoy being outside.
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    Take off the leash. When your dog repeatedly follows commands in calm and active environments, he's ready to go off-leash. For your own peace of mind, you might start by letting him run around a large secured dog-park.
    • Never let your dog go off-leash where there might be traffic or where he could injure himself. You should stay near your dog when he's off-leash.
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    Respond to your dog's first time off-leash. Give your dog a chance to run off a bit. Then, call him back to you using commands he's familiar with. If he obeys, immediately reward him with a treat. You should also give lots of verbal praise (like "good boy").
    • It's important to keep a close eye on your dog when he goes off-leash. Pay attention to how far he goes from you, whether he's in any danger, or whether he's encountering an aggressive dog. You may need to step in or call him back.
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    Be prepared if your dog runs off. At some point, your dog may run off and not respond to your command to return, sit, or stay. While your impulse might be to run after him or yell for him to return, stay calm. Keep him in your line of sight and call for him to come back. You may need to walk closer to him to get him to listen. When he does return, praise him so he has a positive association with coming back to you.
    • If your dog disobeys a command and runs off, hold a few training sessions. Bring out the long leash, clicker, or even put out boundary flags. Your dog may just need a reminder of your rules with the leash.


  • Don't rush your dog. Let your dog move at his own pace. Some dogs may pick up on training quickly, while others will need to stay on a leash longer.
  • Remember to keep the training exciting and fun. If you do, your dog may willingly check in with you when he's off-leash.

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Categories: Dog Obedience