As the weather warms and the holiday season approaches, people like to get active with their dogs. Every day more and more people flock to our off-leash beaches and parks.
In theory off-leash areas are a fantastic idea, unfortunately the reality isn’t all rainbows and lollipops. It’s important to remember that anyone and their dogs can use these areas (the only exception being registered/declared dangerous dogs).
What does this mean for you and your pooch?
At any given time there may be dogs of varying sizes, temperaments and training and a range of owners from the conscientious to the “I don’t give a damn”. You can’t control who’s using the area but you can be in control of how you approach the space and of course, in control of your dog.
I strongly recommend to my clients that BEFORE they decide to let their dog ‘loose’ in an off-leash area to enjoy an independent sniff and play experience, their dog must have these two basic behaviours.
1. A very reliable recall – this means your dog comes every time he is called
2. A strong stay command – he will stay ‘on the spot’ until given the ok to move
Please remember that even when off lead in an off-leash area, by law your dog needs to be under “effective control”. Hence why both a stay command and a recall are important.
A recall takes time and patience and incorporates these 5 steps.
- Eye contact – Your dog acknowledges you and gives eye contact when his name or other command is used.
- Comes towards you when his name or other command is used.
- Remains within your personal space for at least 10 seconds before you release him to be free again.
- Change direction – comes away, turns away from the direction he is heading in, that is heading towards another dog and then turns and comes to you.
- Sit or Down – you need to be able to get your dog to sit or down and remain in that position while you bend over and pick up a dog poo, for example.
These steps all need to be broken down into separate behaviours and taught in individual steps. Once they are reliable in a non-distracting environment then add distractions and then you are good to head to the beach or off-leash park.
A reliable recall is something that needs to be worked on throughout your dogs life. Many dogs begin their puppyhood and early teens with a reliable recall, however, sometimes they realise that life away from their owner can be more interesting. They start choosing their own behaviours and owners then can quickly lose control. Add a few other dogs with similar behaviour and the result can be chaos.
If your dog can’t do the above steps then it’s not ready to be off-lead. Take a long lead and practice the steps until your dog understands that he needs to give you connection and his attention, then he will be given some independent time.
Let’s all train good dog etiquette, that way we will all be able to enjoy our open spaces. I look forward to seeing you in the great outdoors.
More information about training ‘come’ aka ‘a reliable recall’ in Two Phases can be found in my new book Nose to Tail: A Holistic Guide to Training our Dream Dog Available for $24.95 from www.nosetotailbook.com