Today, Fi's professional dog trainer, Or Nessim, is teaching us the basics for allowing your dog to walk off leash. Not only does off leash walking allow your dog to explore and have freedom to roam, but establishes trust and communication between you and your dog:

Like humans, each dog has their own unique personality that determines how we should interact and approach them. Understanding your dog’s personality and what attracts or startles him/her is key to successful communication and ultimately training your dog. Some dogs are adventurous and freedom hungry, while others can be more introverted and linger nearby. With both personalities, we must have a strong relationship with our dog and be able to communicate with them and get the desired behavior out of them even without the leash that gives us control.

Dogs are constantly looking to explore new sights and smells, but we need to be able to call them back to our side. Coming back to you needs to be an exciting reward that attracts your dog more than the distractions taking place around you. There are a few commands a dog needs to be proficient in before beginning off leash training such as stay, come, heel, down, and leave it.

Begin by practicing these commands in familiar environments such as the living room or your backyard, you can  gradually move to less familiar environments such as a park or any other busy area with many distractions. These diverse environments challenge your dog’s dedication for your attention and results in the kind of attention you need from your dog when they are off leash. He will cherish and value your attention over noise, scents, and other people.

The reason it's important your dog knows these commands well on leash and off leash are for the following reasons:

  • With the “come” command, your dog should return to you when you call on him because you will not have the control of a leash. Your dog should know this command well enough that they stop what they’re doing and come right back to you when the command is given.
  • If there is a dangerous situation like a car coming or another dog approaching, you will need to utilize the “stay” command. Safety is the most important thing to remember when your dog is off leash.
  • Leave it” is important because as your dog is sniffing around out of your reach, and he may put something in his mouth that he shouldn’t. He should be able to leave it right away when you ask him to.
  • Down” is a command that can be utilized for anything, especially if you don’t want your dog approaching or interacting with a stranger.

Once all of these commands are practiced and repeated on leash and in different environments under different levels of distractions, they can then be replicated off leash. And of course, like any other command you’re training your dog to learn, be sure to reward, reward, reward!

- Or Nessim