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When should I let my puppy off the lead?

Posted on 11th October 2021

Boston Terrier running in field with the zoomies

How do I know when it's the right time to let my puppy free

I get this question all of the time, and the simple answer is “when you know they will come back!”.

The truth is, the right time to let your puppy got their lead is dependent on:

  1. Your individual dog
  2. The relationship you have between the two of you

It always baffles me why people take a chance with their most treasured thing (that’s also cost them a lot of money and sleepless nights). Letting your puppy off their lead is like the equivalent of not holding your toddlers hand on a main road – yet, it happens all the time.

Bailey On The Beach

Let me tell you 2 stories…

The first is my dog Bailey (2004-2017). Bailey loved being around me. He loved to play tug with me, chase games and he was never bothered about people or other dogs. Now, he would chase a cat so I had to be careful there but I let him off at around 12 weeks old and never looked back. He had a great recall until the day he died.

Meet Ghillie, my current GSD. Ghillie thinks every day is Christmas Day, every person is his best friend and footballs are lottery wins. If I had let him off lead, I would never have seen him again. In fact, he stayed close or on a long line until he was 9 months old.

Ghillie With His Long Line

What did we do in between? Worked on our relationship through play and recall games. Now he has a recall to die for (if I can manage to get him to go away from me).

The moral is that each dog is different. Feeling like that doesn’t help? Let me help further with my puppy off lead checklist…

1. Can your puppy respond to their name outside and come to you when they are on their short lead?

To practice this I simply say their name, wait for their head to turn to me and start moving backwards so they come to me. I practice this several times on a walk.

2. Can your puppy respond to their name and come to you on their short lead when they are looking at another dog or a person walking by?

Here, I have the same behaviour but with added distractions. The reward is always a game.

3. Can your puppy respond to their name and come to you from the end of a long line?

A long line is a 10 metre lead which allows puppies to have extra freedom and to train a recall from further away. To start with, I just add the distance with no distractions around.

4. Can your puppy respond to their name and come to you from the end of a long line with someone kicking a ball, watching a dog running or moving towards a person?

Again, here, I have the same behaviour but with added distractions.

Once I know I have a solid recall in each of the above steps, I will let them off their lead. To me, it’s not worth risking their life for anything less. Simples.

If you want to learn more about recall training for your puppy, check out our Rapid, Reliable, Recall Solution Bundle, here.

Happy training everyone!

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