Attention new puppy owners! Let your puppy off the lead.

Discussion in 'Labrador Puppies' started by editor, Apr 5, 2013.

  1. snowbunny

    snowbunny Administrator Forum Supporter

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    Read this post I just made in another thread: Anxious on lead meetings
    It's about anxiety rather than excitement, but the exact same game can be used to great effect.
     
  2. Xena Dog Princess

    Xena Dog Princess Registered Users

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    Ha ha I was just thinking the same thing today - imagine walking down the street with a dog who just strolls past other people without a second glance! I know that it'll take time, perseverance, and patience to get to that point...or close to it. I've just recently started "look at that" after Fiona @snowbunny recommended it. The only problem I'm having is remembering to click when she spots THE PEOPLE, I'm a little slow in my reactions lol.
     
  3. Beanwood

    Beanwood Moderator Forum Supporter

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    Oh yes, the timing is quite challenging! I was hopeless when learning this technique with Casper. It does get easier, and then more fun as you start to relax and and your dog starts to learn this amazing new game. Casper has a funny habit of glancing at me...looking at the trigger...then if I haven't clicked in time I get what i can only describe as a hard stare! :) I am sure this technique has contributed hugely to his much calmer and less reactive behaviour. Although when it comes to deer I could through a whole cooked chicken at him and he would still be off! sigh....
     
  4. snowbunny

    snowbunny Administrator Forum Supporter

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    I'm trying to recall, Kate, if there are any deer parks in your area. When I used to live in the South East, we had the luxury of the Royal Parks, with their abundance of deer. They would have been perfect training grounds for deer-obsessed dog, as you can be proactive about them being there, rather than reactive. Maybe a few day trips to Richmond Park are in order? :D
     
  5. Deejay50

    Deejay50 Registered Users

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    Ah, now that all brings back memories of the legendery Fenton, every dog walker's worst nightmare

     
  6. DebzC

    DebzC Supporting Member Forum Supporter

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    This thread was the best find a few weeks ago and I encourage everybody to do it! From the first walk Libby was off the lead apart from the first and last little bit along our road. She wants us near so will wait for us or catch up. I also use a whistle and she comes back every single time which was perfect yesterday when the postvan came down a track. Obviously this might change in the next weeks as she becomes more confident about wandering off but I'm so glad I read this advice.
     
  7. Boogie

    Boogie Moderator

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    The secret is to be unpredictable - hide, change direction, go down unexpected paths. That way they have to keep an eye on you and stay close.

    It works with older pups too.

    Bruce (11 months) had lost all recall due to his puppy walker constantly calling him to keep him close. It had the opposite effect.

    I took him to a secure field at first, which has lots of paths and trees. So I could be confident I wouldn't lose him. Then I deliberately 'lost' him by hiding, turning tail and veering off on another path when he was striding forward. He soon started staying closer.

    Now I can walk him anywhere and he keeps a 'proper' distance (20 yards or so).


    ..
     
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  8. DebzC

    DebzC Supporting Member Forum Supporter

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    Ah yes, I remember us doing this with Ria, our lab when I was a teenager. She never ever ran off again!
     
  9. Anya

    Anya Registered Users

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    Hey guys,

    So I got a lab retriever at 5 months old from the local rescue centre. He is now 8 months old and I let him off the lead straight away. His recall is very good. Except, since he acquired a taste for poop as soon as I let him off the lead he's in search for it and all my recall teaching is out the window because he's determined to find some. They say puppies grow out of it but I'm not convinced. When I do have him on the lead and he goes anywhere near poop I tell him to leave it and give him a treat. He does really well with that. I worry I put too much emphasis on it and I can't really relax on walks anymore as I'm always on my guard. He loves to play with other dogs but then immediately after goes in search for poo. So do I keep him on the lead until I thought him not to eat anymore or just ignore when he does it in the hope he will grow out of it? Help!
     
  10. PenyaBella

    PenyaBella Registered Users

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    New lab owner here, so I'm sorry if this has been asked, but why is it important to let them off their lead?
    I live smack dab in the middle of a city with a lot of traffic and the idea of letting my Bella off her lead terrifies me!
     
  11. Dexter

    Dexter Moderator Forum Supporter

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    Hi there,

    Have a look back at the beginning of the thread and you can see a video in the first post from Pippa,she can explain it way better than I ever could...It's critical for you to be able to train your recall.
    Safety is always the most important thing....you need to find a safe ,open space ,preferably secure ( although I know how challenging that criteria can be! )
    My dog has got a pretty good recall but I I'd never let him off near a road even now at the age of 4....I don't have a huge choice of off lead areas so when I was working through Pippa's Book Total Recall I used places like the tennis/basket ball courts To practice.
    Good luck and stay safe x
     
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  12. em_adams

    em_adams Registered Users

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    I have a 7 month old who has almost always been on a leash when we walk (I live in a college town--trash all around our usual route!) but is off when we go to the park. Is it too late to start trying to get him off the leash more?
     
  13. snowbunny

    snowbunny Administrator Forum Supporter

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    It's not too late, but at 7 months, you will have to be more careful. Work on a strong recall (I would recommend the Total Recall programme) and maybe use a long line on a harness for a while. But, obviously, you don't want to have him off his lead near roads.
     
  14. Boogie

    Boogie Moderator

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    I got Bruce at 10 months - he had no recall and was an absconder. I followed Total Recall (there is a great chapter at the back about recovering lost or non-existent recall). It worked within a week!


    :D
     
  15. HannahandPoppy

    HannahandPoppy Registered Users

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    I'm writing this at 3:30am and I've been awake since midnight fretting about this! This puppy-parenting is a minefield for anxious folk... I just feel constantly sick and worried that I'm doing it all wrong and getting her into bad habits.

    Poppy is 12 weeks and will walk to heel in the house with her lead trailing behind her. I've just introduced walking to heel in the house with the lead in my hand. Our training sessions in the house are about 1-2 minutes. When I tried it outside for the first time today, she literally forgot all "heel" and either grabbed at the lead or pulled. At 12 weeks it's manageable but I'm very slight and I really would like to train her so that pulling doesn't become a thing she does at all. So my first question is how can I build up the "walking to heel on a lead" to work outside as well as inside when everything is just so exciting and new?

    When the vet said she was now safe to go out, we took her to a secure field. However I don't know where her instinct to stick to us like glue is because she's happy to run away from us! We do what has already been advised - changing direction and running away. She always returns, and we C&T but to be honest, she's that excited about smells or whatever rubbish she's managed to find that she doesn't always stop for the treat anyway. She also runs towards us if we use our recall whistle. My worry is that she never ever just follows us - she runs off and then runs back repeatedly. So my second question is, should we stop going to the field until she walks to heel in other situations? We tried going to car parks first but it was the same thing there. Are we setting her up into a pattern where she thinks it's okay to be far away as long as checks in occasionally?

    My third and fourth questions I have about first trips outside are...
    • What happens when we go to the field and other dogs/people are there? I don't trust that she'll respond to the recall whistle if there's the distraction of another dog or person. Should I clip a lead on so that she can't reach the other dog/person - I know she will pull at it?!
    • Exercise guidelines - I know there's a 5 minute for every month rule which means she should get 15 minutes a day. However presumably this is 15 walking. Poppy's trips to the field are 15 minutes of mad running about and I'm worried about this being bad for her physical health in the future.
    Any and all advice is welcome. Completely aware I sound insane... :(
     
  16. snowbunny

    snowbunny Administrator Forum Supporter

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    You sound like a normal puppy parent, don't worry.

    My first advice is - take a deep breath and chill!

    Number one: there is no way in high heaven you will have a puppy who will be able to walk to heel for extended periods. No way, uh-uh, put it out of your mind. A few paces here and there is brilliant.

    Number two: there is no way you will have a puppy who never pulls. Puppies get excited by things, by other dogs, by smells, by leaves blowing in front of them. The puppy will try to pull towards these things. It's natural.

    Number three: some puppies are bolder than others and will investigate away from you more. That's OK, they need to experience the world, too. You just need to make sure being with you is far more fun, so she chooses to come back to you after investigating.

    So, here's what I would do (and did, with my very bold puppy, Luna). Spend as much time as possible off lead, making yourself super exciting. That means playing games. Like, a lot. Walking to heel can be a brilliant game, high energy and lots of fun. Don't make it intro a drill. Run around, change pace, change direction. Instead of thinking of it as "she has to walk to heel" try to think of it as "can she keep pace". Loads of verbal praise, excitement, jumping around and making a plonker of yourself when she does it right. And, of course, tasty treats. If she's not taking treats outside, up the value. Some warm roast chicken should do it.
    Play, play, play. Play chase games (her chasing you). Play attention games - throw a treat, mark when she turns back to you, throw her reward treat the other way, so she has to reorient to you to get the next. Play recall games - ping pong recall is brilliant. Basically, build your relationship so that you are always the one providing the entertainment. And, when you know there is something she's going to go and investigate, try and use it. If you catch it early enough, try to get her attention, ask for a really easy behaviour (like a hand target) and then release her to it with a verbal cue. That way, she gets to do what she wants, but has to work for it. It's a very powerful concept. If you don't catch it in time to ask for a behaviour, but see her about to go, just quickly chuck in your verbal release before she heads off.

    When you see other people, pop her on lead and work on some calming uncued "look at that", so she learns to be around people without running up to them. Here's a video I took when Squidge was a young puppy and we were working on this stuff. I found the busiest place I could (ski gondola station at 9am) and worked on it there: https://thislittledoggy.com/2017/02/23/impulse-control-ignoring-people/

    When out and about, using a lead to stop her running up to people and dogs is a great strategy. Then, when you are close enough to ask if the dog is friendly with puppies, if you choose, you can release her to say hi. Sometimes, not always.
     
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  17. snowbunny

    snowbunny Administrator Forum Supporter

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    Two more things:
    The 5 minute rule is a guide, not based in any science and is basically there to say "don't take your three-month old puppy on an all day hike". It is in addition to any free play time, so mad running around in the field for as long as she wants is actively encouraged. The "rule" should be applied to enforced exercise - that is, where she has to keep up with you, so walking at heel, anything on lead, especially on pavements, "going for walks", where she has to keep up or get left behind, etc. It's because walking at unnatural paces (keeping pace with you) is tough on developing joints. Here's an article that explains it in grater detail: https://shoppuppyculture.com/pages/appropriate-exercise - click through to the chart for an excellent common-sense reference.

    Also, I wanted to mention recall. You don't ever want to use it, until you have to use it. Practice it, sure, but always in set-ups that you know she will succeed in, and that you can heavily reinforce. If you constantly use it to call her to you at other times, away from things she is enjoying doing, you will very quickly lose your recall. So, play recall games as much as you can. Make it great fun. Reinforce, reinforce, reinforce. But don't use it to call her away from other dogs, smells etc outside of training set-ups or if there is no other option (such as collecting her). Instead, you want to work hard on getting her to the point where she reorients to you in the face of distractions, rather than having to be endlessly called away, or your recall cue will be associated with fun ending, and why would she listen to that?
     
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  18. HannahandPoppy

    HannahandPoppy Registered Users

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    I think that sometimes this forum is literally the only thing that can talk me out of feeling like the worst puppy parent in the world. Thank you so much and I will endeavour to be the most exciting thing running around a field she will ever see.. I'm going to buy a harness and training lead today, and let you know how it's going in a week or so time! Thank you again :heart:
     
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  19. Spencerboy

    Spencerboy Registered Users

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    I have always let my puppies off lead to run around while out in the woods near my house. Start at early stages and found it helpful to "hide" behind trees when they weren't looking to teach them to keep an eye on my whereabouts. Turn and run in the opposite direction like its a game is a good idea too. Also find it helpful to stay calm with an attitude of well if they don't return then they are going to find out they need to stay with me! Sounds a bit harsh I know but I believe they can sense it when you panic. I would be devastated if something happened to them of course but so far this has worked for me the last few dogs I've had and now have.
     
  20. HannahandPoppy

    HannahandPoppy Registered Users

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    I actually don't need to wait a week before saying that things have improved - they already have! I bought a training lead and harness but even they were unnecessary. We took a tin of wet dog food out with us rather than just dry kibble, and ran around like mad, and she was following us no problem :)

    And then I've just put her harness on and attached a lead, and walked up and down our alleyway. Again with the wet dog food and she stuck to me again.

    Presumably I do this for quite a few weeks or months? Then gradually reduce the incentives?
     

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