When should I let my puppy off lead? A Step-by-Step Guide

Off leash trails and public footpaths

In the UK where dogs can be off leash in most parts of the countryside, it’s important to have your dog wear a training leash until you are confident of your recall. Chasing rabbits and deer is a common problem in many breeds of dog and you need to be alert to avoid problems of this nature getting started. The same applies to off leash trails and open country in the USA. There may be less traffic hazards, but predators and dangerous terrain post an additional risk to a dog chasing wildlife or running about unsupervised.

Running free on a beach, where permitted, can be ideal for place for a dog to stretch his legs. There is usually less risk of the dog chasing wildlife, and chasing seabirds is less of a problem because the dog never gets the reward of catching one. Beware of beaches with fast currents or mud flats. A dog running loose can quickly get into trouble. Again, the training leash, and plenty of interaction to hold your dog’s attention, is your friend.

When to let your puppy off leash

The best time to let a puppy off the leash is from the very beginning. Provided that you are in an area where your puppy cannot be molested by strange dogs. Far too many people are sold a puppy without being told of the importance of letting puppies off the lead from the very start.

Scared To Let Puppy Off The Lead

If you are scared to let your puppy off the lead, try assessing the worst-case scenario. Often this scenario is not as bad as you think, in fact doing this can allow you to plan correctly and prevent any mishaps when you first let your puppy off the lead.

Most owners will experience some sort of fear before letting their puppy off the lead. Fear is a natural response to something we expect to happen, that’s why ignorance is bliss.

When Can I Let My Puppy Off The Lead?

My lab puppy is nearly 15 weeks old, and usually comes when I call her when we are in the (large) garden. I feel that I probably should start to let her off the lead in the park, but Im SCARED. Dog owners, can you tell me when you started, and what your experiences were?? TIA

I only let mines off in fields or on this nature walk near my house. Id never be brave enough to let them off anywhere else! They are 9 months, 4 years and 5 years. First time i let the youngets off away down an old farm road, she ran all the way back to my mums house, out of the old fields and up the street.

I would say before 5 months old, as this is when they are most dependent on you, they start to get more independent after 5 months. Our puppy was walking off lead by 4 months and has always been fine adn never wanders more than 15 feet awaay from us. He is now 13 months. HTH, please do it.

As soon as they know their name. i let mine off a week after he had his jabs. In my experience they wont let you out of their site when they are little – so this is the best time – as they get older and more confident – if you havent let them off before and taught them recall – this is when you have problems.

Use treats as a way to get the puppy to return to you. Practise in the garden by calling the puppy to you. Give the puppy a treat and masses of praise every time the puppy returns. Once you feel confident doing this start doing it in safe areas of larger land make sure you are not near a road preferably an empty field or fenced in area.

if you wait it may be harder. I just did it when our dog was about 4 months old, and his recall is brill.

not until you are absolutly certain that he will come back the instant he is called.

We let out put off first walk, he was 13 weeks i think and weve never had a problem with recall. I was told its best to do it immediatly as while they are tiny babies they need to be near you so you let them off, they follow you around and it just becomes habit. When he was getting older i used take a few bits of cheese or a bicci and occasionally id call him back and gove him a bit just to reinforce it, hes 2 now and has never not come back. Hes a Lab too.

Do it as soon as he has had his jabs. Because when they are small, they rely on you and therefore will stay close. Then you can start training recall, using tasty morsels (cheese always works) That way, by the time your pup is older and more confident, recall is well and truly trained and you should have no problems. Another trick I was tought when training my pup was to hide behind a tree when pup is not looking. That way he will learn to keep an eye on you and thus will not stray too far. After all, a walk off-lead should be a pleasant experience adn this works best if you both look out for each other (but you do feel really daft hiding behind a tree watching pup who – if anything like mine- is completely oblivious to the fact you are hiding! )

Thanks for the replies! Well, I did it! Went to a big, open park, let her off and she was fine. She kept quite close. I kept calling her back and rewarding her every few minutes. Will try the hiding thing next time

This is a well timed thread! My lab puppy is 11 weeks and only started going for walks at the weekend. I took her to a field today and let her off the lead but didnt know if I should have done or not! She did, as youve all said, stay really close and kept looking for me so Im glad thats a good thing to do interms of training. I will try the ham and cheese idea next time as I suspect she will get braver each time. (Is that right?) I did have a slight moment of panic when a rabbit shot out in front of us but luckily she didnt seem to notice it .

Just wanted to add after my previous post. My dog has been returning to me v v well after doing all of the recommended training. But today he saw a rabbit and was off like a shot no amount of calling him back worked I had to chase him round the field for a good 10mins I am 34wks pregnant so not the best situation to be in he did catch the rabbit but thankfully just seemed happy to hold in his paws. So please do be careful when letting them off their leads.

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