I think I’ll be doing a series of daily frequently asked questions posts just because I find it hard to believe why they’re so frequently asked. To start off this series, how did you train your dog off leash and how can you put so much trust in them? These questions came about when I was training with an aspiring schutzhund handler. By all means, I’m not boasting or comparing my techniques to schutzhund’s as I’m a big fan of working dogs AND I am not a trainer nor do I aspire to be. However, to answer his question, the best way to train off leash is to off leash the dog and train it! lol.
And how am I so trusting? I’m no advocate of all-positive training. I don’t think it’s efficient. There needs to be a balance between negative and positive reinforcement. Negative being a physical (or verbal) correction and positive: praise, rewards, treats, etc… Some dogs learn better through more positives and some through negatives, just like people.
Now back to the question, I only train my dogs outside where there are many distractions and I also seek out distractions for my dogs to endure. For example, ever hear a yappy dog going off at you during your walk? Perfect opportunity to desensitize your dog. I stand near the source and do several commands. It’s a tool, use it. I have nothing against yappy dogs because without them, I can’t do my part of fully desensitizing my dogs.
I put my dogs through a lot of environments so that they learn and adapt, that builds confidence and in turn builds trust between you and your dogs. However, that doesn’t truly answer the question because a dog can be fully confident and still wander off then that just means the dog is independent. So the key is focus training, engagement work. You have to be the center of this dog’s world, the dog’s sole purpose to please. Playing with your dog is so important that some people overlook its significance. Simple games such as hide and seek, tug of war or fetch goes a long way. So I am my dog’s center of attention and thus having full trust in them… Well not full but a lot. lol Phew, that was long.