An off lead walk is the perfect opportunity to do some vital training with your dog. Yes sure, let them mooch and sniff around, but also use this opportunity that you’ve got together in a big open space to work on some key behaviours. The added mental stimulation alongside the physical exercise will make them even more tired when you get home, plus it will keep their attention on you rather than chasing after squirrels or heading in the direction of the small children building a snowman.
These are my top 8 things to work on during an off-lead walk:
A recall isn’t just for the end of a walk. Your dog will be more keen to come back to you if you reward them with a treat or toy and then let them go off again to run. Call them back a few times throughout the walk. Try getting a collar grab before taking the reward out of your pocket or even clip the lead on first then reward and release. If your dog doesn’t come back on the first call then use a long lead and don’t allow your dog to self-reward by staying away when they don’t recall.
If you’re training for the Gold Good Citizen Award then part of it is off lead heelwork, so your dog needs to be off lead to practice. Even if you’re not working up to Good Citz you can still improve your on-lead heelwork by teaching it off lead. Reward your dog by throwing a toy or giving a release command such as “okay” and letting them go run again.
Get your dog’s nose working by throwing a smelly treat into some long grass or go and place an object somewhere hidden and send your dog to find it. Not only will your dog have fun it will also tire them out more.
Does your dog fetch an item back to you?! Maybe you’re doing gundog work and want to work on some retrieves. You don’t need to be in a class to practice this. Have a go at leaving your dog in a wait while you throw the object and then release them with a specific word that means “go get it”. Or work on their catch by throwing the object straight to them or a little in front of them. If they always drop the object at your feet try teaching them to place it in your hand.
Physio fitness exercise
Use your walk to do some specific exercises working on the dogs strength, flexibility or balance. Encourage them to walk along a lying tree trunk, do 10 sit to stands, reverse up a hill or weave through your legs. Why try to find time to do it at home when you have this huge opportunity to do it during a walk.
Stays & Waits
Your dog is off lead, you’ve got a huge field full of distractions, have a go at some long waits to recalls or stays. If you have more than one dog try releasing them on their name only and mix up the order, or get them to race each other by releasing all at once.
Stop the dog
Be it for gundog work, gold good citizens or just basic obedience you can train and practise an emergency stop while on a walk. Teach your dog to quick sit or down and practise it when they’re walking alongside you, running away or running back to you. People often say to me in class that they don’t have to space to train it at home, so train it outside!
This is quite an agility specific one but you don’t need to do agility to have a reason to teach your dog to run around something. Use trees and goal posts and get your dog circling around them, either multiple times or running around and back to you. Do some change of arms with 2 goal posts to improve your front cross/blind cross skills and see how far they can send away from you to go around.
Sometimes it’s nice to just enjoy a walk toddling along and letting your mind wander, only concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other. But there’s loads of fun to be had on a walk and if you struggle to find time to train your dog(s) throughout the day then this is the perfect opportunity. Have fun with them and help drain their batteries even more.