Jimmy, don’t go there and come here.
And, Jimmy whips his head and looks at you and runs back to you.
And, this story is possible only if you know how to hike with your dog off-leash. It’s surely not magic, but a proper recall sounds like.
But, what happens? When you shout Jimmy’s name and he ignores you and bothers other people and their dogs and you stand clueless shouting his name again and again.
Hiking with a dog off-leash is not an easy task. It needs a lot of patience, time, and energy to train him.
Off-leash hiking is a great way to make your dog brighten his eyes, bring a big natural smile across his face, and make him the happiest animal on the earth. Exposure to a new environment, and different terrain, bring joy that bounces in her gait.
If you’re passionate about hiking, then dogs make excellent hiking companions, and hiking with your dog off-leash can be fun and fantastic.
Hence, here is the ultimate guide on how to hike a dog off a leash.
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Mandatory Prerequisites for Hiking Off Leash with Your Dog:
How do you successfully hike with your dog off-leash while allowing him as much freedom as possible and keeping up peace with other travelers?
Hiking with a dog off-leash has so many worries like – Will my dog come back to me? What if he hurts himself? Or what if he bites anyone? As much as I hate to admit it, even years back I feared keeping dogs off-leash. My dog is a Beagle and she is the best small dog for hiking. Jack Russell Terriers, Miniature Pinschers, Papillons, and Shetland Sheepdogs are some of the best hiking dogs.
Here are the following prerequisites and general information you should know before hitting the trails.
1. Know the rules of the hiking trails
Do you acquire full information about the hiking trail you are planning to hit? First of all, you need to know if the trail welcomes dogs or other pets and they allow off-leash dogs or not. Sometimes you may also be ticketed for having your dog off-leash in an area, therefore, gathering proper information about the trail is so important before actually hitting it.
2. Let the dog out without a leash
Are you in the designated dog area where off-leash dogs are welcomed? If not then you’ll face grumpy hikers who are expecting dogs to be leashed. Certain trails don’t allow off-leash dogs and many dog parents choose trails because the trails require dogs to be on a leash. Therefore, it is always important to respect limitations and behave according to the rules.
3. Understand your dog mood and personality well
Are you sure your dog won’t bite any fellow travelers or follow other dogs? You’ve to understand your dog’s behavior – he must be friendly but other dogs may not appreciate her attention and may bite him. Therefore, be prepared and train him well beforehand. Hiking with an off-leash dog is not for everyone.
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4. Other dogs behavior
What happens if another dog approaches? It’s important to stay calm when an unknown dog approaches your dog. If you don’t know the equation between off-leash and on-leash dogs, then stay calm. The reason is that a leashed dog feels anxious and being an owner you can politely take your dog to the other side saying bye to the other dog.
How To Train a Dog to Hike Off-Leash?
Training a dog to hike off-leash through the game method is an effective approach to train him to listen to your command. Here is the way how to teach your dog to go off-leash.
1. Things you need
- Flat collars or front-clip harnesses
- 15-20 foot long line
- High-quality treats like Z-filets
- 15-20 minutes of training everyday infused with fun
2. Train every day with low stimulation
Start the training session from your home with a lot of patience. Off-leash training cannot be successful within one day. Know the fact that it will take time and sometimes even months.
3. Use the long line to train your dog off-leash
Start the training; the game is simple – don’t chase your dog, let your dog chase you. Use a long line – a leash that is 15-20 feet long – to give them more distance before practicing leash-free.
4. Often use the dog’s name and take a small jog in the opposite direction to the dog
A small jog in the opposite direction of the dog makes it harder for him to anticipate, therefore keeping your dog on his toes. Engage with your dog, play with him and train him properly without getting distracted. He needs your attention!
5. Treat him
Once you’re done with playing, treat him with good food and reward him with kisses.
6. Command him to sit quietly
This will reinforce your dog’s ability to stop playing and sit down quietly and focus his attention on you.
7. Engage more and slowly increase the speed and the distance
Get goofy with your dog – engage with him-play more and have fun!
Tips For Hiking Off-Leash with Your Dog
1. Start Practicing Off-Leash Etiquette – Indoor, Outdoor
A well-behaved dog doesn’t wake up one day rather he is the result of practice and daily training. On the daily walk, hiking, camping, and trail running the dog should always be under training. The basic off-leash behavior practice should be started in the comfort of your own home where there are few distractions. This will master your dog to the command of –
But as time passes, you should increase the distraction level like taking him to Local Park or back garden. The best way is to take him to the fenced back garden and practice his recall skills. Once you’re positive about his skills take him to a dog park and do the little test daily. If in the dog park, your dog comes promptly and consistently when you call, then it means he has possessed the skills skilfully.
Hiking is not a walk in the park – it includes trekking through rugged landscapes, sometimes harsh climatic change. Hence training a dog to hike off-leash is necessary and safe for you and your dog.
Tip: Always associate your dog’s name with something good and positive. Give him good treats for his skills, in this way he will be more willing to come to you. Remember to avoid taking his name when you’re scolding him.
2. Make sure your dog has a reliable recall
Before hiking with a dog off-leash make sure your dog has reliable recall even around a distracting environment. By the time you hit an off-leash trail, you should have already practiced off-leash behavior with your dog. It’s better not to scold him while training, he feels punished. Always reward him, even when he is not doing well.
Try to train him to focus on you and not on anything else. Send your dog to explore a playground near you with the “Go” command, then call her back and reward him with good kisses and food. A reliable recall looks like when your dog comes running to you despite a squirrel or cat running by in front of his eyes and he follows you and no one else.
Tip: You walk ahead and as he gets in front of you turn around. Never look back directly at him. Walk, until he’s overtaking you and immediately turn around again. Just keep an eye that he is following you.
3. Leashing and unleashing your dog
“My dog is friendly” – I know you often tell this; you never know what might happen when you’re hiking through the wilderness. It is important to carry her leash in hand always. Make him wear a center double ring collar while hiking; it will make it easy to leash him when necessary.
If there is a big boulder ahead or another dog approaches him – it’s a good idea to leash him. Sometimes on the way, you may meet a traveler who might quote – “I am allergic to dogs, my child is afraid of dogs”. Making friends on the way is fun but approaching others without their permission is an interruption. Therefore, respect everyone’s privacy while hiking.
Tip: Tie an ID tag on the collar of the dog or a GPS tracking collar might also work great. Such things will help you to track him if he is lost while hiking.
4. Bring nice snacks and always have the right motivators to call your dog back
No matter how frustrated, scared, or angry you are, be energetic and reward your pup with praises, kisses, and good food. When your dog comes to you, encourage and motivate him and fill his memories with positive thoughts so that he learns to be more convincing. Always treat him with good food and reward him for small wins.
Tip: Train him in such a way that he understands that the more closely he stays with you the more yummy treats he will get.
5. Stay alert where your dogs are going
During the adventure be watchful of your dog so that he is not too far ahead or too far behind you or he should be out of your sight. Remember, you are the leader and he should follow you and you must take care of the trail he walks. Make sure the trail doesn’t have a dead animal’s carcass or other awful stuff on the way.
To ensure walking with your dog off-leash safely you need to bring a well-stocked first aid kit for any emergencies. Be proactive and call your dog back as soon as you notice a potential hazard. Always keep an eye both ahead of you and behind you for other people and dogs. If required leash him for the period.
Tip: Train him properly so that you both look an eye on each other.
6. Give way to oncoming traffic
Whenever you meet new people or new animals on the way, step aside and stop for a bit and ask your dog to sit down. This is a nice way to rest a bit and also allow the other people to pass easily without touching or playing with your dog. In this process, the non-dog lovers also won’t get afraid and your dog can hike off leash.
You can buy a dog carrier backpacks which will also take care of your dog foot off the beaten tracks. Check out our reviewed list of the best dog carrier backpacks if you are planning to buy any.
7. Be a responsible dog owner
To wrap this up, we all know the benefits of hiking with your dog but are you a responsible dog owner? Carry your dog’s poop, do your research properly, carry a lot of water, or, buy a great quality dog stroller for hiking – just buckle yourself up.
Handling off-leash dogs while hiking is a task but if you have done your homework well it’s time to have fun!
Things To Be Avoided When Hiking with a Dog Off-Leash
1. Don’t get engrossed in mobile phones
Your dog is your primary responsibility. Therefore, don’t get busy with your phone using Instagram and Facebook and forget about the hike.
2. Ready for sudden hazards
Hazards may happen anytime and anywhere, so always keep your eyes and ears active and do not fail to take action to prevent potentially dangerous encounters.
Hiking with a dog off-leash is full of responsibility – you have to take care of him and also his poop. You’ve to carry a poop bag, preventive spray, puppy umbrella to protect him from excessive heat and cold. But certain incidents in life are rewarding – hiking with a dog off-leash is once of such a memory. Your dog will love the natural world – hiking in the woods, through boulders, meadows, or running across the beaches and be the happy animal.
I hope now you know how to train your dog to walk off-leash. If you have any questions, please comment below.
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FAQ – Hiking With a Dog Off-Leash
1. How Long Does It Take to Train a Dog Off-Leash?
A: There is no fixed time to train a dog. Regular two practice sessions and proper training can help him to learn off-leash etiquette.
2. What Dogs Are Easy to Train Off-Leash?
A: Border Collie, Australian Shepherd, Poodle, Golden Retriever, Irish Terrier, and Puli are dog breeds that are easy to train off-leash.
3. Will a Dog Come Back if It Runs Away?
A: A pet dog always returns home if it runs away.