How To Train My Puppy To Be Off Leash

Bringing a new puppy home is an exciting time, no matter who you are. Your new fur baby will likely stay inside and get used to their new surroundings in the first few days. 

In time, however, you and your puppy will want to start going outside and exploring the big, wide world. If you have a fenced-in backyard, it is no big deal to let your pup explore while you keep an eye on them.

On the other hand, if you’re like millions of pet parents, the best way to explore the outdoors with your puppy is on a leash. Until they’re well trained, having them on a leash when outside is the safest option.

That begs the question that I regularly hear from many readers; how to train my puppy to be off-leash?

The answer to this question isn’t a one-and-done type of answer. From regularly practicing training commands to adding distractions and finding a safe area, letting your puppy off-leash is a process.

The thing is, some puppies will gladly stay close by and be fine off-leash, while others might run off like the proverbial bat out of h*ll. That’s not good for several reasons, including that they could get attacked by another animal, hit by a car, never come back, etc.

If you would like to learn more about how to train your puppy to be off-leash, please keep reading. I have tips, advice, and instructions below that will be very helpful. 

I also have answers to other questions like what age should a puppy be off-leash, and is it hard to train a dog to be off-leash?  It’s essential information that could possibly save your puppy’s life.

What Age should Puppies be Off leash?

Veterinarians and dog experts recommend letting your puppy off leash between eight and 12 weeks old. At that age, even though puppies are curious about the world, they still have enough fear that they won’t stray far from you, their new owner.

Even though they can be off-leash, it’s best to do it in your backyard or an area where you can control them. Since they probably haven’t had all of their vaccinations, that area shouldn’t be a dog park.

When your puppy is about 16 weeks of age, their fear and anxiety about leaving your side are likely subsiding. Plus, they’re getting more keen on the sights and smells of the world around them. 

This is a risky combination of factors because they will want to explore those sights and smells and don’t have a fear of leaving your side. Ironically, as they get older, letting your puppy off leash is less recommended until they’re fully trained.

One good thing is that, by 16 weeks of age, they should have had all of their vaccinations. That means you can take them to your local dog park and let them off leash there so they can play with other dogs. 

Things to Consider before Letting your Puppy Off Leash

I’ve read recently that many veterinarians believe puppies are let off leash far too early. They believe that keeping your puppy on their leash longer will result in an adult dog that’s more well-behaved. 

Whatever your opinions, you should do several things before letting your puppy off leash. They include:

  • Your puppy should be fully vaccinated before letting them off leash where contact with another dog or puppy is possible.
  • Veterinarians recommend having your dog spayed or neutered before letting them off leash. The reason is that dogs still intact have a much stronger desire to mate. That desire can cause them to run off.
  • Having your puppy microchipped and getting an ID tag is essential before letting them off leash. That way, if they do manage to get away from you, you’ll be able to find them.
  • Have preventive measures to ensure your pup doesn’t get attacked by fleas and ticks.
  • The environment where you live might be prohibitive to letting your puppy off leash. That’s especially true in urban areas and cities with more traffic.
  • Depending on where you live, leash laws may prevent you from letting your puppy off leash anywhere but your local dog park.

Should I keep my Puppy on a Leash at All Times?

Some dog experts believe you should leave a leash on your puppy at all times so that they get used to it and, when they finally go outside, are accustomed to having their leash on. 

Veterinarians recommend using a very long dog leash to test your puppy’s ability to stay near you when they are off leash. They say that using a long leash is a good way to mimic the off-leash experience but still provide the safety you need if your pup decides to take off.

Is it Hard to Train a Dog to be Off-Leash?

As with every type of dog training, training your puppy to be off leash takes time, effort, and dedication. The amount of time it takes also depends on your puppy, breed, and personality.

The thing is, some puppies will handle the off-leash experience better than others. To determine how your puppy will handle being off leash the first time, or any time, knowing their personality is necessary. A few things to ask yourself include:

  • Are they the type of puppy that likes to chase things, including small animals, bicycles, cars, etc.?
  • Do loud noises frighten your puppy and cause them to run in the other direction?
  • When walking around on a leash, do sights, sounds, and smells cause your pup to react quickly and try to pull away from you?

If you answered yes to any of those three questions, letting your puppy off leash might not be the best idea, at least not yet. 

What Commands should your Puppy Know before being Let Off Leash?

Before letting them off leash, your pup should know the following basic commands and obey them well.

  • Heel. Obeying the heel command is essential for letting your puppy off leash.
  • Leave it. This command could save your puppy’s life, especially if they’re looking closely at something like a poisonous snake.
  • Stay. ‘Stay’ is a critical command if you want to let your puppy off leash. If they can’t stay, they shouldn’t be off leash.
  • Come.  A puppy that doesn’t respond to the command ‘come’ shouldn’t be off leash either. 

Here’s the thing; some puppies and dogs will always have to be on a leash when you take them outside. Depending on their breed, personality, and so forth, they won’t stay by you when something grabs their attention.

The more you work at it and the harder you train with your puppy, however, the better chance you will one day be able to let them off leash with minimal risk to their health and safety.

Dog experts recommend practicing being off leash with your puppy in an enclosed area. They also recommend bringing in distractions, like other dogs, children, toys, etc.

If your dog listens to your commands and stays by your side even with all of the distractions, they’re ready to be let off leash. Since you can’t ask your puppy if they’re ready, you’ll have to use your best judgment to decide when it’s best to let them off leash.

It’s also a good idea to let them off leash the first time in an area where, if they do run off, it’s less likely they will be injured. Bring some of their favorite treats with you so that, if need be, you can bring them back using those treats. Also, use as much praise as you possibly can muster when they listen to you.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, you’ve got some great ideas for training your puppy to be off leash after reading today’s blog. It boils down to training and then training more until you feel that they’re trained enough to stay by your side without their leash on.

For more information about how to train a puppy, you can check out my other blogs. Many of them have tips and advice on training that will help you let them off leash. Until next time, enjoy this time with your pup as much as possible. Remember, they won’t be a puppy forever!