How To Train My Puppy To Be Off Leash

When you first adopt a puppy, the safest place for them is in your home. You should puppy-proof your home first, of course. But, again, since a small puppy is relatively weak and unable to defend itself, inside your house is the safest spot.

However, this changes quickly, and within a few weeks, your precious little puppy will be bigger, stronger, and ready to go outside. At that point, unless you have a safe, fenced-in backyard, bringing them out on a leash is the safest way to expose them to the outdoors.

Leash training your puppy is one of the essential tasks you have ahead of you, especially if you live in an apartment and don’t have a yard (or live in the city). 

As your puppy grows and matures, however, there will come a time when they will be well trained enough to be able to go off of their leash, at least occasionally.

Thankfully, my dog is very well trained, and I can let her off of her leash when we walk around my town. She stays close to me and knows that running off is a definite no-no.

As I was walking her the other day, the subject of today’s blog became very clear to me, how to train my puppy to be off leash? 

The answer is that it takes regular, consistent training with certain commands to train your puppy to be off leash. It’s best to start in an enclosed area so your pup can’t go too far or get into trouble when they inevitably run off the first few times.

Once they’re well trained to be off-leash in an enclosed area, you can go to safe areas around your town and let them off leash for short periods. The more you do this, the better trained they will be and the longer you can let them off leash.

Now that you know how to train your puppy to be off-leash, you probably have other questions about how to do it, when, where, and so forth. For example, at what age should a puppy be off-leash, and how do you train your puppy to walk beside you without a leash?

Read on if you would like the answers to those questions and several others. I have them for you below, including some advice and tips to help you and your precious pup learn to walk together like pros. 

What Age Should Puppies be Off Leash?

From what I have seen and read over the years, the best time to start training your puppy to be off leash is between 6 months and 18 months. 

They have mostly grown out of adolescence by that time and will listen more closely to your commands. 

Also, from 6 to 18 months, most puppies have been trained to follow a wide variety of commands, including “stay,” “heel,” and “sit,” which are essential if they are going to be off-leash.

One last factor is that, by six months, your puppy should be fully vaccinated. At that point, if they accidentally run into other dogs, the chance of getting a doggy disease will be much lower.

How Do You Know When a Dog is ready to be Off Leash?

One of the best ways to know that your puppy is ready to be off leash is if they follow your commands and obey you quickly almost all of the time. 

Obeying your commands is, as you might imagine, critical. If they don’t and you let them off leash, several negative things can happen. For example, they can run after a squirrel and get lost in the woods or someone else’s yard.

A puppy that doesn’t listen to commands can run out into traffic if you let them off-leash, which could be deadly. 

If your pup listens to you, sticks close to you when you tell them to, and obeys your commands, they’re ready to be off leash (but will still need further training).

It might take some time to work up to it, so practicing in a secure area like a fenced-in backyard is a good idea. If your puppy has had all of their shots, you can practice at a dog park.

Practicing at a dog park is one of the best ways to determine if your puppy will listen to you and stay close when you tell them to. The reason is that, with many other dogs around, the temptation to leave your side will be quite high.

How Do I Train my Dog to Walk beside me Without a Leash?

The easiest way to train your dog to walk beside you without a leash is simply to practice and then practice more. Practicing in an enclosed area where they can’t run away is the best choice for safety reasons.

When you practice, be sure to have plenty of treats on hand to reward your puppy when they do what you tell them to do. As with most other types of dog training, rewarding your puppy with treats works quite well.

How to Train your Dog to Stay with you Off Leash?

One excellent method to train your puppy to stay with you when off leash is to use a long leash. A 10 to 20 feet long leash is best (but not a retractable leash). Also, I recommend using a harness and not a collar.

With your treat bag firmly at your side, find a place to walk with your puppy that is mostly free of distractions. Also, choose a side to train them, your left or right side. Left is traditional, but it is up to you and your personal preference.

Whichever side you choose, give your pup a treat when they stay by your side as you walk.  I suggest walking briskly in the area you have chosen and, whenever your pup walks by your side, give another small treat and lots of praise.

With practice, your puppy will start to walk by your side without needing to get a treat as a reward. However, if you find that your puppy is completely uninterested in walking by your side and tries to move away constantly, try training them again at another time.

As your puppy gets better and better at staying by your side with the long leash, you can’t start to shorten the leash gradually. It’s a good idea to practice walking at different speeds so that they get used to staying next to you when you are walking slowly or quickly.

When your puppy improves further, reward them less frequently so they don’t get hooked on getting treats. However, if they stay by you when, for example, another dog or person walks by, give them a treat and lots of praise. 

In time, your puppy will become very good at walking next to you with a leash. At that point, you can consider taking them off leash but do it in a safe area the first few times just in case.

Once you are certain that your puppy won’t run off when you take them off leash, you can start taking them for longer and longer walks without their leash on (if it’s legal where you live, of course).

Final Thoughts

As with most puppy training, the answer to “how to train my puppy to be off leash?” takes time, patience, and persistence. As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, it’s best to start in an enclosed area so your puppy can’t run too far or get into trouble if they run away (which they will likely do at least a few times when you start).

Once you feel that your puppy is well trained enough to stay off-leash in an enclosed, safe area, you can start taking them to more open areas for short walks. The more you practice, the longer your walks can become.

I hope you enjoyed today’s blog, “how to train my puppy to be off-leash,” and that all of your questions have been answered. If you have more questions or need more tips and advice about being a puppy parent, my other blogs are a great place to start.

Until next time, best of luck training your puppy to be off leash and walk with you safely out in public.