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Discussion Starter #1
My dog will follow me anywhere; unless we are near the house. He loves going for walks, but only after we're beyond his knowledge of how to get home, which is about a block radius in every direction.

and what about streets? He doesn't know any commands like come, stop, stay, etc and it will take a long time to get him to that point, but I want to keep his off-leash training going while he's young enough to make it a life long habit.
 

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Until he has got all basic commands down I wouldn't be letting him off leash at all let alone in the street, at such a young age I don't think its advisable as its just too dangerous.

Once he knows basic commands really well then I'd invest in a long line leash, just a 50ft flat strong leash, and you can start working on recall under no distractions. Start in your house, using a whistle or a special word used just for recall that he will learn to me 'seriously I have amazing treats' high value treats like chicken will be what will get him to come to you rather than do something else.

Once he has it down in the house you can move out to the garden or a very quiet area of the park so there arent as many distractions. If you don't think he's going to come back then don't call, if his attention looks like it's going to turn to you then make yourself look like the funnest person every, happy noises, lots of enthusiasm and lots of treats for coming back. Super positive EVERY time he comes back to you.

Eventually you'll be at a stage where you can work under distractions if there are people around or other dogs, still on the long line though. 100% recall is going to take a while and personally my dog was over a year old when I fully trusted him off leash.

Just a little time, effort and positivity :)
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Where do you live? If you live in the USA, in most places having your dog off leash in the streets is illegal. There are people with a legitimate fear of dogs, and in my opinion, having your dog off leash around the erratic behavior of cars and noises, people and other dogs on a busy street is unsafe. Even if your dog is great, the other schmuck with the poorly behaved dog that he insists on walking "off leash" can attack your dog. Besides trails, hiking etc...I wouldn't be walking my dog off leash.

Also your puppy is 12 weeks old right? When my puppy was 12 weeks old for a while she was an off leash heeling queen. It seemed like her life's goal was to follow me. As they get older...particularly around 4 months...there are going to learn that there are things outside that are WAY more interesting than you. They will truly start to develop their personality. So unless you are 100% sure that your dog will not chase anything, has 100% recall etc. I would only practice off leash training in a fool proof environment.

My dog is 23 weeks now, and we do a lot of off leash stuff but it's at times of day when there are few distractions, few cars and few people.

At 12 weeks, solid housetraining, recall, basic obedience, loose leash walking, socialization etc should be at the forefront of your training.
 

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I live on a busy highway, have 1 1/2 acres....I fenced off part of my yard. .My dog is 3 yrs and she doesnt go off leash unless she is in the fenced off part of my yard...I dont think she would go near the road, but just cant take that chance.
 

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Yeah I would never consider walking dogs off-leash anywhere except for a park or a trail. To me, that's like not bothering to hold your toddler's hand as you cross the street. Too scary for me to attempt, LOL!

For off-leash skills at the park or on the trails, some of the things I train are:

-First and foremost, a solid emergency recall!
-Staying within eyesight (I capture this behaviour).
-Checking in.
-Polite off-leash greetings of dogs and humans.
-'Leave it' off-leash, from a distance.
-Ignoring other dogs/people unless they are told by me that they can approach and greet!

Of course, you can train your dog off-leash to do pretty much anything they can do on-leash. But the five things above, to me at least, are the bare basics for staying safe and remaining considerate of others.
 

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Come stop and heel are ESSENTIAL to off leash walking.

I walk my dog without a leash on streets everday. Here every street has a sidewalk so we only walk on the sidewalks and he knows he cannot cross unless I give him the authorization.

That was something I taught on leash and continue to reinforce every day, with and without a leash. I also click (actually I use a marker word) as soon as he steps on the other sidewalk, that keeps his focus on the destination when we're crossing. Unless completely unavoidable, I only cross streets in intersections. Dog's easily recognize boundaries such as doorways and raised sidewalks, it's not hard to keep him on track.

I started off leash training the day I started taking him on walks which was at 4 months (our vet had recommended until he was completely vaccinated, which later vets have said was not necessary). I had already taught come and sit at home and I took him to a secluded side street for his first time and took off his leash. Low distractions low risk and he stayed with me. After that 1 block off lead, the leash went back on and we kept walking, every day I kept building up the amount of time he was off lead. Always keeping an eye on his body language, when he appeared to be getting distracted or anxious, leash back on.

Take LOTs of kibble with you, I ran through quite a lot and still do. I also used aversive methods to condition him to not cross without permission although this isn't necessary. Consistency is key. If you want him to cross only on cue, you must cue every single time you cross. Even with a leash, even if you're distracted talking on your phone. Don't let him get to corners you can't see around, as you're approaching the intersections, call him back. Use high value treats when he ignores other dogs.

Just like other parts of training the key is repetition and consistency.
 

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Having your untrained puppy off-leash on streets and sidewalks is very dangerous, as everyone has pointed out. On most sidewalks in most places, walking dogs off-leash is very rude to other people and makes life a lot harder for other dog owners, so I honestly don't see the upside...there are plenty of other places where dogs can enjoy off-leash exploration, and using a leash near streets is good manners and good practice all around.

In your particular case, it is worth repeating what others have said: following you everywhere is an age-specific behavior that is very, very likely to change dramatically over the next few months. It is better to be pro-active and get your dog used to walking on a leash now than to be left reacting when a teenage dog suddenly decides to do normal teenage dog stuff, like investigate the world.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Thanks everyone!!

Come stop and heel are ESSENTIAL to off leash walking.

I walk my dog without a leash on streets everday. Here every street has a sidewalk so we only walk on the sidewalks and he knows he cannot cross unless I give him the authorization.

That was something I taught on leash and continue to reinforce every day, with and without a leash. I also click (actually I use a marker word) as soon as he steps on the other sidewalk, that keeps his focus on the destination when we're crossing. Unless completely unavoidable, I only cross streets in intersections. Dog's easily recognize boundaries such as doorways and raised sidewalks, it's not hard to keep him on track.

I started off leash training the day I started taking him on walks which was at 4 months (our vet had recommended until he was completely vaccinated, which later vets have said was not necessary). I had already taught come and sit at home and I took him to a secluded side street for his first time and took off his leash. Low distractions low risk and he stayed with me. After that 1 block off lead, the leash went back on and we kept walking, every day I kept building up the amount of time he was off lead. Always keeping an eye on his body language, when he appeared to be getting distracted or anxious, leash back on.

Take LOTs of kibble with you, I ran through quite a lot and still do. I also used aversive methods to condition him to not cross without permission although this isn't necessary. Consistency is key. If you want him to cross only on cue, you must cue every single time you cross. Even with a leash, even if you're distracted talking on your phone. Don't let him get to corners you can't see around, as you're approaching the intersections, call him back. Use high value treats when he ignores other dogs.

Just like other parts of training the key is repetition and consistency.
EXCELLENT EXCELLENT replies everyone, really thank you all so much, I really value your imput. Being new to the site, I dont really know how to address you all in a response so I hope you all know I'm thankful.

I quoted this one because I want to say thanks for describing your method, and I'm going to start doing this immediately. We go for 3-4 walks a day (more, if they were too short for him) so I'm pretty darn excited and i'll have lots of opportunities every day. And you're completely right, consistency is far more important than more dog owners think.

To the other responses,
it's not illegal to keep a dog off-leash where I live unless there is a sign that says so, usually in tourist area's and dog parks. Probably because of how liberal the town is, and the huge farming community (and i mean HUGE- its upstate new york)
i haven't been letting him completely off-leash unless we're in a secluded area that i know is totally safe- There's lots of gorges around here, which are scenic woods and rivers completely surrounded by massive rock walls-

I never let him go without a leash if we're near streets or anything. Instead
I've been using this 20ish foot leash to give him that extra bit of exercise you get when not using a leash. (thanks to another thread and a wonderful idea by someone who answered me)
He's never gone into the street unless we're crossing, and I've never had to fight with him to keep following me (since using the 20ft leash, i mean) A simple "come on dexter" has been enough to bring his attention off of something else and realize that I'm over here. It's not a total recall, but at least he has some concept of "i'm over here, and you should be too." This is in addition to another training method we practice every day, where I call his name, and give him a treat for looking at me/paying attention to me when I say his name. I've only had him for two weeks and the first few days on a leash were pretty much spent getting him used to the idea that he can not go this way or that no matter how hard he fights.. so after two weeks, and at the age of 12 weeks... I personally think he's doing wonderful, and I'm pretty darn impressed
THANKS AGAIN EVERYONE.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Having your untrained puppy off-leash on streets and sidewalks is very dangerous, as everyone has pointed out. On most sidewalks in most places, walking dogs off-leash is very rude to other people and makes life a lot harder for other dog owners, so I honestly don't see the upside...there are plenty of other places where dogs can enjoy off-leash exploration, and using a leash near streets is good manners and good practice all around.

In your particular case, it is worth repeating what others have said: following you everywhere is an age-specific behavior that is very, very likely to change dramatically over the next few months. It is better to be pro-active and get your dog used to walking on a leash now than to be left reacting when a teenage dog suddenly decides to do normal teenage dog stuff, like investigate the world.

You are (almost) completely right about that... the upside is that walking off leash allows the dog to fall behind, run to me, go ahead, run back, side to side and in the end he will have gotten more exercise than simply walking where i walk, at my speed.
I guess the point of the post was to help me learn how to change the "untrained" part. Teaching him not to go up to other dogs or people without permission, chasing things, going into streets, etc. even if he can never be fully trusted off leash, those are still some of the best lessons you can teach
 

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A bit of warning for using a long leash on sidewalks, and the reason I hate seeing people using flexi leashes- make sure that you're not letting your dog out far enough in front of you so that were he to suddenly dash in the direction of the street that he'd be in it. By that I mean that him trotting around 10 feet ahead of you may not be an issue, but if he sees a piece of trash in the street 10 feet may be more than enough for him to run into the road. Definitely don't give him more rope than the distance from your hand to the street... no way to control the dog's direction reliably! Perhaps something you've considered or you're pretty far off the road, but too many people with long lines or flexis don't with tragic results!
 

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Discussion Starter #11
A bit of warning for using a long leash on sidewalks, and the reason I hate seeing people using flexi leashes- make sure that you're not letting your dog out far enough in front of you so that were he to suddenly dash in the direction of the street that he'd be in it. By that I mean that him trotting around 10 feet ahead of you may not be an issue, but if he sees a piece of trash in the street 10 feet may be more than enough for him to run into the road. Definitely don't give him more rope than the distance from your hand to the street... no way to control the dog's direction reliably! Perhaps something you've considered or you're pretty far off the road, but too many people with long lines or flexis don't with tragic results!
Good point.
 

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the upside is that walking off leash allows the dog to fall behind, run to me, go ahead, run back, side to side and in the end he will have gotten more exercise than simply walking where i walk, at my speed.
Oh, I love off-leash walking. I just want it to take place in areas where dogs are expected to be off-leash, and not along streets!

Every town is different, of course. I wish every town had places where dogs could be off-leash AND places where dogs are only welcome if they are on-leash. In my town, dogs are expected to be on-leash if they are on sidewalks or streets, but are okay to be off-leash on trails if they are "under voice control" (meaning they respond to recall, really). It makes for a pretty decent balance.

Besides the danger, the problem with having dogs off-leash along sidewalks is that they are a hassle for other people. Especially if they are untrained, obviously, but perhaps less-obviously, even if they are pretty well trained. A dog may be trained to never leave their owner's side, but without a leash, that's not easy for strangers to see...for people who are afraid of dogs, or the huge group of us who walk dogs who prefer (for one reason or another) not to be approached by off-leash dogs, having to constantly try to assess other people's off-leash dogs to see if we need to take evasive action is exhausting. A leash is a visible guarantee to the rest of the world that your dog is under control, and I think it's important to maintain spaces where leashes are expected.

I guess the point of the post was to help me learn how to change the "untrained" part. Teaching him not to go up to other dogs or people without permission, chasing things, going into streets, etc. even if he can never be fully trusted off leash
For me, a rock-solid recall solves almost any problem, because if I see a situation that I'm not sure my dog can handle, I just call her back and leash her. So although I am working on other things, like automatic check-ins, heeling (off-leash and on), dropping into a "down/stay" when I ask, and a solid "leave-it," my priority is with the recall.

My dog will eventually be doing lots of long off-leash hikes with us, but we've only had her four weeks, so at this point, we're still working on the basics! I am going to have this dog for years and years, so there's no real upside to rushing things now. We start recall training in the house, then move it into the back yard, then gradually increase the distractions in the back yard, then eventually start trying in new safe places (other people's back yards, for instance, or other fenced areas).

A good tutorial on teaching recall is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PL9Rk-8KF9I
 

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Having your untrained puppy off-leash on streets and sidewalks is very dangerous, as everyone has pointed out. On most sidewalks in most places, walking dogs off-leash is very rude to other people and makes life a lot harder for other dog owners, so I honestly don't see the upside...there are plenty of other places where dogs can enjoy off-leash exploration, and using a leash near streets is good manners and good practice all around.
Why in the world is a well behaved dog rude to others? I can understand if the off leash dogs are constantly running up to people or dogs and being a nuisance.

In your particular case, it is worth repeating what others have said: following you everywhere is an age-specific behavior that is very, very likely to change dramatically over the next few months. It is better to be pro-active and get your dog used to walking on a leash now than to be left reacting when a teenage dog suddenly decides to do normal teenage dog stuff, like investigate the world.
To the OP, while I don't agree with the first part of snackrats post I'm going to second what he said in the latter part. Following you around is a puppy behavior and teenage dogs are inclined to explore the world.

That is not a reason to be discouraged from training though. Take advantage of your puppies natural desire to follow you around in order to lay strong foundations. When he gets into his teenage years, just continue to reinforce those same foundations. It may seem like he's regressing since you'll start to have to walk him more often with a leash as his attention will wander more quickly, but like the others have said, it's just natural for his age. Never stop making him wait in intersections until crossing, always always always pay attention to where he is looking. If it looks like he might be more interested in something on the other side of the street or a ways in front of you, break his attention and have him look at you, have him sit and give him a treat.

A beneficial side effect of off leash training for me has been that without dedicating any specific training to on-leash walking my dog has the most impeccable leash manners. He walks with slack in the leash 95% of the time and if he ever pulls it taut, its never with a force I couldn't hold with 1 single finger.
 

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It's good dog walking etiquette to have your dog heel when other people are walking their dogs towards you on the side walk.

Look for a collar with a handle on it like this.


This allows you to hold onto your dog, which even if he doesn't need it, reassures other pedestrians.
 

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generally I wouldn't let a dog of any state of training let off-leash when there's the streets.
Even a very well trained dog, can be startled and run on the street.
I just heard a story of a nice young German Shepherd (obedience trained of a pretty knowledgable owner) that had to stop doing Schutzhund, because he got startled by a cat and jumped sideways on the street.
He was hit by a car and his hip was broken at several places.
He survived, but he'll never be able to do professional sports anymore and he can't be used for breeding anymore, because the fractures make it difficult to judge his hips.
Please keep your dog on-leash when you're close to a street.
You are not only endanger your dog, but also the people inside the cars.

find a secure area to give our dog the possibility to walk off-leash.
 
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