Author Topic: Off-lead walking  (Read 1587 times)

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Offline sophie.ivy

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Off-lead walking
« on: December 06, 2021, 12:13:28 PM »
I'm a bit unsure about whether I've done the right thing letting my girl off-lead on walks...

We started letting her off in locked tennis courts and secure fields to build her confidence and practice recall when she was about 12 weeks, then started taking her off-lead on walks around the park when there were no distractions at 14 weeks, now (at 18 weeks) we're letting her off lead when there are other distractions around. Her recall is really good even around other dogs and she stays in a bubble with us (I did have to grab her once when she found a cheese sandwich and suddenly became deaf, but can't say I blame her). We don't let her off when there are lots of birds or squirrels about as that seems like too big of a temptation for her! 

A few people have told us this weekend, including other gundog owners, that we should be cautious about off-lead walking at this age as if she gets a scent and darts it will take a lot of work to stop her doing that again - prevention is better than cure and all that.

We were always planning to put her on lead or a long line at 6 months as she hits the difficult teenage years and comes into season, but should she be on a lead/long line now? Would be interested to hear other experiences of walking a puppy and the off lead/on lead dilemma.




Offline Katrina

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Re: Off-lead walking
« Reply #1 on: December 06, 2021, 02:03:29 PM »
As a new dog owner (never had dogs before) I'd say that I have no idea lol! But I have been told recently by a groomer with four of her own spaniels that recall is much easier if you've let them off lead as a puppy. I felt really sad hearing that... like I've missed a golden window  :huh:

I'm about to book onto some recall training with our puppy trainer who I love. I don't feel I can let Oscar loose now - he doesn't always come back in the garden and I don't feel I know how to use a long line safely (I worry his legs will tangle in it when he's running at full speed!).  Birds, people and other dogs are also super tempting and he wants to greet everyone we meet on a walk.   

Basically - I'm clueless so will be watching this thread with interest. I do wish we had let him off lead sooner though - it sounds like your pup is doing well and maybe a trailing long line would help her get used to it if you're going to introduce it anyway?

Offline vixen

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Re: Off-lead walking
« Reply #2 on: December 06, 2021, 03:38:08 PM »
I guess it may depend on what you want to do with your girl?
I don’t intend to work my 21 week girl but do want an obedient well trained dog. When I started taking her into the big wide world we had her on a flexi lead (she never got to the end which would have caused her to jerk back) and kept practicing recall and treating with high value rewards.  SHe was very good at this and we took the risk and let her off and she is still recalling well.  I feel it is important for her to interact with other dogs when out and about and think that is more difficult if she on a lead.  I used the same method with my previous cockers and they had excellent manners with other dogs and were able to read dog language very well and knew which dogs to avoid. We went to a local beauty spot this weekend and when off lead she kept constantly checking where we were ❤️ and  she met lots of different dogs and people.  She came away from them when recalled and I was very proud of her.
There will be lots of people telling you their opinions and what is right and wrong but you have to make the decision of what you think is best for your dog depending of what you want to do with your girl.
If my  new addition grows up to be anything  like my previous dogs (who were perfect  ;)  ) I will be very happy
Max (GSP)  always in my heart

Offline dave w

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Re: Off-lead walking
« Reply #3 on: December 07, 2021, 08:23:54 PM »
Hugo is 18 weeks and has never been off the lead apart from puppy socialization classes, I'm pretty sure he will run off i have been lent a 10mtr extended lead and he runs full pelt until he gets to the end of the lead, the other day he somehow caught a jackdaw in the garden i have no idea how but i managed to pounce on him and get the bird of him and it flew away so at least he didn't kill it ,but when we are out on walks he seams to be obsessed with birds and squirrels so i'm pretty sure he will disappear off chasing them, most of the walks near me are all fields and woods so plenty wildlife to chase.
there is a very well respected gundog trainer near to me but he won't train them till they are 6 months old.

Offline sophie.ivy

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Re: Off-lead walking
« Reply #4 on: December 09, 2021, 11:49:59 AM »
Thanks guys for the replies :D

I heard that too Katrina about letting them off early as they will be nervous and want to stay close, but then I also heard that you should keep them on lead as puppies so you don't form any bad habits like running off and not listening to you so it's tricky to know what to do for the best! Our puppy class trainer did say that the best thing about having a spaniel is their lifelong enthusiasm for picking up new skills so I'm sure Oscar will do brilliantly with the recall training.

I think you're right Vixen, it's what you intend to do with the dog that should be your guide. We do plan to work her when she's older and our gundog trainer (who is also the owner of her dad :luv:) was one of the people cautioning us about too much off-lead walking so I think we should listen really and not let her off all the time. Glad to hear the off-lead recall is going well for your girl, there is something so special about seeing them running free, ears flapping in the wind, then turning and coming back to you when they hear their name.

I think we're going to get her on the long line, or flexi-lead, and keep practicing recall in the woods or farmers fields where there are more distractions and smells.

That was my main worry Dave about her chasing birds, and her prey drive being stronger than her desire to come back to us. Her recall is excellent at the moment and this morning she did come back to us when she spotted a squirrel running, BUT it was an anxious moment and don't really want to test it again. That jackdaw experience sounds very stressful - we've had a few of those moments chasing our cat round the garden trying to prize various woodland creatures from his jaws! Not fun.

I've been told that too about the gundog training starting at 6 months so we're just laying the foundations for that now. Are you planning to work Hugo? Will be nice to share some experiences and stories if so!

Offline dave w

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Re: Off-lead walking
« Reply #5 on: December 12, 2021, 10:18:29 AM »
no not planning on working Hugo we do a lot of walking so want to get to the stage where we can let him off and not have to worry about him coming back ,he has been really hard work and we still have a problem with him biting but hopefully when all his teeth are in he will get better.

Offline vixen

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Re: Off-lead walking
« Reply #6 on: December 12, 2021, 11:31:48 AM »
My little one (5 months now) is still really bad with her teeth.
Of all the dogs i have had in my life, she really is the worse for biting.
Some days I am despair but reading other owners’ comments on COL really helps me as they reassure me that things will get better.
BUT she is very good when out and about which is her salvation.
Dave w - have you read the sticky note at the top of the training section?  There is an excellent article about teaching a reliable recall.  I strongly recommend it.
Max (GSP)  always in my heart

Offline cazza

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Re: Off-lead walking
« Reply #7 on: December 12, 2021, 01:26:36 PM »
Well I have done everything wrong then  :005: Ash has been off lead as soon as she could go out on walks  :shades:

Yes at that age they stick close to you, then they get more adventurous, but I trained her on every walk (and still do) and last week even recalled her off 2 deer

Ash is very rarely out of my sight when out on a walk - I hope I have not tempted fate now  :shades:

if you are using a long line or a flexible lead that you should use it on a harness and not on their collars

Offline pam1

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Re: Off-lead walking
« Reply #8 on: December 12, 2021, 02:28:56 PM »


Well I have done everything wrong then  :005: Ash has been off lead as soon as she could go out on walks  :shades:

Yes at that age they stick close to you, then they get more adventurous, but I trained her on every walk (and still do) and last week even recalled her off 2 deer

Ash is very rarely out of my sight when out on a walk - I hope I have not tempted fate now  :shades:



I totally agree!  We have a 16 week puppy and he has been off lead from day 1 of being walked.  He never strays far from us and every walk is a training session.   His recall with a whistle is absolutely brilliant now. Obviously lots of treats and praise are given at this age but I definitely think it’s the best way to train.  Did the same with my now 12 year old and never had a problem with recall.
Pam, Oliver and Bertie

Offline ips

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Re: Off-lead walking
« Reply #9 on: December 12, 2021, 08:57:49 PM »
Well I have done everything wrong then  :005: Ash has been off lead as soon as she could go out on walks  :shades:

Yes at that age they stick close to you, then they get more adventurous, but I trained her on every walk (and still do) and last week even recalled her off 2 deer

Ash is very rarely out of my sight when out on a walk - I hope I have not tempted fate now  :shades:

if you are using a long line or a flexible lead that you should use it on a harness and not on their collars

I did it wrong also then, eze was off lead from 6mth when we got her, hardly been on a lead since (never he'd a collar on either 🙄) and no I have no worries because she doesn't go anywhere as she seems to like us too much 🙄
Muddling along in the hope that one day it all makes sense.

Offline bizzylizzy

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Re: Off-lead walking
« Reply #10 on: December 13, 2021, 06:46:40 AM »
Well I have done everything wrong then  :005: Ash has been off lead as soon as she could go out on walks  :shades:

Yes at that age they stick close to you, then they get more adventurous, but I trained her on every walk (and still do) and last week even recalled her off 2 deer

Ash is very rarely out of my sight when out on a walk - I hope I have not tempted fate now  :shades:

if you are using a long line or a flexible lead that you should use it on a harness and not on their collars

I was advised by a gun dog trainer to start immediately off lead - i.e. ca. 10 weeks ( sorry about repeating, I have written this before) . We were supposed to go somewhere different everyday and I had to just walk, keep changing direction and completely ignore him (Humphrey, not the trainer! :005:). We were looking at videos last week that OH took, so funny to see the little ball of fur sticking to me like glue obviously anxious he‘d get lost if he didn‘t keep up, which was ofcourse the object of the exercise! He‘s 6 now and I can honestly say, hand on heart, that we‘ve never lost him, - his recall needed working on obviously but even while cocking a deaf ear, he‘s always remained within sight.
Didn‘t get on with the trainer long term and we changed quite early on but I took  that tip with me and still think its the best bit of dog related advice I ever had!

Offline sophie.ivy

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Re: Off-lead walking
« Reply #11 on: December 13, 2021, 11:33:17 AM »
That's reassuring to hear!

Ash, Humphrey, Eze and your puppy Pam all sound like very good spaniels (Ash recalling from 2 deer is wonderful - must have been a proud moment :luv:)

It's quite tricky knowing what to do for the best sometimes, we asked our puppy trainer about it and she didn't agree with the gundog trainer and told us to keep on with the off-lead walking and training...! I think we're going to keep her off-lead on daily walks and use a long line in farmers fields and other areas we'll be asking her to work in one day just in case of any accidents or attempts to chase. We do practice recall on every walk and use a whistle for distracting situations (which we've been blowing in her special recall sequence before putting her food bowl down at home) and that's working well so far. Cocktail sausages help too!

She was off lead this weekend and had her first swim with a pack of 5 other dogs. Half of the pack were running quite far and the other half were sticking close, and I was happy to see her in the close group. I appreciate this may change as she gets older and starts testing her boundaries and getting more adventurous, but we felt really pleased with her.

Not related to off lead walking at all but the lady I was walking with told me about a doggy swimming pool in Uxbridge called Dipping Dogs where you can swim with your dog! Going to take Ivy over the holidays and wanted to pass it on if anyone lives that way :D

Offline bizzylizzy

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Re: Off-lead walking
« Reply #12 on: December 13, 2021, 02:00:31 PM »
Sounds to me as if you‘re doing fine! It obviously depends very much on where you live and how much freedom you can safely provide but generally speaking, I think they need to learn for themselves that staying close is a good idea rather than having it imposed on them!
Humphrey‘s been on lead for three months now because of a back injury and I‘m still waiting for the go ahead from the physiotherapist before I can let him off, - We shall see how he reacts when he finally gets his freedom back, I hope I won‘t be eating my words!!  :shades: :005:

Offline sophie.ivy

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Re: Off-lead walking
« Reply #13 on: December 17, 2021, 10:02:18 AM »
Thanks Bizzylizzy :D

I do have a tendency to overthink these things sometimes and as she's happy off lead at the moment and recalling nicely then I'm going to trust her until I have a reason not to! I took some chicken out with me this morning as she's had a bit of a dodgy tummy and she stuck to me like glue :005:

I hope Humphery's back is healing nicely and he enjoys his freedom (but not too much!) when he's allowed back off.

Offline vixen

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Re: Off-lead walking
« Reply #14 on: December 17, 2021, 10:26:43 AM »
As mentioned before, my Maisie 5 months old is recalling really well to the whistle and interacting well with other dogs/people.  I try to get her to come to me before greeting other dogs/people and I then sort of give her permission to say hello..  I am planning on using the flexilead again when she comes into season which will coincide with her going through the ‘teenage’ phase.  I think we will both hate it but it may just further her bond with me ❤️. ( or rather her bond with my magic weapon, pilchard cake  :005: :005:)
Max (GSP)  always in my heart