One of a dog's great joys is to be able to sniff and explore and stretch their legs at high speed in a way that's only possible when they're off leash. Not only are they unfettered, they are also free to choose where they want to go and what they want to do from moment to moment. That choice is a powerful thing.
Because we love our dogs, safety always comes first and that typically means providing this freedom within a fenced area (though with solid recall training, some dogs do graduate to off-leash freedom in safe areas without fencing). You may be fortunate enough to already have a fenced-in yard which provides a nice off-leash outlet. My dogs enjoy their fenced yard, though it is modest when compared to having access to larger and novel areas of acreage where they can really stretch their legs and explore exciting new scents.
I bring this topic up because some of my clients' dogs who stay at my house display very clear cues that they're unaccustomed to off-leash freedom, and this can lead to some issues. Here are some things I've noticed:
The first day or two that the pup is here, I am often of very little interest to them when we are outside in the fenced yard. They are clearly relishing their freedom and taking full advantage to sniff and explore every nook and cranny of the yard. It's hard for a person to complete with all the exciting environmental distractions, at first, especially when the experience of freedom is so new. This often means, at least initially, that teaching this pup to be attentive and to come when called will be more challenging than for a dog who regularly gets to experience off-leash freedom.
Once the pup has a taste of freedom here, it can be challenging to get them to do their business on leash (which is still necessary when they're back home again) because their mind yearns for all the wonderful possibilities in the yard when we step outside.
Some pups, I believe, hold their pee and poop for long periods of time when outside on leash as a way to keep moving around and sniffing. They've learned that, if they pee or poop quickly, they may have to go right back inside. I want to teach a pup to eliminate quickly BEFORE getting to the preferred activity of exploring and sniffing.
I also worry that pups who are unaccustomed to off-leash freedom may be more at risk and harder to catch if they do accidentally get loose because the novel thrill of freedom will be so significant to them.
Believe me, I understand that a fenced yard might not be an option for you. Over the years, I've spent tens of thousands of dollars for fencing at my various homes. It's ghastly expensive. If someone lives in an apartment or condo, there is no yard to fence, or they may live where a homeowner's association forbids fencing (yikes!). So what can we do to provide our dog with some off-leash freedom? Here are some ideas to consider:
Ask friends, neighbors, or family members who do have fenced yards if you can bring your dog over for some regular romps. The more locations you can arrange, the more fun for your dog, thanks to the novelty of each location. (Just be sure to clean up after your pup!)
Bonus points if this person has a friendly dog that your pup enjoys playing with.
Suss out your town to see if there are fenced areas where dogs would be permitted off leash.
Check out sniffspot.com for locations in your area where you can rent out your own safe, private dog park.
Giving your dog a regular taste of freedom is SO rewarding to them, and you will have the benefit of watching their joyful behavior!
In need of training assistance? Please get in touch! I'd love to help you and your dog,
either in person or remotely. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org.