Allowing your dog off-leash time can provide tons of benefits for both you and your dog. Dogs will release pent-up energy, and you’ll be treated to an exhausted, satisfied pup when the trip is over. Before leaving the leash behind, though, ensure your dog can safely handle the responsibility. We asked our principal dog trainer, Jeffrey Soto, to give us some tips on how to tell if your dog is ready for off-leash dog hiking. Jeffrey is a professional dog hiker and runs Fitdog’s Board and Train program.
By: Jeffrey Soto, Principal Dog Trainer, Fitdog
First, owners should have an idea of how good their dog’s recall ability is at home. A safe way to assess your dog’s recall is by going to a fenced-in dog park for a little test. There are plenty of distractions at dog parks, so if your dog comes promptly and consistently when you call, then it’s a good bet he or she possesses solid recall skills.
Or, if you already trust your dog to be off-leash for a quick potty or while unloading groceries from your car, then it’s a good chance your pup has adequate recall. If you suspect he would bolt, it’s time to practice.
Practicing recall is fairly simple. Reward your dog each time you call him, and he races over. Do this at home and in the dog park. Remember, the more you associate your dog’s name with something positive, the more willing he’ll be to come to you. Get out the good treats! It’s also important to avoid using their name when scolding them. This could actually deter your dog from coming to you when you call. No one likes to be in trouble!
Sociability + Stamina
Aggression and a dog’s physical health are two other factors to consider when determining if your dog is ready for off-leash hiking. Dogs that are aggressive are not good candidates for off-leash dog hikes as they pose a threat to the safety of the rest of the pack. An aggressive dog would not qualify for Fitdog’s canyon hikes unless already enrolled in an anti-aggression program with us. Also, dogs that have any health problems such as brachycephalic airway syndrome (common among short-nosed, flat-faced dogs like pugs and bulldogs), asthma, heart murmurs, hip dysplasia and other conditions that can be triggered due to physical exercise should not be included on a strenuous hike for safety reasons.
The Fitdog hikes are interactive, so I’m constantly encouraging and conditioning the dogs to follow good behavior. We’ll practice recall throughout the hike, as well as obedience reinforcement. This interaction is incredibly rewarding for you and your dog because your pet gets to enjoy exercise in the fresh air, and he’s also building his skills and exercising his mind and body.
If you are interested in getting your dog started with Canyon Hikes, you can schedule a sports assessment at app.fitdog.com.
Post last updated on May 16, 2019.