There are two main approaches to German Shepherd Off Leash Training.
The first is to have the dog or puppy by your side at all times. You are in total control, and the dog is ‘heeling’ at your side.
The second is arguably as effective, but focuses on consistent attention from your GSD at a distance. The second approach is what we are outlining below.
Below you will find the objective, and simple 5 step process to teaching your GSD to walk off it’s leash.
You can check out ON leash training tips in this guide.
a) GSD Off Leash Training Objective and Briefing
Let’s get some boundaries set first about what we mean when we say German Shepherd ‘off leash training’.
When we talk about ‘off leash’, we are talking about letting little Max or Bella roam free at a dog park, down the beach or anywhere they are physically off their leash in public and open to interacting with their environment and its distractions.
When we talk about ‘training’ in an off leash scenario, the objective is not to have complete and utter control over your GSD to the point they are anxious not to disappoint you.
You want to make the experience enjoyable!
So, our main focus is to teach our German Shepherd Dog or Puppy to ‘check in’ with us periodically, and of course behave when interacting with distractions – other dogs, humans and random inanimate objects. Always use positive, but firm reinforcement.
Two experts tips for the German Shepherd Off Leash training below are:
- Tip #1 – Pay attention to the distractions that cause your GSD the most difficultly, and how it reacts to each distraction. This can help you adjust to make your training much more effective.
- Tip #2 – Introduce new distractions in the controlled environments one by one, never several at a time.
**Note: It is not recommended to ever try off leash training with dogs with aggressive or dangerous behavior. Call your local dog association or German Shepherd Club to get professional training, and obtain an opinion from an animal expert if required before introducing it to an environment where it can harm itself, or other dogs and humans.
1) Step One: Getting Initial and Consistent Attention In a Controlled Area
Pick an enclosed private area ideally with little distractions to begin with i.e. your backyard.
What you want to do to begin is to teach your GSD to give you their attention both initially and periodically.
So, start with your German Shepherd ON their leash (an easy clip leash), and either wait for their attention to naturally fall to you, or call their name once to have their attention.
As soon as you have his or her attention, unclip the leash, and excitedly say ‘Yes’ and let them go roam in freedom. But, don’t just let them go, encourage them to go and play.
After one or two minutes, re-clip your leash onto your GSD, and repeat the process.
You can do this step with or without treats.
2) Step Two: Progress to An Environment With More Distractions
Note that the environment you train your GSD in should gradually increase in the natural distractions to simulate a real off leash scenario. Start of with few distractions and increase them as your GSD becomes more competent.
For step two, you may want to progress to your front yard for example.
In most front yards, there are people walking past, cars and general public environment distractions. These are great natural distractions for your adult dog or puppy to be tested by.
3) Step Three: Move To A More Open But Enclosed Area, and Extend The Leash
You now need to move to another area with higher difficulty, like say for example an enclosed dog park, in off peak time, but still with other dogs and humans around. Take treats or a toy reward if you need to.
Find a part of the park where you have plenty of area to work with and have either an extendable leash, or a long length(s) of thin cord or rope that you can attach to your GSD’s harness or collar securely and safely.
You want to practice exactly what you’ve been doing in your front and back yard, only at further and further distances.
If your GSD starts misbehaving, it’s very important you don’t shout at him or her, or show frustration. Simply say ‘no’ in a controlled way, re-attach the lead, wait for attention and repeat the process again.
If your German Shepherd dog or puppy is really not behaving off the leash in this environment, calmly take them home and go back to your front or back yard and add in more distractions (consider playing dog sounds on your phone in the back ground – get creative).
4) Step Four: Move to A Fully Open Area Without Restrictions
You preferably want an area with little to no moving vehicles.
A beach is good for this. It’s the same process as Step Three.
Depending on how confident you are, either keep the long leash on your dog, or revert back to the short leash for greater control and to minimise risk.
5) Step Five: Bonus Step – Take Your German Shepherd Adult Dog or Puppy Walking Without a Leash On Footpaths!!
We only recommend this for the most obedient dogs, and of course only in areas where it is legal/no breaking any laws to walk your dog off the leash.
The last thing you want is for your GSD to go running off into traffic injuring itself and giving you expensive vet bills, or getting you in trouble with the law!
Unless your GSD is extremely obedient, it’s probably not wise to go walking freely near major risk areas like main roads or densely populated areas. Quiet urban neighbourhoods is probably ok at this stage.
You have the best gauge on how competent your GSD is, and its better to be safe than sorry.
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