Going for an off the lead dog walk is exactly that, they are roaming free without their lead attached and you as the owner are also freed from the shackles to have a truly relaxing walk. Off the lead do walks in a controlled manner is the ultimate reward when you and your dog have a great bond and your dog is well trained, obedient and has an even temper. In this JugDog training guide we are going to go into detail of what an off the lead dog walk is about, how to train for a walk without the lead, what to look out for during it and great places around the UK to go and enjoy them.
Even though every dog can be capable of great things, some breeds are more naturally gifted to be trained easily than others. Every dog can be walked relatively easily off their leads but the one thing that must be done every time is training, training and some more training. Although this will be covered in more detail later, the most import aspects to be trained with your dog for a great lead free walk is – recall, ability to ignore distractions and to understand their boundaries. With these three things understood and grasped, an off the lead dog walk will be a doddle.
Let’s begin with some background.
Can I walk my dog off the lead? Dog off lead law in the UK
- Can I walk my dog off the lead? Dog off lead law in the UK
- How to train your dog to be good off the lead
- When not to let them off the lead
- How to begin having off the lead walks
- Great types of places to try off lead dog training
- Best freewalk breeds
- Have your say
It is perfectly legal to allow your dog to be off the lead in the UK as long as they are under control, in particularly when it involves third parties which is not limited to human beings – an off the lead dog needs to be under control when near other animals too, especially Farmer’s livestock. To answer the question “Can I walk the dog my dog off the lead?” – yes you can.
You can see the Government page on off the lead laws here. There’s two takeaways here:
- Walking your dog off the lead is legal
- Having an out of control dog off the lead is illegal
These rules even apply inside your own home.
If you dog is off the lead and out of control you can be fined to an unlimited amount and even face prison times. Although this is probably an article for another time, the takeaway here for dog off he lead law UK is to only let your dog off the lead when you can guarantee 100% they will be under control at all times.
How to train your dog to be good off the lead
Before even considering letting dog off lead you need to make sure you’ve done the training. Unless it’s too late, the best time to train your dog to be off the lead is when they are a puppy. Of course, this is not to say you can’t train you adult dog to be under control when free walking it’s just that it might be a bit more challenging. We mentioned the three pillars of off lead training at the start and we are going to go through them in a bit more detail here.
Recall training should be one of the most important pieces of training regardless of the off the lead stuff. If your dog doesn’t know their name and doesn’t recognise your voice then it makes dog ownership difficult at the best of times. Before even contemplating letting your dog roam free outside the comforts of your home you must make sure your dog’s recall is excellent. And by excellent we mean your dog will hear and return to you when you call them 100% of the time.
We have covered recall in some detail in the training page, but we also recommend this brilliant (and cheap book):
Recall is important when off the lead for a myriad of reasons but most importantly it’s to get them by your side. Excellent recall is the staple between a healthy bond and a great off lead dog walking session, it can even be a lifesaver if you or your dog get separated and you haven’t invested in a dog tracker.
Another item which can make recall training outside even easier is the use of a dog training whistle, we’ve compiled a list of our favourites.
- Train your dog using ultrasonic frequencies tuned to their hearing
It’s really important that your dog is able to ignore distractions and stay focused when needed, we don’t mean that your dog should be able to ignore every human and dog they pass because you’d want your dog to be friendly with others. What we mean is that your dog will not go off and run after another dog or even a person randomly; they won’t be distracted by much and they will know to stop if called by you (call). Training your dog to ignore distractions can be done off the lead and at home and there’s no need to do this training off the lead. Here at JugDog.co.uk we recommend going to puppy classes as usually this activity is covered then.
Being distracted by something from time to time in a safe environment is usually harmless but serious distractions could be
- Running towards dangerous dogs (on or off the lead)
- Chasing something that run across a busy road
- Distracted by something they shouldn’t eat
- Generally being an annoyance and ruining other people’s walks
With this in mind, train your dog to be focussed on the mission at hand: being a good doggy while off the leash. This goes hand in hand with great recall.
Understanding their boundaries
Understanding where they can and can’t go is essential for a safe walk without a lead. Many people may not be able to get to this part until the recall is down to pat, though. Basically, your dog needs to understand and see an invisible boundary where they can’t go. Reading between the lines you will understand that this means don’t go anywhere near roads. At JugDog.co.uk we feel that distance training is the best way to get dogs to get a grasp of how far they can go before they go no further. How do you do this? Well, we used extendable leads and extra long leads at first for a safe on lead training session.
- Customizable 5 m tape lead with clever accessories and interchangeable belts for dogs weighing up to 25 kg
- 🐶Width:2cm; Available in five size, 33m/100ft, 20m/65ft, 15m/50ft, 10m/33ft, 5m/15ft, 3m/10ft; Our extra long lead has the length needed to allow them to wander and ensure your command to come
When not to let them off the lead
We believe there are certain situations when a dog owner should never let their dog off the lead in particular if they’ve never been trained before. Off the lead walking can pose some challenges and should be avoided if:
- You have a rescue dog or have taken ownership of an adult dog with an unknown past
- A very young puppy
- A nervous or skittish dog
- You have a dog that doesn’t like other dogs (potential out of control behaviour)
- You can see dangerous dogs in the area (put them back on the lead for safety)
- It’s very dark
How to begin having off the lead walks
So, you know you it’s perfectly legal to have off the lead walks, you know the essential skills for them and some tips on what to buy – now you want to do the real deal but don’t know where to start? Well, here is some handy steps to get going towards that goal.
Step 1: Take regular walks at peak times with an extendable lead
We recommending starting (or continuing) off lead training by giving them more freedom than they’re used to at a times where there are plenty of distractions about with the use of extended leads and a comfy harness.We highly recommend employing positive reinforcement and giving them treats when they do a desirable action that you’d want if they weren’t on the lead. To be clear, while doing this step, test and reward them by:
- Taking them near boundaries and praise them if they go no further
- Rewarding them for walking past people/animals without being distracted (a quick hello is still fine)
- Making sure they use the full extension of the lead but not pull
We recommend doing this for a couple of weeks a month and to only move on after good, consistent behaviour as with the next step its time to ditch the lead for the first time!
Step 2: Practice walks and recall in an enclosed area
This step is quite fun. The first thing to do is to find somewhere that is sealed and they can not “escape” from this area. It can be your garden or it could be a dog section in the park (some parks have this) and just set them free! Watch how they behave and keep on using positive reinforcement on all desirable behaviour. Be aware of other dogs entering this area and try to let them meet each-other on the lead first before letting them play off lead. This step is so rewarding for your dog and they will look forward to it so much that they know to be on their best behaviour.
When doing this step, don’t just let them wander around as you just watch, try and walk them around and keep recalling them – essentially, try to mimic what a walk would be like.
Again, don’t rush this step, take your time and give it a few weeks/months to get perfect before moving on.
Step 3: Let them off the lead in short bursts
Once you and you dog have got to grips with the basics it’s time to really give it a go. For step 3 we recommend taking them on a familiar walk when it’s not busy and full of distractions and then giving them some off lead time in short bursts. Let them regularly have the off the lead time and add a bit more time and distanced every now and then over a few weeks/months. Get their and your confidence up.
Don’t forget to keep up that all important positive reinforcement here! It’s extra important at every step!
Step 4: Go off lead regularly
At this point, letting them off the lead regularly but use recall and put them back on the lead if you spot any trouble ahead is the penultimate step. For this stage you should be very confident in your dog’s ability to stay close, to come back instantly when recalled and to know where they can go and where they can’t. If you aren’t there yet please don’t put your dog at risk and run before they can walk (no pun intended!).
Step 5: Take them on a great adventure trail / nature park
Is your dog brilliant off the lead? Why not treat yourself and your dog to a new nature trail / adventure walk and let them really explore! Even though some of these places aren’t technically enclosed they are vast in size and in general full of other friendly dogs who can behave off the lead. We feel this step, although optional, is a fantastic way to really bond and further train your dog.
At the bottom we’ve listed some great places to take your dog off the lead, if you know of a good one we’ve missed please let us know in the comments section and we’ll check it out!
Don’t forget, it is possible to walk a dog TOO much. You can use Regatta’s dog walking calculator to find out more by entering your dog’s breed.
Great types of places to try off lead dog training
Some places are better at letting your dog off the leader than others, we recommend looking to see if one of these is near you and head there!
Dog parks, naturally, are the best and most common place. A dog park is usually just a normal local park but it may have fenced off areas or even completely sealed areas specifically made for dogs. Queens Park in St. Helens (our local park) is one example of a park like this.
A beach is a fantastic place for off the lead dog walks as it’s typically very spacious and relatively safe. If your dog loves the drink then there’s a bit of swimming they can get on with, just keep an eye on them and don’t forget the recall training.
National trust parks
National trust parks are everywhere and are generally well made with clear walking paths from start to finish as well as being fenced in at the edges. National trust parks are one of the best places for a safe and enjoyable off lead walk.
Best freewalk breeds
We’d like to start by saying that any breed can be trained to be excellent off the lead and no breed is born destined to be tethered outside, however there are some breeds out there which are easier and faster to train as well as other breeds which can be more difficult and require more time. Here’s a handful:
- German pointer
- Golden Retriever
- English Setter
- Spanish Water Dog
- Border Collie (Sheep dog)
- German Shepherd
- A crossbreed with one of the above
This is not an exhaustive list and in general gun dog and herding dogs are naturals off the lead and very co operative with training.
Breeds which can be tricky:
- Afghan hound
- Jack Rusell Terrier
- A mix which includes the above
In general, breeds which are made for hunting (not retrieving) can be tricky as they can be easily distracted by prey (or what they perceive to be prey) and not as co operative with training and recall).
Have your say
Thanks so much for reading this page on off the lead dog walks. We hope you’ve enjoyed it! We’d love your input and experiences on this subject, if you’ve spotted something that’s wrong, to add something we’ve not mentioned or just to tell us we’ve done fine job please let us know in the comment section below.
Ronnie is the JugDog site editor and a dog expert who has lived and worked with dogs his entire life. Living in St. Helens, UK with his wife son and Jug Dog Jeff Ronnie spends most of time researching the answers to the burning questions of the dog community as well as reviewing the latest and greatest dog products.
Last update on 2020-07-08 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API