In my recent blog posts about Tater’s Ruff Love adventures, we’ve had some questions about when should dogs be let off leash. The first thing I’m doing with Tater is transitioning off lead near the end of a walk. I’ve got a video to show what that looks like.


We’re backchaining success, and I’m taking the leash off when we are close to home. Many of you will recognize that I’m using the release cue “search” when I throw the cookie away from me.

The “search” cue is a permissions cue to let our dog know he can chase down a cookie and then come back to engage with us. It helps our dog with clarity on when it’s okay for him to look for food on the ground and when it’s not. If your dog does not know the “search” cue, introduce it by saying “search” and then tossing the cookie. You can read more about the uses on my post on Balance Breaks.

Using “search” when Tater is off lead allows me to see what choice he makes. Now, he could have easily run to the pond to look at frogs… because he loves looking at frogs. But, he made the choice to come back to Reinforcement Zone, showing me that he has value for walking near me. We’ll continue setting Tater up for success and reinforcement for great choices.

I have five criteria for when a dog should be allowed off leash.

  1. In a secure and safe fenced area or the safety of your own fenced back yard.
  2. No livestock or wildlife at risk.
  3. No other dogs off leash in that area.
  4. If there are other dogs; you know all the dogs, and everyone gets along.
  5. You have an amazing recall off anything, including dogs or wildlife.

The underlying factor in the list of five is that the environment is safe. Many of these elements might be met on the highway, but that is not safe.

Have you tried backchaining to transition your dog to being off leash? Let me know in the comments!

Today I am grateful for your questions and notes here in the comments on my blog that help with planning on what to share for upcoming posts, video chats and free training series.