Not brave enough to let 7 month pup off lead

(60 Posts)
cyclingwife Thu 04-Jun-20 21:31:09

Our labrador pup is lovely but I'm not brave enough to let her off the lead. We don't have a secure back garden and so she has always been on a long line or lead since she came to us at 8 weeks old. One time i didn't keep an eye on her she disappeared into the neighbours garden to chase their dog.

We walk her 4 times a day (8am, 11.30, 4 and 8pm) but she's always on a lead because we don't trust her to run off. She loves to sniff around and wander all over the country roads where we live, but I wouldn't trust her to come to me when a car comes for example.

We practice recall twice a day as training session but also most of the time generally calling her and she's pretty good at coming unless there is a higher reward - like a cat, cow muck to sniff, rubbish to pick up- and then she is easily distracted.

I just worry that she never has a really good race aroun apart from her zoomies but they're always restricted by the 5m lead. Is she missing out?

I'm looking for advice for when i know she'll be fine if i let her off her lead. Today we were in a forest and she would have loved to have whizzed off into the forest to run but I would be so worried I'd never see her again. Should I just be brave and let her go?

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Cyberworrier Thu 04-Jun-20 21:35:17

Can you not secure your garden for one thing? We have even used chicken wire and bamboo canes as temporary measures to secure garden.
I wasn’t comfortable letting our pup off lead except in small enclosed parks until he was about 1. The thing that made a difference was getting him so hooked on tennis balls that he is more excited about me playing fetch with him than random food/cats/other dogs. I’d find a secure place and practice, in the meantime secure your garden.

Cyberworrier Thu 04-Jun-20 21:37:14

Also you are right to keep her on the lead on roads, even country ones. It’s dangerous and reckless to walk dogs off lead on roads!

cyclingwife Thu 04-Jun-20 21:44:26

Thanks @Cyberworrier. I'm relieved you say that you weren't comfortable until yours was one. Our pups brothers go for off lead walks all the time and so I was worried we were being too cautious. I would just hate for her to run off and get lost.

With our garden there is a row of trees between our two gardens and we'd have to cut down some of their lower branches to put chicken wire fence in. We are going to talk to them about removing the trees and putting in a proper fence but that will take months. They say they don't mind our dog in their garden but it's a bit scary growly dog which i suspect could bite ours if we left them to it.

Yes she has finally understood the game game of fetch with a ball so we don't hold her lead and she runs around lose but we could grab her if she makes a run for it. But she gets bored after 5 throws and then wanders off.

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Notsafetogo Thu 04-Jun-20 21:51:39

Google secure dog fields near you. There are a few here which you can pay £5-10 for an hour. You get the field to yourself and can let the dog off knowing he/she can’t get out. One near us is 7 acres so a good walk really.

cyclingwife Thu 04-Jun-20 21:56:18

Thanks @Notsafetogo I think I saw one advertised near me recently. That's a good idea and good for us to train her recall

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Jingstohang Thu 04-Jun-20 22:02:00

My dog is 15 months. I still wont let her off lead because she is an idiot and wont come back. Thankfully she is cute so it's ok.

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GrumpyMiddleAgedWoman Thu 04-Jun-20 22:03:45

In general young dogs do NOT want to lose their owners, so the sooner you let them off, the better: they will stay with you, or return to you as soon as you start to move away from them. I even play hide-and-seek with mine as they get a little older, or take a turning when they are ahead of me on a path: they learn from a very young age to keep an eye on where I am. Your dog is probably still young enough not to want to lose sight of you.

Is there anywhere secure where you can let her off (e.g. secure field as PP suggests) and just test her recall to reassure yourself? You could also get a much longer line and try recall on that, including moving away if your dog doesn't come (it's not your job to chase the dog, it's the dog's job to come to you). You can also let a line trail - a dragging line gives you more scope to catch the dog if that is what you're worried about.

If you try recall and she returns, offer lots of rewards - praise, fuss, food, a toy, whatever ticks her boxes. Make yourself interesting and fun, and she won't go far, and will be happy to return to you. If she doesn't return (unlikely but not impossible), you will have that trailing line if you need it. Pick it up, give it a quick tug to alert her, and call her again.

Once you have her off-lead and returning happily, make sure that going onto the lead doesn't signal the end of the walk. Every now and again, pop her on the lead after a random recall, praise her, and release her again.

cyclingwife Thu 04-Jun-20 22:11:44

@Grumpymiddleagedwoman that's really interesting, thank you. Yes she does keep an eye on me or the husband and it's only when there's another animal, whether it's the neighbour's dog, one of our cats or a rabbit in a field that she gets distracted and we can't get her attention.
We do let her long line drag a lot, we have a 10m one but she tied herself in knots so went back to the 5m one.

I worry she has too much energy as sometimes on a walk she just wants to run as fast as she can (maybe following a scent) and nothing can distract her until she gets back to the house or the car. The harness holds her back but it's a struggle as she just wants to run very fast.

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StillMedusa Fri 05-Jun-20 00:07:23

Mine's been off lead since she was 13 weeks, because I was told by an experienced dog owner that she would stay close to me when young..and she was right.
However after her first season at 8 months she hit adolescence and her recall is currently selective. .. she does come back.. but often disappears out of sight into trees and bushes to hunt and it takes a minute or two before I hear her return.
But you have to start some time! Pick a quiet time and place where there aren't too many distactions and practice..loaded with the BEST treats.
I used a whistle.. started in the house.. blew whistle..and treated immediately. Then blew it upstairs..when she came running..treat... then took it in the garden..ditto.. soon she was tuned into whistle = goodies and that's what we used outside on walks. Now I usually just wolf whistle as I can.
For peace of mind can I recommend a Tractive tracker.. I have one on my puppy's harness and it links to my phone...real time tracking to 4 metres away... she's just turned 1 and has a high prey drive so it just gives me a bit more peace of mind (ever since she spotted a deer and was OFF!)

frankie001 Fri 05-Jun-20 00:24:36

Is there someone you know with a dog that is good off lead? They learn from each other, and that may help your confidence and the dogs.

cyclingwife Fri 05-Jun-20 07:20:42

Thanks @Stillmedusa, I have never had a dog before and lockdown started just before we set up training classes. I'm fine with her inside but I'm still anxious with her outdoors - mainly after she ran after the neighbour's growly dog. My partner says we shouldn't let her off the lead on the roads and so as we were only doing road walking during lockdown we didn't get the chance to practise with her off lead. It's now we're going on walks in woods or moorland that she gets so exciting and I can tell she would love to be off the lead racing around.

I'll definitely look at the tracker which might help my anxiety a bit! Thanks

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cyclingwife Fri 05-Jun-20 07:22:41

Yes @Frankie001 I have a few friends with good dogs but with lockdown I just haven't been able to meet up with them and go for walks.

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GrumpyMiddleAgedWoman Fri 05-Jun-20 07:27:41

It's also worth bearing in mind that the more you confine a young dog, the more desperate it is likely to be to run around like a loon...

Yester Fri 05-Jun-20 07:28:35

I think you need to be brave and do it. Dogs should be off the lead if possible. It's like never letting a child run. My dogs have had to be taught recall and some have been better than others. But in the main they have been good. Obviously if they were aggressive then thays different and needs to be addressed.

copycopypaste Fri 05-Jun-20 07:31:15

There are more and more kennels offering a secure area for your dog to run around in, we have a local one. It's about the size of a football pitch but fully fenced in. You can hire it for about a £5 for either an hour, or half an hour (I can't remember). Might be worth a few sessions in there to try her recall.

There's also gps trackers you can put on her collar so if she does run off at least you've got half a chance of finding her

StillMedusa Fri 05-Jun-20 07:39:31

Mine's my first dog too, so I totally get your anxiety..I've spent the last 10 months worrying more over her than I did my kids grin and every time she disappears into places I can't see her I panic a little..she once saw a deer and disappeared out of the country park we were in and into a field.. returned after the longest 6 minutes of my life..hence the tracker now!
But the joy of watching her leaping around, snuffling, playing with her dog friend, makes it worth it (and tires her out!)

BiteyShark Fri 05-Jun-20 07:43:41

I was afraid to let our dog off the lead when he was a young puppy even though we had taught recall with a whistle and had practiced at home and in the garden every day. I have a working cocker so with their nose they can be off if they pick up a scent.

A gun dog trainer told me to get him off the lead asap and before he hit his teenage independent state because otherwise if you haven't they won't have understood what recall 'means' and you won't see him for dust.

Use a long line or a fenced off area to give you confidence but do think about doing it soon because otherwise it's going to be a massive thing and I could totally understand why a dog would go crazy and run off at having this freedom for the first time in months/years. Make sure you save the 'best' toy or the best food for recall. Engage with your dog when they are off lead, don't amble about and be 'boring'. You want them to get off lead but wanting to be with you as well as having a run about. Practice tag, hiding, tug play, ball throw etc. You might look like a idiot to non dog people but be 'exciting'.

Helenluvsrob Fri 05-Jun-20 07:47:56

Please go to some dog training sessions as soon as lockdown eases or preferably have a one to one session with a trainer.
Get a biothane long lead ( they train behind you don’t hold them) . This allows you dog to be “ off lead” but you can stamp on it to restrain them if needed.

Honestly the sooner you do the easier it will be. Secure dog field and try it !

Lots of extremely high value treats - chicken/ sausage etc and he’ll be glued to you anyway.

The older and more teenage he gets the more adventurous he will be.

( 10 month old 1st dog here. )

ihatelockdown Fri 05-Jun-20 07:48:37

Why are you walking your dog 4 times a day? That's far too much! You're asking for behavioural issues from an overtired dog!

WeAllHaveWings Fri 05-Jun-20 07:49:44

I remember letting our pup off for the first time he was only around 4-ish months old. In a huge local dog walking field with hedges enclosing 99% of it with just a small gap in the hedge to enter/leave. The field was empty, took him to the far end and tentatively unclipped the lead. He glanced up at me, then shot from one end of the field to the other and straight out the gap!!!!! 15 very long seconds later he reappeared through the gap and came flying back to me.

The next times I let him off was when there were older/calm/friendly dogs in the field for him to follow around. Once the novelty and excitement of being off lead wore off he stopped running off and we could practice recall when the field was empty/at the other end of the field from other dogs.

cyclingwife Fri 05-Jun-20 07:52:59

Thanks for all your great advice. I think we need to get her off lead asap.
I think she will love it too.

@ihatelockdown as she was just a pup we got into the habit of just going for a 20 min or 30 min walk around our village at those times, ratehr than out in our garden - where she insists on barking at the neighbours dog. Now she's a bit older we take her for the short walks and then do a bigger walk at 4/ 5pm after work

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mumsiedarlingrevolta Fri 05-Jun-20 08:09:53

I was coming on to say pretty much what @GrumpyMiddleAgedWoman said but she said it better
Our puppy trainer also said let them off as young as possible and when they are clicker or whistle trained-lots of treats to reward recall.
My ddog was about 12 weeks old ish and was walking with another dog owner who asked what I was waiting for to let her off. I said I didn't know-an epiphany. She said here it is-let her off!!!
Also helpful use whistle as often if ddog is far away the whistle is easily heard and not cross or frightened as your voice might get-no dog wants to go back to an angry or shrill owner so whistle neutral.

Mine also had a "teenage" phase after very good recall for months. Was heading for some horse poo-looked me right in the eye and decided horse poo better than the treats I had.

Sometimes you go right back to basics at that phase but it will pass.

LaughingDonkey Fri 05-Jun-20 08:34:16

Very good advises from PPs. I agree that you need to start walks off lead asap. I was scared to let my pup off lead (and we have been to socialization and training classes before lockdown) as recall wasn't good enough.

I started letting him off lead near football fields (adjacent field, where dogs are allowed off leash) and would leave lead dragging (so if he would ran off I could step on it). I would recall him when he would move to about 16-17 feet distance away from me. A lot of praise and happy voice and treats. If it wouldn't work, but he would look at me, I would run in the opposite direction waving my arms and making happy noises (I'm sure whomever watched me thought I was nuts blush ). This took me two weeks.

When I was confident enough I would remove the lead and he wouldn't go far. I then started throwing his ball (before that we did this only in small garden) further and further away! Sometimes he would get distracted, but then I would shout his name and run away - he always prefers to chase me grin

It is also worth teaching the pup ''drop it'' and ''leave it'' commands. ''Drop it'' is for when they try to eat something they shouldn't (my pup had a weird short period of time when he went for poop confused ). ''Leave it'' is to stop the pup going after other dogs, people, getting into bushes (out of sight), etc.

''Drop it'' is very easy to teach if your pup already fetches a ball and brings it to you. When you give a reward to a pup for bringing the ball just say ''drop it' each time. If she doesn't, put the most smelly treat to nose and say drop it (to get the treat she will drop the ball).

''Leave it'' is more complicated and it is difficult to describe, but on Youtube you can find a lot of training videos.

Arm yourself with patience and treats!! Good luck!

vanillandhoney Fri 05-Jun-20 09:51:27

Four walks is honestly a bit much for a young dog - especially a lab, you need to protect her joints. At seven months she should be getting about 35-40 minutes twice a day if you're walking her on the lead - no more than that really.

But with regards to the recall, you need to get it sorted sooner rather tan later. Pop her on a long line and practise - in the house, in the garden and then in a secure field or something before practising outside in the "real world". Lots and lots of high-value treats and tons of praise when he comes back. I would also recommend a whistle because they can't sense your frustration that way grin

Good luck! I know it's scary - I have a beagle and they're notorious for just disappearing but we got him off lead from four months and he's been fine.

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