Whether you’re into training your dog or just letting things “happen”, if you let your dog off leash at all there are three safety commands that your dog should know – “Come”, “Stay”, and “Leave It”.
The “Come” or recall command is used when your dog is away from you and you need to get him back to you immediately. When your dog is off leash, you have to be his eyes and ears for potential problems. Let’s say you’re out hiking the hills and you’ve found what you think is a secluded section of trail. You let your dog off leash to go ahead a few paces and smell the sage. Then you round a bend and see some bicyclists coming down the path. It’s your responsibility to take actions to prevent any conflicts that may arise between the bicyclists and your dog. You need to recall your dog, leash him up and step off the trail before those bicyclists get to you and before your dog spots them. Encountering off leash dogs on the trail, in parks or even in someone’s house can be daunting to people and children unfamiliar with canines. With just a little training, a quick recall is one way of getting your dog back to you and under control and turning a potentially negative experience into a positive one.
The “Stay” command is used when you want your dog to remain where they are. This came in handy to me the other day. I was in my front yard chatting with neighbors and one of my dogs wandered across the street. Just as I was about to call him, I saw a car turn on to our street. Instead I told him to “Stay” until the car passed. If I hadn’t, he would have bounded right into the car’s path. In competition events, “Down” given from a distance is used quite a bit. Although a little harder to teach, this command works better for keeping your dog in one place until you release him to come to you. The Stay/Down command is also very useful when you’ve got your hands full and the last thing you need is a dog milling around your feet. One quick way to practice this command is to put them in a stay when you pick up their poop on walks. Since I walk three dogs at a time, this really helps keep the leashes from tangling.
The final safety command your dog should know is “Leave It”. I use it all the time. Dogs are curious, friendly animals but sometimes this curiosity is neither wanted nor good for them. Big dogs smelling small dogs, dogs smelling children or babies. These fall into the not wanted category. Dogs smelling holes, trash, and unknown objects. These fall into the potentially dangerous categories. (Ever see a picture of a dog with a rattrap on his nose?) The “Leave It” command tells him exactly that – break off what you’re doing and look or come to me.
Learning these three off leash safety commands – “Come”, “Stay”, and “Leave It” will make your dog a better Canine Citizen and provide both of you more hours of happy off leash fun.