9 Signs Your Dog is Not Able to Hike Off-Leash


I learned the hard way that my dog was not able to hike off-leash during a trail run on an on-leash trail.

Sixteen miles into an 18-mile run, Sora and I got here upon a bunch of senior birders on a single track trail. Sora, with loads of energy reserves, was off leash and I used to be out of treats, useless in her eyes.

Two of the people within the group had dogs. The primary dog was right up front and Sora went straight to that dog and went in for the lunge.

An echo of horrified shrieks rang through the birding group.

Sora spotted the second dog and made the identical move.

The shrieks returned, together with several alternative words about my rude off-leash dog.

I never let her off leash like that again and I still cringe after I recall that moment because I knew it was unfair to have my dog off-leash, especially for the reason that trail required leashes.

Fortunately, I did learn from my mistake. I’m here to hopefully allow you to avoid the identical embarrassing fate, if not something worse.

An unwanted encounter between two dogs can lead to a fight and undo the hours of labor and investment owners have put into their dogs.

It takes time, patience, and consistency to show a reliable recall. If you ought to practice good trail etiquette and luxuriate in off-leash hikes along with your dog, then the hassle is value it.

How Do You Know If Your Dog is Able to Go Off-leash?

Here’s an unpopular opinion: I don’t care in case your dog is on-leash or off-leash, even for those who are breaking the principles, so long as the handler is managing them.

What do I mean by managing?

I mean that the owner shouldn’t be allowing their dog to approach other dogs or people without permission, chase wildlife, or destroy the environment.

The issue comes when owners let their dogs off-leash after they wouldn’t have reliable recall.

Yes, it’s such a joy to look at them explore, sniff to their heart’s content, and just be a dog, nonetheless, it’s not so joyful for other users, especially those with reactive dogs who may not want your dog of their space.

Mountain climbing with a dog off-leash is a privilege, not a right. 

Unfortunately, it’s widely abused by many dog owners, and it makes climbing incredibly stressful for individuals with reactive dogs or who simply don’t want your dog jumping throughout them.

So, how do you recognize when your dog is able to hike off-leash? 

The common frustration from dog owners is that their dog doesn’t listen after they’re off-leash.

There are a number of reasons for that:

  • They haven’t been taught recall to fluency
  • The owner has not worked to construct a robust relationship with their dog
  • The owner isn’t that exciting to return to
  • There is no such thing as a consequence when the dog chooses to not return

If any of the signs below sound like your dog, then it is advisable keep working on that recall.

Your Dog Doesn’t Know Their Name

When you say your dog’s name, what happens? Do they whip their head around and take a look at you? Or, do they ignore you? In the event that they ignore you, there’s probability that they don’t even know their name!

I do know that will sound ridiculous that a dog doesn’t even know their very own name, however it happens and if it hasn’t been taught to them, then why would they know?

Keep in mind that dogs don’t speak English, they speak dog.

So, let’s say that each time you ask for “sit,” you say, “Fido, sit.” Your dog might think that the “sit” command is definitely “Fido, sit.”

Okay, so how do you teach a dog their name? 

By making their name the very best word on the earth.

It’s super easy. 

Start out somewhere there are few distractions, like your property, and wait until your dog shouldn’t be being attentive.

Then, say their name, mark with “yes,” the second they give the impression of being at you, and reward them with their food. 

You desire to be certain to make this game exciting so your dog thinks “Fido” = AWESOME!

Your Dog Don’t Come When They’re Called on Leash

Off leash practice starts with recall on leash.

In case your dog won’t come to you if you call them on a leash inside your property, you then can bet they won’t come to you after they’re off leash where there are tons of smells and other distractions.

Teaching a dog to reply to “come” on leash starts indoors (are you seeing a theme here?) where there are few distractions.

Use the leash to your advantage by adding a little bit of leash pressure if you call them, after which back away until they reach you. 

Dogs prefer to chase things. Be something to chase! Go nuts after they start charging toward you.

When you already use a prong collar for teaching loose leash walking and heel, then your dog will understand the concept of pressure and excel with this exercise.

Leslie Knope on the phone asking why the person on the other end has called them. Meme text reads

You Can’t Recall Your Dog off of Low-Interest Distractions

While continuing to make use of the leash as you construct recall, for those who can’t call your dog off of low-interest distractions, just like the pee corner they sniff each day, you then’ve got some work to do.

Because of this I really like the e-collar for recall training. The stimulation gives them just a little “yo!” in order that they refocus on you. Then you definitely can release them back to that pee mail as their reward.

When you can recall your dog off the next *on-leash* then there’s probability that they’re near becoming ready for off-leash privileges:

  • Other dogs
  • People
  • Food
  • Cats/squirrels/other small creatures
  • Bikes
  • Toys, after they’ve been tossed

You Disregarded Practicing Off Leash Recall with the Long Line

The long line is KEY to constructing reliable recall in dogs and so many dog owners skip this a part of the training or breeze through it.

While you use a protracted line, you should have a probability to see how well your dog does if you recall them from a distance. 

Depending on the length of your leash (I personally like between 15’ and 30’), you’re essentially teaching your dog to remain inside that distance from you after they do go off leash.

While you start using the long leash, practice in a secluded area of a park until you may have some confidence that your dog will return. Next, you may try going to a forest service road or wide dirt path to see how they do.

Your Dog Doesn’t Check in With You

When you’re out of sight out of your dog, do they care? Do they check back periodically to be certain that you just’re still behind them?

If not, then recall them to you much more ceaselessly, get much more excited after they come back, and reward them for selecting to come back back to you.

They Approach Other Dogs and People Without Permission

Promise me you won’t be that person.

You recognize, the one who lets their dog off leash after which calls out “it’s okay! They’re friendly!” as they run up to a different dog or person.

It’s not okay.

It could actually be dangerous.

It’s rude.

Promise me that you’re going to recall your dog every.single.time. you see one other person or dog ahead of you. Pinky swear?

When you do it often enough, you only might even construct an auto-recall, like Sitka has.

They’re Reactive to Other Dogs and People

If you may have a reactive dog, you then’re going to need to work on that before you allow them to off leash. Do yourself a favor and hire an expert dog trainer to allow you to.

It’s not unusual for other trail users to inform individuals with reactive dogs that they don’t belong out on the trail. It’s absolutely not true.

Nonetheless, for those who are allowing your reactive dog off leash without recall then they’re right. It’s stressful for you, your dog, and the opposite trail users, and it might probably be dangerous.

Put within the work and it should be 100% value it.

Your Dog has a High Prey Drive

This one must be pretty obvious. In case your dog goes to take off and chase other animals within the woods, then they should stay on leash until they learn that that shouldn’t be acceptable behavior.

Not only does this cause stress to the opposite animals, but in case your dog takes off after a much larger, dangerous animal, like a deer, bear, or mountain lion, it’s possible you’ll never see your dog again.

I even have personally found that the e-collar works wonders for dogs with high prey drive, so it is unquestionably something to look into for those who are combating your dog.

They Take off into the Woods as soon as You Allow them to Off Leash

I learned this lesson the hard way after I once let my dog off leash during a hike on a secluded trail and she or he took off–for 10 minutes! 

Certain that I had just lost my dog, I used to be about to have a panic attack when she got here tearing down the trail together with her tongue hanging to the bottom.

Pointless to say, that was the last time I ever let her off leash.

Protected Places to Let Your Dog Off-Leash

When you’re practicing constructing your dog’s recall and testing out their reliability, it’s necessary to practice in a protected space where your dog won’t run away or have access to other dogs and other people whilst you’re training.

Dog Parks*

Normally, I like to recommend that dog owners avoid dog parks, but they might be useful after they are empty.

When you occur upon an empty dog park, you may benefit from it to practice recall in a fenced-in area.

Since there are such a lot of smells and places to mark, it should be test of your dog’s off-leash recall abilities with distractions.

Sniff Spots

I feel Sniff Spots are genius. They’re essentially private property that dog owners can rent out by the hours to offer their dog with a protected space to explore without worry of other dogs or people.

These are a improbable choice to practice off-leash recall along with your dog.


During non-school hours, fields at schools make excellent spots to work on recall. They are sometimes fenced in and have large fields so you may really test your dog’s skills.

Remember that faculty grounds are sometimes used as makeshift dog parks, so if that’s the case to your local school, go to a distinct field, if possible, or attempt to go when other dog owners are usually not present.


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