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Off-leash control of your dog

By Michele Welton, Dog Trainer, Breed Selection Consultant, Author of 15 Dog Books

Many owners would like to be able to take their dog to the park, to the woods, to the lake or beach, and not need a leash.

Is that possible?

For many dogs, yes, it is. Often a dog who finishes my entire training program has developed so much respect and trust for you that he wouldn't dream of running away from you.

But you should test this first! Choose a safe fenced area – one that your dog has never been to. Let him drag a long line (20 or 30 feet). Does he come to you the moment you call him? Every single time? If not, what do you suppose he's going to do when he's completely  off leash in an unfenced  area?

If you want to be sure that your dog will stay close to you and come back to you immediately, no matter what the distraction, nothing beats a remote collar  (aka an electronic collar or e-collar).

No, you're not going to shock your dog with it!

When used properly (on a super-low stimulation level, just the barest sensation level that the dog can even feel), a remote collar is used exactly the way you would use your voice or a tug of the leash to say, "Jake, pay attention" or "Jake, come to me."

When your dog is running free and he moves beyond the range of your voice, you need a quick way to contact him, especially if something is distracting him.

Mini Educator remote collar

Enter the remote collar, specifically the Mini Educator brand, which is the only one I use. It's incredibly configurable with 100 levels to choose from. You can set it to such a low level of tingle (or even just vibration) that the dog can barely feel it.

But that's all he needs! A couple of taps on your handheld controller is exactly like "tapping the dog on the shoulder" from a distance, to get his attention. It's not a punishment!

Of course your dog isn't born knowing what that tingle means. Just as you had to teach him what the sound "Come"  means, you have to teach him that this faint tingle means exactly the same thing: "Come back to me."

How do you teach that? Larry Krohn is the best remote collar trainer in the United States. Search on YouTube® for "Larry Krohn e-collar" and in his videos he'll show you exactly how to use a Mini Educator  e-collar at super-low levels that will allow most dogs to be off-leash with you.


Not every dog should be allowed off-leash, even with a remote collar. For example:

  • Some dogs are too pushy or aggressive toward people or other dogs. It's unreasonable to put other living creatures at risk with your dog running free.
  • Some dogs have other behavior problems such as jumping on people or nuisance barking. These behaviors should be completely stopped before you consider allowing your dog off-leash.
  • Some dogs are obsessive chasers of anything that moves. Many hounds, for example, and many terriers, can suddenly spy something in the distance, take off after it, and be out of sight in seconds, oblivious to all your frantic tapping of the remote controller.
  • Some dogs are too small and vulnerable. I never allow toy dogs loose where there might be a bigger dog or a coyote or even large birds of prey like eagles or great horned owls, both of whom have attacked tiny off-leash dogs, with tragic results.

Make sure your dog has a stable and good-natured (or at least live-and-let-live) temperament toward other people and other animals. And make sure he is 100% responsive to your "Come" command or e-collar tap.

Michele Welton with BuffyAbout the author: Michele Welton has over 40 years of experience as a Dog Trainer, Dog Breed Consultant, and founder of three Dog Training Centers. An expert researcher and author of 15 books about dogs, she loves helping people choose, train, and care for their dogs.

My best-selling books – now available  FREE  on my website

book coverRespect Training For Puppies: 30 seconds to a calm, polite, well-behaved puppy is for puppies 2 to 18 months old. Your puppy will learn the 21 skills that all family dogs need to know. Click here to read for free.
book coverTeach Your Dog 100 English Words is a unique Vocabulary and Respect Training Program that will teach your adult dog to listen to you and do what you say. Click here to read for free.
book cover11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy helps your dog live a longer, healthier life. Get my honest advice about all 11 Things before you bring home your new puppy, because some mistakes with early health care cannot be undone. Click here to read for free.