Off leash hiking?
  • I looked around but didn't find a thread specific to taking a dog out for the first time off leash hiking, what people feel they need to have first, what they don't, what helps calm the jitters. Can someone point me at it?
  • sunyatasunyata
    Posts: 4546
    I did a quick Google search for you. There are tons of threads that discuss off leash and off leash hiking. Here is the link to the Google search:

    Have you worked with your pups off leash around the yard and other areas yet? If not, I would definitely do that first. (You have Nazo and Chibi, right?)
    Bella 2Mountains 2Nola 2
    Casey, with Bella and Nola, hanging out in the mountains of Virginia.
  • I did not know you could do that with google, thanks! I couldn't seem to get the right words into the on site search that wouldn't turn up unrelated threads. Will review those and abandon this thread. In answer, yes I have. Chibi will probably never be an off leash dog for me except in very specific circumstances, but Nazo seems well suited for it, I just don't want to screw it up.
  • tmdtmd
    Posts: 345
    I'd keep it short, somewhere with good visibility and don't be stingy with the treats. It could be helpful to have Chibi if he's attached to her. Hopefully Nazo hasn't left the insecure phase or prefers to keep you in sight, because that can be a huge help. I used Hanzo's insecurity early on to make him want to know where I was and to keep checking on me. The time between checkins and fly-bys has increased as he's gotten older, but he's always looking to make sure I don't *disappear* on him.

    Every time Nazo checks in, shower him with good treats, you want him to think coming back to you often is well worth it, even after rolling in a squirrel carcass or deer poop.

    Also, I'd start working a long distance recall device, like a whistle or similar. It can be really helpful in the future. Also, I use a "bear bell", basically a small cowbell to make me feel better. If I call Hanzo I can hear him getting closer and generally what direction he's in.
    - Hanzo (Kai Ken), Pharaoh (JA/AA tweenie), Meg (Border Collie/Lab mix)
  • omgtainomgtain
    Posts: 240
    Definitely having another sticky dog helps. I do off leash hiking with my two, and I know if I call Nare then Tavi will ALWAYS come. She can't let him cash in on the jackpot alone lol.. She also followed him a lot as a pup, and he followed me, so I could reward them a lot for being near / around me.

    I also put a bear bell on Tavi so I can keep track of her. Shes never run off but it is more of a warning for perhaps any other hikers (I try to go to the most remote places possible so I don't bother anyone).

    I let them drag leashes as puppies. not really even a leash, but like a 10 ft long piece of yarn.

    ALWAYS take plenty of treats. Sometimes I go through 10+ cheese sticks while we're out. Really. The worst moment is when your dog does an amazing recall or checks in with a distraction and you have nothing to reward them with.

    Hi Hanzo!
  • ZinjaZinja
    Posts: 1033
    I will not be able to let my NK off-leash. Once she sees a squirrel, possum, armadillo, or turtle, her prey drive kicks in and she forgets her recall.

    My Border Collie mix, on the other hand, might be able to because his recall is really strong, but my NK taught him to hunt animals too so it's weird. I feel more comfortable with them close by me. We have lots of snakes and gators in Florida.
  • kagerikageri
    Posts: 25
    I wouldn't off leash irregardless of training. I spent 6 months with my akita off leash just fine. We came and went from the house, dog classes, hikes in the field.... Then one spring day the squirrels were just too tempting. Once she started on the squirrels she just kept going. 3 hrs of running later I finally tackled her as she doubled back past me chasing a pheasant.
  • I'm a bit nervous of doing anything off leash too. I just found out that I'm close to several forests and I want to take Endo there. There are several reasons why I'm nervous; the first being is that he has hit fear stage PLUS rebellion stage now (almost six months), and what happens if he see's something interesting (squirrel?) or something spooks him (lynx, wolf!? BEAR!?)
    What kind of lead would people recommend for giving their dog the freedom to roam but still being on leash?
  • kagerikageri
    Posts: 25
    We get our supplies from Hiking belts so we don't have to hold the leash, sledding ganglines or nylon webbing leashes, and semislip collars or skijoring harnesses. They also have a good tracking harness that is fully adjustable unlike the skijoring one.
  • My advice is don't do offleash unless you are absolutely confident in your dog, and after having worked with them a lot.

    I used to be very casual about it (it appalls me now). Sometimes my dogs ran off and it tooks hours to find them. One nearly was hit running in a road. Years and years ago, when I was young and had my first Akita, we let her off leash and she chased some cows and wouldn't come back, and we were just lucky she wasn't shot. What was I thinking? I don't think I WAS thinking.

    I've been ok in more controlled situations on long trails with letting some dogs off leash, but still, not sure why I thought it was ok: Shibas ran off and I had to wait for them to get bored and come back. My GSD was my only truly off leash dog, but he was super sticky, and was annoying off leash (he'd nip at our ankles to "herd" us together) and he was big and scared people we met on the trail because his greeting was an excited bark and a rush up to be petted (but how would people know that?).

    All around, a bad idea unless you really have a dog that is good off leash and has flawless recall, even if there are distractions. Most people do not.

    That said, I work on the ones who can do it a bit, in very controlled environments. There's one trail that I walk that is one way in, one way out, and you know if someone is on it ahead of you. If there isn't someone on the trail, I've let my Kai boy offleash, since he's pretty good off lead because of agility. However, I will never do it again. Since then, I saw him literally lose it on a different trail when we ran into a horse. He was so scared he tried to bolt and didn't respond to me or to my friend (who he didn't even recognize after his scare!). I realized if he got that spooked again, and was off leash, I'd never see him again. the risk is not worth it to me.

    My Akita girl is probably my best bet now for possible off leash hikes in very controlled environments (so rarely, in other words). She is sticky (in fact, she doesn't like to be alone at all). When we've tried, she doesn't want to go far at all. But I don't trust if there were a big distraction. She's not super prey driven, so animals aren't a distraction for her, but she is an Akita and other dogs might be a problem, and she'd be scary to people too, esp. as she tends to bark at people.

    So....I think, mostly, it's a no for us. And I encounter way more people with off leash dogs that shouldn't have them offleash hiking than I encounter people whose dogs are ok with it. There's a handful I've seen with good recalls who have not been a problem, but the vast majority I encounter have dogs who are completely ignoring their people, and causing annoyances for other people.
    Lisa, Toby (Shiba), Oskar and Zora (American Akita), and Leo (Kai Ken)
  • tmdtmd
    Posts: 345
    You can also just use a 50 ft clothesline, especially for training as it will feel to most dogs like there isn't anything attached. They do tend to capture a lot of junk as they are dragged, so it isn't perfect for deep underbrush or thorny areas, mostly grass would be best, but if it's a clear trail it can work pretty okay. Definitely tie knots or little handles up the length of it so that if you need to stop your dog from running it won't burn your hands.

    If you want something heavier duty or longer term, that doesn't pick up debris or water, check out this site I originally heard about it from @wrylybrindle on this forum somewhere and when I need to put Hanzo on a long line, it's worked great. Just be aware that it's not chew proof.

    I don't think every dog is suited for off leash work and most will never be off-leash due to their parent's worry, area circumstances, personality, temperament and prey drive. I've been really lucky with Hanzo and started training him since I got him home at 10 weeks. I definitely would wait out the fear phase. It's better they don't experience anything new or potentially scary at that time. I missed the signs with Hanzo for his second fear phase and he became afraid of tile/concrete floors inside stores or buildings and stairwells in buildings. He's mostly gotten over the first with a lot of work and still hates the second since I haven't worked with him as much on that. Thankfully his outdoor skills keep us outdoors most of the time anyway.
    - Hanzo (Kai Ken), Pharaoh (JA/AA tweenie), Meg (Border Collie/Lab mix)
  • RikkaRikka
    Posts: 62
    I've worked with my Shiba on off-leash training since day 1 as a puppy. I'd attach a 50ft leash on him, then reward him when he'd follow me while the leash was left alone in the grass. I'd also bring a friend with me and we'd "bounce" him back and forth with name-calling across huge parks. It was rigorous and sometimes time-consuming, but with him now as an adult, I fully trust him off-leash.

    I worked with him on off-leash training anywhere between 5-10 hours a week in various parks, hikes, or campgrounds. I'd get the highest reward of food that I could possibly think of that he'd immediately devour, and would always make it a positive experience. There are times where he runs off farther than I'd like on hikes, but he always snaps back when I call his name—I make sure not to re-use his name over and over again, so when I call for him, he knows it's important.

    However, I do not fully trust other dogs on hikes. I make absolute sure that I hold onto either his harness or leash him back up when we're going to cross paths with another dog as it can be unpredictable. There have been instances where he's growled at other dogs on trails and they do not adhere, so I grab onto him until they leave.

    Otherwise, he's a sticky hiking dog. I've never had any worries or experiences of him bolting off and not returning. His prey drive is only particularly strong with small creatures; birds, he couldn't care less about.
    Post edited by Rikka at 2014-08-23 17:37:44
  • tmdtmd
    Posts: 345
    That's funny @Rikka, Hanzo is the exact opposite for prey drive. He loves birds. I think that's worked in my favor since he hasn't been able to catch them yet and he gives up once they fly away, so even chasing something he hasn't ever gone far.
    - Hanzo (Kai Ken), Pharaoh (JA/AA tweenie), Meg (Border Collie/Lab mix)
  • ZinjaZinja
    Posts: 1033
    She always does this:

    And that's during a walk in a lifestyle center. Imagine her in the woods. She's twisted my back a few times when darting to the other side to chase an animal. I should take a video of her stalking.. She's kinda Border Collie-esque. I think she gets angry at me because her tag jingles and she isn't as stealthy.
    Post edited by Zinja at 2014-08-26 01:39:17
  • tmdtmd
    Posts: 345
    Hehe, I put a bell on Hanzo. I'm sure he hates it for hunting, but the outdoor kitty is appreciative.
    - Hanzo (Kai Ken), Pharaoh (JA/AA tweenie), Meg (Border Collie/Lab mix)
  • TrzcinaTrzcina
    Posts: 331
    I used a very long web leash (I'm not sure how long it is... at least 12', probably 16' or so... it might be as long as 24', I'm not sure) on my Lapphund when I would go hiking with her. I very, very rarely did any off leash work--though she was an agility dog and could be great in the ring, that recall did not translate well to the woods because chipmunks and squirrels were too much of a draw for her. She was extremely food motivated, however, so I could do off-leash work with her if I had a lot of food in my pockets and was paying close attention to her. But the trick was not to let her get into "hunt mode," and that meant keeping her close and her attention on me... so I think it was more fun and relaxing for both of us to hike mostly on-leash (on a long leash), then take it off for a short training session, then back on for more hiking.

    I may try to work on off-leash training younger with my next dog, but it depends a lot on the dog and the trail resources I have available. A bell on the collar is something I'll definitely do, especially as my intention is to end up with a Kai and I'm sure they're even better at disappearing into a bush or long grass as my Lapphund was (similar size, and no near-white tan points or "skunk butt"!), plus it is reassuring to have some auditory clue of where they are.

    All in all I liked the long web leash. I think I got it from the regular pet supply store--often I see them in with either the leashes, or any hunting dog stuff they carry. A little bulky when all folded up, but still manageable. Thick enough not to give me rope burns and easy to reel in. Substantial enough to actually hold her if she tried, for whatever reason, to go after something (she snapped a show lead once when I showed her in conformation, and that made me wary). I'd do something lighter with a puppy, though, and perhaps for a dog that didn't have a history of leash-snapping.
  • They make light weight checklines for training hunting dog puppies and there are lungelines for horses. We actually use horse ropes on our shiba because she has snapped several normal dog leads. I also used rock climbing ropes and clips designed to hold 500 lbs sudden impact as tie outs. It's just not feasible to use such long ropes on trails here because the only parts of iowa with trees are the parks. Nearly all trails have trees within inches of the path so over 10' on my akita who could listen to commands for going left or right of a tree and over 6' on the shiba who doesn't listen so well would wrap us up frequently.
  • CrispyCrispy
    Posts: 1905
    Most people have already touched upon this... but... I like to start recall very early. I basically never have my puppies on a leash. I'm not sure that's the best for everyone, though, lol.

    Either way, I carry a long line, extra leashes, and many different types of treats 90% of the time.

    When Fionna (Kishu puppy) started to ignore her recall, I put her back on a longline, let her drag that, and started to do more intensive rewarding for her recalls. She got back on track very quickly. I suspect she'll have another "flare up" if I let her go, so now I just treat her like we're training every day. Which I think is the way it probably should be.

    For my older dogs (Nami and TK), they came to me with a decent recall from their previous homes, but since they didn't have the same bond with me, I didn't (or don't, in Nami's case) let them off the leash at first. TK and I practiced for a couple months, every day, and he was very responsive. Our first off leash hike was on a trail he knew, I knew well, and didn't have many visitors or distractions. That, I think, is the best bet. Prepare to set the dog up for success, but plan for the "what if". I was armed with treats, a noose, several people to help me if he got away - we didn't mess around. The more important thing, though, is not to get frustrated or upset, IMO, when working with recall. If TK knows I'm getting amped, he gets amped, and when he's amped... he's an idiot.

    Nami is worse with her distractions. She's hunting 110% of the time. She's never NOT going to be hunting, but she does have a decent recall and doesn't seem to like to leave my geeeeeeneral (very general) area. I think with Nami, she may cap off at some point and I'm just going to have to appreciate that she sticks with me, even if she darts off after something. That said, I may never be able to hike with Nami in areas close to civilization, which is ok, too. She's really a great dog and wants to please me, but her distractions and training have told her that it's ok to check this thing out or that thing out... and that's really ok by me. I'd like to get her off-lead this fall. We'll see if that happens.
    Akiyama no Roushya || 秋山の狼室 ||
  • aamayaamay
    Posts: 3
    When using on a long line with Kai ken, and they go after a distraction, will they hit the end of the line hard and snap the line (or the unlucky handlers shoulder)?
  • KajaKaja
    Posts: 216
    When using on a long line with Kai ken, and they go after a distraction, will they hit the end of the line hard and snap the line (or the unlucky handlers shoulder)?

    I don't know about kai specifically, but in my experience with dogs... yes, if you're not expecting it. But if you see it happening just brace yourself a bit and it's fine. You can even give them a little warning so they know they are at the end of the line soon and they might slow down on their own. If need be, grab the lead with both hands (if you have a firm grip) -- if not, loop it around your waist or across your shoulder, or even step on it. For this reason, though, I only use long line if she's wearing a harness... otherwise she herself might go for a loop.
    Post edited by Kaja at 2016-01-18 03:21:21
  • HeidiHeidi
    Posts: 3386
    This debate comes up a lot. The standard response is that NK should never be let off leash. Many people do it, though. They say lawyers don't ask questions they don't already know the answer to, and it's the same with dog training. Don't give commands unless you're sure they'll obey them and don't take them to uncontrolled situations unless you know how they'll react.

    I know my dogs well enough to know when and where they can be off leash. Even so, it's a risk every time. You have to know your dog and your own comfort level with risks. Also, know what your expectations are. My dogs follow me loosely in whatever direction I go, not closely, but close enough that I can see them. They dart off after things periodically and return within a few minutes. I only take them to remove areas with no one else around.

    Long lines are also good. A middle-ground is dragging a long line, which doesn't keep them from running off, but makes them easier to catch.
    Dogs: Rakka (shikoku), Sosuke (kai), Effie (bc/kelpie)
    Cats: Hester, Batgirl, Stephanie, Harley

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