Can I Take the Leash Off?

Dog running through park

Off leash freedom. Many families yearn to give their dogs this experience, and out of the goodness of their heart, they do. Dogs join their families in the front yard for neighborhood socializing or for weekend projects, and off-leash dogs are frequently seen frolicking around parks. This sense of togetherness is highly valued at Koinonia because we believe it's part of providing dogs with a good quality of life.  

When folks ask me about off-leash readiness, I give them one question to answer before unclipping the leash: can you consistently recall your dog off chasing another dog/squirrel/cat with a single verbal cue? (Check out this video for an impressive demo!)

If yes, check your city's leash laws and unclip that puppy if it's legal! If no, not yet. Your dog is not ready.

Off leash dogs need verbal proficiency as they cannot rely on leash cues or body language cues from their owner. Not only do they need to be verbally proficient, but they also need to be verbally proficient at a distance--which is a completely separate level of training than standard basic obedience! 

"My dog's friendly so it's okay that he doesn't recall back to me on a single verbal cue." 
We love friendly dogs. Creating comfortable, confident dogs is one of our big goals at Koinonia Training. Unfortunately, "friendly" isn't synonymous with "off-leash ready". Quite the opposite in fact! Your dog can be seriously injured if he runs up to be friends with the wrong dog or person. 
A fellow trainer's in-laws lost their friendly, off-leash dog when she ran up to an unfriendly dog and was brutally attacked and killed. Please don't take that chance with your precious family member!