27th Apr 2020

Many dog owners are afraid to let their dog off lead for the obvious fear that they won't come back, they'll get lost, injured, run over etc. All valid fears but they don't consider the negative effects of having a dog that can never experience the sheer joy of running free. With modern day technology, trackers can remove a lot of the anxiety and allow the dog to be found if it did run away and I would consider the purchase of one to supplement your training for safety.

That said, I will outline here my method that I have used with 100's of dogs boarding with me at Lookafteryourdog, which as usual when it comes to me, is a very basic and easy to follow method that will get results over time in the least complicated and time consuming way possible.

Equipment required is a 30 feet training line, available on Ebay, Amazon or at a slightly higher cost, your local pet shop. The equipment will be tailored to the size of your dog and this should be guided by the weight of your dog, so they aren't dragging round huge trigger hooks and heavy lines when they are a Chihuahua.

First and foremost, you should do some recall training with your dog in the back garden and house, whereby a family member holds the dog, while the other moves away and excitedly calls the dog to a food or toy reward. The other person then takes the reward and moves away and the dog recalled to them say 3 to 5 times before ending the exercise. The distance can be gradually increased and the game can be made into hide and seek to make it a bit more challenging. The outcome of this will be that you call the dog by name in a high pitched friendly but excited tone and allow them to race to find you.

I would suggest that this is done pre feeding time if food is the reward, to increase the dogs drive to find both the person and the food reward. Eventually, the dog will run to just find the person and an occasional food reward or in the garden a good toy play, tug or chase can follow. 

Once you have a good foundation, you can walk, drive your dog to an isolated and open spot. This is important so you don't have any dogs or people as distractions, you will have enough with the environment and don't want to push the dog too far too fast. Hook the dog up onto the line after first making sure that you have unravelled it and there are no knots or kinks in it. Keeping hold of the other end, let your dog free with the command OFF or BREAK or whatever you want to use.

Do this on your own until you have mastered the technique or no longer need the line, or you can trip your partner up or worse still, get a burn on the ankle if the line is lying behind you or your partner and the dog runs off or you throw a toy and the line whips up and wraps around you. If the line is always out ahead of you when you are throwing a toy or the dog is running, it is perfectly safe, also, the dog is safe as long as you don't let the line wrap around there legs continually and if it does you get them to stop and just free it. This doesn't happen often as it usually unwinds itself as they turn and move in and out of it, but can wrap if they spin around too much. I have not had a dog injured by a line in 25 years, only me!

Let your dog enjoy the environment and enjoy watching them as they run free to explore whatever they wish. This is particularily good with puppies as they have a fantastic joy of life. You will soon find out what your relationship is like when you see what your dog does. Most will be besides themselves with joy but will constantly check in with you, by looking around at you to make sure you are still there. I can tell you from experience, that this dog is going nowhere and will stay with you. It is the dog that doesn't check in at all that will take off and should be monitored to a higher level.

Don't call your dog when they are sniffing something interesting and wait for them to finish before you try to recall them to a treat, toy or praise. Don't recall them while they are heading away from you, instead wait for them to turn back and then call their name in a high pitched, excited tone and shout COME or HERE and throw your arms out wide like a crucifix and smile and be someone that your dog will love to come to. When they do, give them huge praise and reward and make them think they are the best and most clever dog in the world.

Repeat occasionally but don't overdo it. You will have as many training opportunities as you need and can relax and enjoy your dog, knowing that you are giving them great exercise, but also training them at the same time.

The progression of this exercise is that you can eventually drop the line and just let it trail behind the dog as a safety line that you can run and pick up if they make off or shout to someone to pick up if they are far away. You can then proof the dog by calling when they are running towards something or distracted and when they have a high level of compliance, you can progress to off line training and then occasional reward. 

I will list some tips below to help you but really this simple method is something that you should enjoy and just go with and you will find what works best for you and your dog.

Tips for line training

  1. You may want to wear some strong gloves if the weather isn't great or you don't like dirt. The line will get wet, dirty and it can make your hands look like old leather

  2. If your dog takes off and runs away, as the line gets near to the end, start to walk or jog in the direction they are going and as they hit the end of the line, you should be moving so that you act as a shock absorber and the dog doesn't get yanked to a halt or your arm get pulled out of its socket. Then you can slowly stop the dog without injury to either and then really encourage the dog to COME or HERE with a high pitched excited voice and if neccesary use some quick pulls on the line to encourage the dog back to you. The tone of your voice and the reward of getting back to a very happy you should be enough.

  3. If the line looks like it may wrap around someone, drop it temporarily so it can drag around the floor and the person step over it before picking it back up and getting control of the dog.

  4. If you need to get quick control of your dog and they are at the end of the line 30 feet away, you can either use the line to halt the dog and then walk your hands down the line to get back to the dog without them being able to move forward, or you can grab the line nearer the dog so you have instantly less line to work with, gaining instant control.

  5. If the line is trailing and you need to gain control of the dog, tread firmly on the end of the line to prevent the dog moving forward and while calling as above, if the dog doesn't react, walk down the line, treading firmly on it as you go so you are moving towards the dog but they can't move forward. This can be the method you use if you don't like handling the line or don't have your gloves.

  6. When you first start training this method and your dog returns to you, never, never use obedience training with them. Many people will ask their dog to sit or down when they return and you have just ruined the joy of their recall with a command and obedience. When they come back, they are the best thing since sliced bread and you should show them that through your words and actions. Your dog will ignore you or hesitate if it thinks that it will have to do something it doesn't want to when they return so make it a joyous thing and they will fly back to you of their own free will. 

  7. You can use the line as a lead if you need to, say you are in a field of cows etc. You can bring the dog to you and then spool the line into your free hand and hold the dog end like a lead and walk them through or past the danger. Once done, you simply let the line go away from you and give the dog the BREAK command or whatever you use.

  8. Never be afraid to go back to the line if you are encounter any problems, but if you allow it to drag behind the dog and you are always getting good behaviour, you should be good to go.‚Äč

Any questions or issues with your dog that you want answering, please feel free to get in touch using any of the methods on the contact page at and I would be happy to try and help.

If you are local to Sutton Coldfield, you might consider your dog coming to the Lookafteryourdog Daycare Centre, where your dog can run, play and socialise with other dogs and drain lots of energy while having fun. Doggy Daycare in Wishaw, Sutton Coldfield, near to junction 9 M42. 

If you need your dog looking after when you go away, please consider Lookafteryourdog home dog boarding service. Local home dog boarders near to you. Trusted, vetted and reliable dog lovers waiting to care for your dog now. Home from home dog boarding for your dog in the Midlands, including Sutton Coldfield, Tamworth, Lichfield, Birmingham and Solihull. Sussex, including Brighton, Hove, Shoreham, Lewes and more