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The Transition from E-Collar Conditioning to Working Off Leash


by Robin MacFarlane



E-collar training: The intermediate step you need to know about!

Being able to run your dog off leash and have the freedom that e-collar training allows is awesome. However, I want to make sure you understand one of the crucial steps that you must practice in order to be confident your dog is ready when you unclip that physical leash.

When we start e-collar conditioning, we are working on leash or a long line and we are assisting the dog as needed to help him through any moments of confusion that may pop up in the training. The leash functions as a "translator" (as does our body language and other cues we can use to assist) to guide the dog into the correct behavior, so they learn that the sensation of stim goes away when they perform the requested behavior.

To go from on leash to entirely off leash is typically too big of a leap in the dog's learning curve. Even if we are doing a great job at holding the leash loosely, most of us aren't aware there are numerous times that some subtle leash pressure is present, adding to the dog's awareness of what to do and how to respond appropriately.

To safely get to off leash understanding I encourage everyone to spend plenty of time practicing with a dropped light line. A light line is lighter than a typical leash, making it less noticeable to the dog. A thin bit of rope or cotton clothesline works fantastic. I use lines that range in length from 10 feet to 25 depending on the dog's speed and what we are practicing.

Having that line dragging is a safety measure that allows you to assist the dog if needed if at any point the dog shows some confusion in how to respond, or the distraction level changes and causes temporary challenges you aren't ready for.

Here is a bit of video of me working a young Labrador that is transitioning working entirely off leash. You'll notice I needed the line a time or two to help the dog get back on track with the expectations of what I was teaching.



As you work through this transition phase, remember to practice in many different locations with increasing amounts of distraction present. Your dog's reliability will improve, and soon you'll discover you need the line less and less. When you get to the point you are no longer picking up the line to assist, you will know you are ready to unclip. Now you can both enjoy the rewarding feeling and freedom of being off leash!
-- Robin



Robin MacFarlane is a professional dog trainer and owner of Thatís My Dog in Dubuque, Iowa. Her best-selling dog training DVDs, JUST RIGHT and JUST RIGHT 2 have helped thousands of dog owners teach their dogs basic obedience and fix problem behaviors through a system of training that you can easily work into your daily routine.
  • Robin writes for Gun Dog Supply on our E-collars Dog Training blog
  • Follow her on Facebook
  • Read her other posts here on RobinMacFarlane.com




  • Pull-Quote= Before you try running your E-collar trained dog off leash, make sure you do this.



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