Off-Leash Behavior and Advent Calendar for Dog Lovers: Day Two

Day two of the Advent Calendar for Dog Lovers is here.  Don’t worry, I’m going to give you all the information you need for a chance to win another awesome prize, but first I wanted to chat a bit about Delilah’s off-leash behavior in last week’s Nosework Class and some insights I received from our trainer, Arianne.

Free to be me

So you may recall, Delilah loves the nosework game, and she’s very good at it.  Typically I drop the leash when I release her, but seeing as there was only one other team in class last Tuesday I decided to un-clip her leash.  And in that moment, my lovely dog who typically shines in the classroom setting, took off for my trainer’s treat bag.  I called and coaxed and was totally ignored.  So I went to her, clipped her and brought her back to our spot.

Arianne said, “Interesting.”

We decided we will try it again.  And we got the same result.

Arianne said, “Let’s try it with a check cord.”

I revved her up, dropped the cord and off she ran to Arianne’s treats again.


The next time it was our turn, Arianne suggested I keep hold of the check cord and drop it, IF and ONLY IF Delilah took a step towards the hide.  If Delilah made like she was heading to the treats, I was to step towards the hide, if Delilah responded, I could drop the line.  If Delilah did not, I was not to release her.

This time as she made to head towards Arianne’s treats, I took a step towards the hide and she followed, so I dropped the line.

On our next turn, we removed the check cord and replaced it with what basically amounts to a leash handle.  Just a clip and the handle.  Same deal, if she moves towards the hide I can release her.  This time, she went for the hide.

On our last turn, I removed the leash and kept a hold of her by her collar.  As soon as she indicated she was going for the search, I released her.


It’s a simple answer.

That was a brief summary of what we did in our class last week.  Are you confused?  Are you wondering just what the connection between Delilah and the un-clipping of the leash is?

It’s the connection.

Simply put, when Delilah is on the leash, she feels like she must engage with me, when I un-clip the leash, in her mind she’s a free dog and no longer “HAS” to engage with me.  Basically the leash keeps us connected and once that connection is lost, Delilah thinks she can do what she wants.

Delilah forgets who her Mama is and how much her Mama likes a challenge.

Arianne and I will continue working on this, and I have hopes that at some point I will indeed be able to trust Delilah off-leash.  Until then, I’m perfectly content to keep her on leash.

Advent Calendar for Dog Lovers

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  1. says

    So very interesting. Glad you figured out what was happening, so you can work on it successfully. Sorry I’ve been missing from action for so long. Opened a new shop and battling to get into the swing of keeping up with the blog as well. Hopefully I’ll be around far more now

  2. says

    Sounds like Bailie. She knows come, does it great at home, but at school, she has to check out what everyone else has for treats before going to Mom. Hope you get it resolved, sounds like you have a good plan!

  3. says

    That’s interesting – and a good thing to figure out in a controlled environment! We’re still working with Rita, and I don’t know if I’ll ever totally trust her off leash, but like you, I’m fine with keeping her hooked up!

  4. says

    Delilah looks like she is having a great time! Id try nosework here but I nearly fainted when I saw the price of the class think upwords of 300. Ive done a little at home but its hard with all five dogs. The leash thing is interesting and it makes sense, I always some of my dogs have invisible leashes (Ping for sure) and some don’t. Ping will ALWAYS stay at my side. Norbert and Tubby will check in. Bob is good but if something majorly distracting happens forget it. Weasley would be on t he other side of the world and then think, wait….were is mama?

    urban hounds aka retro rover

  5. says

    I was confused at first! But now it makes perfect sense, and it seems as if Delilah caught on pretty quickly too when you changed how you did it. I never would have guessed that a leash could give that kind of connection between us and our dogs, so that is really great to know.

  6. says

    Hmmm, that is a very interesting observation Miss Jodi. When she’s not connected (to the leash) she’s not “connected” to you. I cannot wait to see how training will change that!
    *Cairn cuddles*

  7. says

    Makes sense you get a better response when she can feel something your “connection” on her collar; I would imagine though that you are well on your way to getting her to attend even without it. It’s so great that you’re doing nosework with Delilah–I would think that the process will be awesome for developing the kind of attention you want to see.

    The advent calendar is such a great idea!

  8. says

    You know, I had that same problem on and off when Toby and I were competiting off leash, but it was very random. Some days he was so on my page that he totally shined. Other days, he ran from the ring – once to go check out a bagel he had seen someone eating earlier! :-)

    I can’t wait to see how you meet (and hopefully defeat) this challenge!

  9. says

    You can also use two leashes–unclip one leash and see if the dog tries to run off. No risk if they do, because you still have the other one attached. I play that game with Silas when I switch him from his short line to his long line.

  10. says

    That connection makes a lot of sense. I’ve heard from many about how their dogs go from unruly to well-behaved just by putting a leash on. Maya & Pierson listen, for the most part, on or off leash. But I think it would be a different story if they were someplace besides home. They will probably do just what Delilah did, and more, in a public setting.

  11. says

    Don’t you love when you find the solution for a problem like that!

    Keeping that connection for off leash work can be tough (says she with terriers). It’s been a longtime since I’ve trained for the obedience ring, but I used to do a little routine where I would get my dog into heel position, look at them to be sure they were paying attention to me, then say ready when they were. This was to help keep that connection and let them know that we were in working mode. In training class, I worked to keep my dog engaged with me whenever there was downtime (other dogs working, instructor speaking, etc.). I would just ask them to do simple behaviors like puppy pushups, spins, nothing that would get to rowdy. It didn’t take much for my guys to get distracted but this helped keep them focused and tuned into to me.

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