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I didn't want to hijack the thread by eastcoastmom so I thougt I'd start a new one. For those who had a lab who can be off leash, how did you train them?
For us, it was kind of by accident. Without any real training or research, by husband starting taking Elias off leash in the woods behind us when he was just 8 weeks old. Because he was so little and the woods are so private we really didn't need a leash. My husband would walk with Elias following so close that Brian would literally kick Elias with every step. I kept saying to Brian "watch out for him" or "you are kicking him" and Brian just kept saying "he'll learn to not be so close". Eventually he kept a distance and then he started running ahead. Because of this Elias needed to be concerned with where WE were, not us needing to be concerned with where HE was. To this day, as long as we are somewhere private, not near a road, Elias is off leash and he has never once taken off. We test him all the time. For instance he will be running ahead and we will stop, turn around and face the other direction and just wait for him to notice that we are not following. Without fail he always comes running back full speed back to where we are.
I was just wondering how everyone else who has a lab that can be off leash did it? Our system just happened by accident.
 

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All of my dogs are off leash unless at class (in the 'big' city). For the most part they were trained just as Elias was. As such young pups, they didn't want to loose sight of where I was.
 

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Ivy is extremely reliable off-leash. Raleigh is less so. We trained them in the same manner, but Raleigh has always had more of a willingness to leave us behind. :p
 

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We started them very young just like Belles Mom. We have done this with every lab we ever had.

The only really important command they must know without fail is recall. They must come when called. If you don't feel that recall is reliable then you should use a very long check cord until you are certain they will come when called.

I'm always reminded of Chevy Chase in the movie "Funny Farm" where he has an Irish Setter that he lets loose and the dog never came back when called. Through out the movie there would be snipets of the dog running through the woods barking.
Funny for the movies. Not funny when it's your dog.

We live in an area that doesn't have a lot of training class options and maybe our methods aren't perfect, but that's how we've done it. There are a lot of people on here that have more formal training than I. I'm sure they can help.
 

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Abby was pretty much trained off leash the same as Elias but she was about 2 or 3 when we did it.

Molly has yet to earn the privelage of no leash unless she is swimming with Abby. We started her around 10 weeks but she has yet to get it and still doesn't have a reliable recall...silly girl
 

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We did our girls like Elias, walking in the yard as pups and they would stay close. Molly has had many obedience classes & her CGC & is very reliable off leash. Abby is only off leash in the field behind our house or at our retriever club training. She is never in our front yard which is not fenced because there is the road in our plan there & I just don't trust her enough not to run after a rabbit or squirrel.
 

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Now that I think about it Tal is reliable off leash when there are few distractions. We need to work on recall tho and that is one reason we are going to training class. As long as we are in the yard or when at the park he never strays and always comes back.
 
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I think it depends on the dog. My neighbors have a lab/GSD cross. They tried to train it the way that you described and it didn't work at all. She takes off like a shot at any opportunity. The same method worked perfectly with their other lab x.

Sami is excellent off-leash. We started her when she was around 5 or 6 months old, out in the woods. She is the kind that never wants to stray very far. She will go maybe 20 - 25' out and stop and wait for me to catch up. When we are out she is constantly looking at me for instructions or directions. Maybe it has to do with her being submissive by nature. I don't know.

I treat trained her for recall. I saved the really good stuff for off-leash recall. Whenever she would return to me ~ whether I called her or not ~ I rewarded her with lots of praise and a high-value treat. It worked really well for her. To to this day, I take treats with me when I'm going to have her off leash. I no longer give treats like I used to, but I will still give her a treat on occasion for returning, or fetching, or whatever. She is extremely food motivated, so I just use it to my advantage.
 

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I think as with everything, it very much depends on the dog. Labs are bred to work within close proximity of humans so generally, when given good training, they tend to stay close when off leash. I don't think I have ever met a Lab that I thought could not be trained off leash...it can be done with a little hard work and patience.

My dogs have all gone off leash from day one. The area I let them off leash in, however, was fenced or well away from any type of road or distraction. Puppies will almost always stay close for those first few weeks -- it is instinct. I remember the first walks with my dogs -- they would not leave my side. When a pups confidence builds they start wondering further afield and exploring. It is THEN when you must start a strict recall training regime. If you never give them the opportunity to run off and go wild, they won't.

I guess the key here is so start them as young as possible.
Absolutely. In my opinion, one of the WORST things you can do is start off leash recall training at say 6 months old. By doing this when the time comes to try off leash work what will the dog be almost guaranteed to do? go nuts with excitement!
 
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