Dogs belong in the outdoors—they're natural trackers and the love to run free. A walk it the park or down the street is great, but let them loose on a hiking trail or at the beach (when allowed) and you see the full extent of doggie enjoyment.
Of course, responsible dog owners know that taking a dog off-leash requires a lot of training. You need to ensure that your dog still obeys commands when you don't have physical control over them, so they don't get into—or cause—any trouble. If you let them go leash-free without any training, or without making sure their off-leash training has truly taken hold, you're exposing them to greater risks from cars, other dgs, and other hazards.
You're also opening yourself up to liability if your dog ends up causing or even being involved in a fight with another dog, or worse, a human. In almost all cases, an off-leash dog will be seen as the cause of the problem, no matter what the situation was. Proper off-leash training lets your dog enjoy being a dog, while keeping you and your dog protected.
Consistency is Key with Off-Leash Dog Training
Professional dog trainers focus on positive reinforcement when dogs properly obey commands, with quick corrections and a show of control when the dog fails to listen. Punishment doesn't work as well as strictly consistent training: praise every time they listen to a training command, immediate show of dominance and a physical correction of their behavior (if necessary) when they don't.
Being consistent can be hard, and takes a lot of patience on the part of the trainer, but the results you'll see make it well worthwhile. Once you get them listening to all of your commands during off-leash training, you'll be able to take your dog pretty much anywhere with the guarantee that they'll obey every command you give and resist their canine urges to take off after squirrels, cars, or anything else.
During training, though, you still need a leash or training lead you can grab onto in order to physically restrain your dog when they fail to obey a command. Traditional dog leashes with looped handles are great for walking your dog on-leash, but the same loop that keeps the leash around your wrist can easily slip around your dog's paw while it's running off-leash—and that's no good.
Most professional dog trainers prefer "drag leads"—no-handle training leashes that can drag easily beside your dog without tripping them up. These make it easy to grab your leash and control your dog during every phase of their training, without the risk of them injuring themselves or simply being tripped up while they're running around. A shorter lead of about four feet will do if you're doing at-your-side off-leash training, but if you want your dog to be able to range farther afield and still obey all of your voice commands a longer leash of 25 or even 50 feet is recommended.
So grab your no-handle training lead and get to that off-leash training. Your dog will thank you!