How to Train a Vizsla Off-Leash

How to Train a Vizsla Off-Leash
Hard difficulty iconHard
Time icon1-6 Months
General training category iconGeneral

Introduction

As soon as you reach for that leash, Cody leaps to his feet in excitement. Your Vizsla spins around, desperate to go out and explore. With so many interesting smells and sights, who can blame him?  When you’re walking, he’s constantly pulling you in every direction. While you understand he wants to explore, it certainly takes away the relaxing element of your walk. That’s why it would be ideal if you could train your Vizsla off leash. That way he’d still be able to explore, just without pulling you to the ground as you go.

Training Cody off-leash would also mean he’d travel a greater distance when you walk, giving him more exercise. And even though Vizslas are the smallest pointer-retriever breeds, they still need a generous amount of exercise each day. Lastly, off-leash discipline will translate into greater control throughout their life.

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Defining Tasks

Training any dog off-leash is challenging. Unfortunately, Vizslas aren’t an exception to this rule. With so many temptations around, keeping them on track and stopping them from charging towards other pets and people can be difficult. That’s why training will consist of slowly building up their off-leash time. You will then need to use strict obedience commands and an effective incentive to ensure they reply to your commands and stay near.

If yours is just a puppy, their brain should be at their most receptive, so you could see results in several weeks. However, if your Vizsla is older and never been particularly interested in responding to instructions, then you may need months. Get training right and you’ll soon be able to stroll through the countryside happy in the knowledge your Vizsla is safe and getting as much freedom as possible. This also means you’ll have more hands free to carry shopping, push a stroller, and any other tasks.

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Getting Started

Before you can start training your Vizsla off-leash, you will need to gather a few bits. A long leash will be required. You will also need an effective motivator. So you can break their favorite food into small chunks or use some tasty treats.

You will need to set aside 20 minutes or so each day for training. Quite simply, the more regularly you train, the sooner you will see results.

Once you have all that, just bring patience and a proactive attitude, then work can begin!

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The Recall Method

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1

Hide

One of the most important components of offleash training is ensuring your Vizsla will come whenever called. So the first thing you need to do is start playing hide and seek inside. So instruct your dog to stay, then go and hide in front of them.

2

‘Come’

Once you’re hidden, issue a ‘come’ command in an up-beat, playful voice. Vizslas learn best when they’re playing a game. Note you can use any word or phrase you like for the instruction.

3

Reward

As soon as your dog finds you, shower them with attention. You also need to give them a reward. A toy, treats or something else tasty will all do the job. Just make sure they get it within a few seconds, so they know finding you was the right behavior.

4

Up the stakes

Once you’ve spent a few days playing this game inside, you can then start playing it in your yard. Now this will be a bit more of a test for your Vizsla as they will have more distractions around. Play this game for a few minutes each day until they come every time, as soon as you ask.

5

Walk recall

You can now start giving the command when on walks. The trick is to call them over every couple of minutes to begin with and not to let them stray too far before you call. You can then gradually let them run off a little farther and for longer before you call them back. Continue to play this game and before you know it your Vizsla will be in the habit of not straying too far anyway.

The Rules for Success Method

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Timing

Don’t give your Vizsla instructions or call them over when they are in the middle of greeting another dog, for example. Timing is everything. So stay aware, look ahead and call them over before a distraction is right in front of them.

2

Don’t repeatedly call

It’s important you only give a command once. If you keep calling, you’re letting them know they don’t need to respond straight away, and in the future they may wait until you’ve called five times.

3

Don’t end play with a recall

It’s important the pup doesn’t associate the recall with negative consequences, such as the end of a game. Otherwise your Vizsla may start ignoring your calls. So at the end of play, go over and collect them instead.

4

Eager reception

It is extremely important that you are always happy to see them when they come back to you, regardless of what they’ve just been doing. If not, your Vizsla will be less inclined to return in the future.

5

Obedience classes

Start taking your Vizsla to obedience classes. This will teach them a range of useful commands, from ‘sit’ and ‘wait’ to ‘down’ and ‘stop’. Not only will these commands come in useful when your dog is off the leash, but it will get them used to being around other dogs and people.

The Leash Transition Method

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Yard & leash

Secure your Vizsla to a leash and take them into the yard. Then just stand there and look at them. Simply wait until they’ve finished looking around and actually concentrate on you.

2

Release them

As soon as they do look at you, say ‘yes’ in a high-pitched voice. You can then unclip their leash. This is teaching them a couple of things. Firstly, they need to constantly be checking in with you. Secondly, if they want to come off the leash, they need to be concentrating on you. Now you will always wait for them to look at you before you let them off the leash.

3

Rewards

After they have wandered around for a while off leash, they are likely to come close to you again. At this point, issue another ‘yes’ command. Again, give it in an upbeat tone. You can then give them a treat too.

4

Lose the rewards

Now all you need to do is regularly give them rewards until they get into the habit of staying close by. Once your Vizsla is frequently checking in with you, you can gradually phase out the treats.

5

Do not use punishment

For your dog to be receptive when off the leash, they have to always return to you when called. Yet if you punish them, even at home, they may be scared and less likely to come back when you’re out in public and they’re off the leash.

By James Barra

Published: 04/20/2018, edited: 01/08/2021

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Cassie

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Vizsla

Dog age icon

6 Months

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Question

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Does not like the leash Does not like riding in cars - gets sick Not able to sit for recall Want to start agility, but can't unless more responsive off-leash.

April 22, 2022

Cassie's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello, For the leash, check out the Pressure method from the article I have linked below. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-your-puppy-to-accept-leash For the car riding, start by simply feeding beside the car while its off, then feeding treats along the runner with the door open, then inside the car with it still. For at least a couple of weeks practice the Down Stay command on the middle seats' floorboard or seats (if a row seat). Gradually move to practicing with the car in the driveway but still while on - don't turn on in the garage for gas breathing reasons. When pup is completely relaxed in the car and can do a solid down-stay, recruit a second person to drive or train, so the driver can only focus on driving. Have the person training enforce Down, while the driver simply pulls out of the driveway and back in When pup can stay relaxed during that (which will require a lot of repetition before pup relaxes then too - once pup sees that the driving is boring through repetition), then drive down the block and back. Gradually increase the distance and level of excitement as pup improves, only moving onto further distances or more exciting locations once pup can stay relaxed at the current level of training. For the sit, I would actually start by speaking with your vet. If pup seem unusually reluctant to sit that could be something joint or skeletal related. Many dogs will also resist sitting on slipper or cold surfaces, and you may want to practice on a rug, grass, or carpet first. I am not a vet though, so refer to your vet for anything potentially medically related. Check out the sit article I have linked below for additional methods to try for sit if this is simply pup not liking to sit and not a medical issue. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-german-shepherd-puppy-to-sit Once pup understands sit well and can sit in a variety of locations, then I would have pup earn things they want by being required to sit first, like sit for a toy toss, sit before opening the door to go for a walk outside, sit for their dinner bowl to be placed down, sit for a pet from a visitor, ect... Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

April 22, 2022

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Gypsy

Dog breed icon

Vizsla

Dog age icon

4 Years

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Question

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I am having 2 issues with the vizsla that I am dog sitting. 1. When anyone comes to the door she jumps all over them. 2. When she encounters another dog she goes crazy. Otherwise she is very good with all basic commands.

June 20, 2019

Gypsy's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Chrissy, Check out the article linked below and the Step Toward method. Step Toward method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-australian-shepherds-to-not-jump For the dog reactivity, that's usually something that takes a good deal longer to deal with, but there are definitely some things you can do to decrease it. 1. Require her to heel the entire walk and focus on you - starting the walk with structure, following you, and calmness will effect how she responds when you see another dog. Even the way you exit the front door can effect it. Heel article - The turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Heel Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OTiKVc4ZZWo How to start off your walk right: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vXLPwyKEjHI&t=403s 2. Use something to interrupt her behavior as soon as she starts thinking about reacting bad - don't wait until she explodes. As soon as you see her start scanning to find other dogs, pulling ahead, tensing up, staring at other dogs tensely, and generally getting aroused, used an interrupter like a Pet Convincer or a quick leash pop with the right tool to snap her out of it, then give her a command such as "Heel" and when her attention is back on you, very calmly praise her (excited praise makes it worse so keep it calm) and give a tiny treat while she is calm. Only praise, pet, or give rewards while she is in a calm state of mind - which is why the aroused state of mind needs to be interrupted first - to gain the calmness so you can train that. While walking her, the leash should be loose. Use the information about heel above to accomplish that - you only want tension in the leash during a second long correction and loose the rest of the time. A constantly tense leash adds to leash reactivity in a dog. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MmRPxTqeSNQ 3. Be confident and calm while walking the dog - notice the trainer's body language and calm directions. Your mindset and manner can effect her tenseness - if you have ever watched a trainer take the leash from an explosive dog and almost immediately get the dog responding, the trainers' calmness and confidence is a lot of why: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BGofhEc1YPg&t=581s If the dog uses a prong collar make sure it is fitted properly: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M3iczULPcdE https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=23zEy-e6Khg If the dog is aggressive I suggest asking the owners about using a basket muzzle or hiring a professional trainer to help you. If the dog has never bitten anyone and if fine with dogs off leash but simply crazy on leash, then you are dealing with leash reactivity which is easier to address. Check with the dog's owners before implementing any type of training - especially anything that uses any form of punisher - which is needed a bit for most leash reactivity to be addressed first before you use rewards once the dog is calm. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

June 21, 2019

thank you for your help!

June 22, 2019

Chrissy S.


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