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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.
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.
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!
The Recall Method
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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