Convincing your GSP that you’re calling their name is more important than that awesome stick they just found or flower they’ve just noticed can be difficult.
They’re naturally curious animals and highly intelligent, so exploration can often feel like the better option for them.
As hunting dogs, they also have tons of energy and love to run.
Add it all together, and it starts to sound like a dog that’s going to be pretty terrible off-leash.
But is that the case?
Below I’ll explore whether GSPs are good off-leash and discuss how to train them to respond to your calls every time. Ready to hear more? Then let’s get on with today’s post.
Can You Let Your GSP Off Their Leash?
Absolutely! I let Hank off all the time now and he’s great, but getting here wasn’t easy. Why? Well, for all the reasons I’m about to list below…
The first thing you need to keep in mind about a GSP off-leash is that they are hunting dogs. There’s nothing you can do to change that.
It’s in their DNA and every fiber that makes them, well, them. That means that any sign of prey – whether it’s the sight of them or the scent of them – can send your GSP bolting off in the opposite direction to give chase.
Beating those instincts is going to be hard, but not impossible as I’ve proven with Hank, but I’ll cover how to get your GSP to listen to you when there are other tempting offers in the section below.
Another thing you need to remember about GSPs off-leash is that they’re quick and incredibly active.
They’ll bolt off the second you let them off leash simply because they love the outdoors so much and are so excited to be free out there.
That’s another thing you need to contend with and be prepared for.
Once they’re trained properly though, they’ll know to come back when called, so you won’t need to worry about them bolting, because you’ll know you’re always in control.
And finally, the last thing to be aware of before letting your GSP off-leash is how curious they are.
Exploring and adventures are at the top of your GSPs priority list, so if you don’t keep them stimulated enough, then as soon as they’re off-leash, they’ll go and find something fun to do for themselves.
They’re such intelligent dogs that mental stimulation is just as important as physical activity, so keep things interesting so they stay focussed on being close to you when off-leash.
And although their natural curiosity and sense of adventure might take them off to places on occasion, because of their intelligence, GSPs are highly trainable.
But just how do you do it?
How To Train Your GSP To Behave Off-Leash
Training your GSP to behave off-leash starts from the moment you take them home as a puppy.
Putting in the hours when your little buddy comes home for the first time will pay dividends when they’re adults and always coming back to you on command.
What it really boils down to is recall, so training your GSP to come to you when commanded to do so is important.
When they’re off-leash, you need to know that they’ll return to you when told, both because it keeps them safe and nearby when they are off-leash, but also so you can intervene in anything else they might do that you don’t want them to – like chasing a bird, for example.
So, if it starts as a puppy, what’s the first step?
Well, to kick things off, you need to get your puppy responding and coming to you in the home. Training off-leash comes later.
For now, just focus on getting them to come to you when you call them.
Here’s what to do:
- Have a toy or treats with you, so you’re the most interesting thing in the room
- Wait until your GSP puppy is distracted and then give them a clear command – their name, followed by something like ‘Come’ or ‘Here’
- When they arrive, give them a treat or play with the toy and praise them
- Stop after a while and let them go again, then repeat the process
- Once they’ve got the hang of it, move to just praise, giving them treats or their toy occasionally now instead of every time
- Keep working on this training until they come to you when commanded every time
Once the initial recall is sorted and they know what to expect when called, then you can start thinking about training them to be off-leash.
It’s important to take small steps here too, slowly building to them returning to you outside when off-leash entirely.
Here’s what I’d recommend:
- Use a long training leash to give them the freedom of being off-leash, while still putting you in control
- Have a toy or treats again – it’s even more important that you’re the most important thing in the environment now
- Head to a quiet outdoor space, somewhere where your puppy won’t be too distracted
- Then call them again, and when they come to you, reward them with their treats or toy and praise
- Slowly reduce the number of treats or playtime they get until you only occasionally reward them – continue to praise, however
- When you’re confident they’ll come back to you, repeat the process again, but off leash entirely
- The first few times you do this, you might want to be in an enclosed space
- Wait until they get the hang of this, and then introduce a friend’s dog into the space
- Train them again to respond to you, even when distractions are around
- Once they’re doing this successfully, there’s only one thing for it: take them for a walk and let them off leash, trusting they’ll come back because you’ve done everything you can to prepare them
A Note On GSP Training Programs
If, after all your efforts, your GSP is proving to be a little more stubborn than expected, then consider investing in some GSP training programs.
If you’re lucky, you’ll find someone who is an expert at dealing with GSPs specifically or hunting dogs, who are all prone to being distracted off-leash, in your area.
But really, any training programs will be useful for your GSP, as you’ll learn how to be more authoritative and get your GSP listening to your commands every time.
Just look for GSP training programs near you to help get your GSP off-leash safely every time.
It’s always worth paying for these programs because it prepares your puppy for the wider world and allow you to be the best owner you can be.
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My Final Word
The key to making your GSP good off-leash is remembering their temperament and characteristics, giving them appropriate training when they’re puppies, and being prepared to invest in GSP training programs if you’re struggling.
But whatever the case, know that your GSP can be great off-leash, just like Hank. It might just take a little more time and effort than for other dogs…