Walking with my Staffy is one of my life’s simple pleasures. I find nothing more relaxing and enjoyable than getting outside with my Staffy for a nice stroll. We love to explore different trails and neighborhoods whenever we can. My Staffy walks great on lead but I was always a little nervous letting her off leash.
Are Staffies good off lead? As a general rule any Staffy can be good off lead with the proper training and precautions. Letting some Staffies walk off lead can be very easy, while others may require a good deal of training first. Proper recall, basic commands, and enough practice is going to be needed.
When it came to walking my Staffy off lead we took things very slowly. I had to ensure that she would respond to my recall commands, pay attention to me, and be in a safe environment to roam free.
In this post I will go over the 5 tips I used to teach my Staffy to walk off leash. These tips provided me with a safe and reliable way to take my dog off her lead. Being prepared for off lead walks is important. This is not something you want to just do on a whim. Use these tips as a foundation for your Staffy’s off lead walks.
Can You Let Staffies Be Off Lead?
Every town, city, state, province, and country is different when it comes to dogs. Be sure you know the rules of your local area before you let your Staffy off lead. Certain fines and penalties can be a result of breaking the local by-laws.
When you are ready to begin walking your Staffy off lead be sure to do so in a permitted area. Be sure to only walk your Staffy off lead in designated off leash parks and trails. Being a good dog owner as well as neighbor starts with responsible off leash practices.
Staffies can have a fairly high prey drive as well as excitable around other people and dogs. When your Staffy can be trusted to respond to you over a squirrel, dog friend at the park, or new human friend, then they can be trusted off lead.
How To Walk A Staffy Off Lead
I started walking my Staffy off lead around the age of 12 months. Prior to that she was too young of a puppy to be trustworthy off leash. We began practicing however well before her first birthday. I needed to be sure I could safely walk my Staffy off lead and months of practice and training was required.
These are the various steps and practices I had in place well before we began our off leash adventures. Training, safety, and preparation were all cornerstones to making this activity possible.
Master Basic Commands
There are several basic commands that every Staffy should master before off lead walking. These commands will ensure the safety and wellbeing of your dog in a variety of situations.
- Leave It / Drop It
Practice these commands extensively before venturing out to an off leash area. When your Staffy is off lead it is crucial that they understand and respond to each of these commands reliably and immediately.
The first and most important of all the commands is “come”. To have your Staffy off lead they must have very strong recall skills. Being able to get your Staffy back to your side at any point in your walk is important to keep them and others safe.
Practice your Staffy’s recall to the “come” command daily. Reward generously each and every time they come back when called. Even if it takes them a little while in the beginning, always reward them when they finally do “come”. The goal is to make returning to you when called a very positive experience for them.
We will get into some tips on how to practice recall in the section below.
Sometimes when walking your Staffy off lead you don’t always want them to be roaming. With my Staffy we would often practice walking to the local store off lead. This required her walking by my side and to “heel” on command to keep her close to me and safe.
Heel is an important command to learn to maintain control of your Staffy on off leash walks. Whenever they begin to stray and you want to reset your walk, use the heel command to regain their focus and attention.
Leave It & Drop It
For obvious reasons these two commands are very important. When walking your Staffy off lead you are not going to be able to get things out of their mouth quickly. You are going to need to rely on these commands to prevent your Staffy from getting into something they shouldn’t.
When you see your Staffy approaching something you want them to avoid, use the “leave it” command. Prevention is far better than reaction in these cases. There will however be times when they get a hold of something before you notice. A quick and reliable “drop it” command can be extremely helpful.
Stay & Wait
When walking my Staffy off lead we practiced our “stay” and “wait” command frequently. Each time we got to a corner and needed to cross the street I would use the “wait” command. This told my Staffy to stand still but be ready to move when released. A very helpful command when walking on sidewalks and trails.
Stay is an equally important command that is only slightly different from “wait”. I use the “stay” command when I need my Staffy to remain still in place in a relaxed fashion. Often in the sit or down position. I would use this when cleaning up after her, or when she would get too far away and needed to remain where she was until I caught up.
Recall commands could work just as easily in the above scenario, but sometimes a “stay” command is just effective when on an off leash walk and you need your Staffy to keep still until you are ready.
The “look” or “look at me” command is important in gaining your Staffy’s focus. Outside can be a very stimulating and exciting place for a Staffy. You must be able to grab their attention and regroup when you notice they are distracted. The “look” command does exactly this.
Use A Long Leash To Practice
As mentioned in the section above, recall is the most important component of successful off lead walks. By using a long training leash to practice you can simulate the off lead walk through distance, and practice your Staffy’s recall commands.
I used this with my Staffy, and am currently training my American Bully puppy with a long training leash. Simply find a large open area to practice and just stroll around with your dog. When they have wandered off a little ways say “come” and reward them once they return.
This long leash practice is perfect for building a solid recall foundation. You mitigate the risk of your Staffy running off, but create a very similar scenario to off lead walking. Not only that, but practicing your other basic commands using the long leash is highly effective.
You can get a variety of long training leashes for a very affordable price. They come in a variety of lengths, but I recommend starting with a good amount of leash. At least 50 feet or more. I use the HiKiss training leash and highly recommend you pick one up for yourself.
Challenge Your Staffy Safely
Once you have done some long training leash practice, and your Staffy has a decent grasp on their commands, it’s time to level things up. Introducing the challenge of off lead walking in a contained area and practicing their commands is the next step you need to take.
I am not the biggest fan of off leash dog parks. They can be a little too chaotic, dirty, and can have some unreliable dogs and dog owners present. Off leash areas can however provide a good chance to practice off lead walking. Typically I would set up playdates with dogs that we knew and visit the local baseball diamond in place of the dog park.
Regardless of what area you choose, challenge your Staffy safely. The goal is to practice your dog’s recall and basic commands when off lead and surrounded by potential distractions. An enclosed area provides the benefit of knowing they can’t run off too far.
This is the perfect training ground to master those basic commands and prepare for off lead walking out in the world.
What To Do When Your Staffy Bolts
Even the most behaved and well trained Staffy’s can have momentary lapses. Knowing what to do when your Staffy begins to take off or is not responding to your recall commands quickly is an important skill you need to have at the ready.
Staying calm may be tough but it is important when trying to get your Staffy to return back to you. When you begin to show signs of fear, stress, anxiety or panic your dog will pick up on this behavior. As a result they may be even more hesitant to return to you while in that state.
Show your Staffy that you have their favorite treats waiting for them. Enticing your Staffy back with food can be very effective for some of the more food motivated Staffies like mine. If they are further away and can’t see the treat, simply shaking the bag can do the trick to have them come running back.
Do Not Chase
Trying to chase your Staffy will be a lost cause and make things even worse. Your Staffy is guaranteed to be a faster runner than you are, so your chances of catching up are next to zero.
Your Staffy may also become fearful or think you are playing a fun game. This will send them running even more and work against your objective of getting them back to your side. Chasing may also create a dangerous situation as your Staffy will be more focused on you than their surroundings.
Turn And Move The Opposite Way
Turning and moving away from your Staffy in the opposite direction may seem counter to what you want, but it can be very effective. I have used this technique a few times and it works like a charm each and every time.
It’s not simply just moving away from them, but moving away like it’s a lot of fun doing it. This behavior will entice your Staffy to come chase after you thinking something fun and interesting is happening, or a new awesome game is underway.
Reward The Return
No matter how angry, upset, or frustrated your Staffy has just made you, always reward them upon return. It is very important to reinforce that coming back to you is a positive thing. Any form of negative behavior towards your Staffy when they do come back will make them think twice about returning in the future.
Keep Their Information Up To Date
Lastly it is always important to have your Staffy easily identifiable if they ever do run off. Microchips and personalized ID tags should be on your Staffy whenever you are out. Off lead walking or not, but especially when walking off lead.
Personalized ID tags should have your dog’s name and a phone number. If your Staffy ever takes off, a helpful neighbor or perfect stranger can easily get in contact with you once they have located your dog.
Walking a Staffy off lead is a wonderful experience. I love to take my Staffy to off leash areas like nature trails and explore together. She is incredibly reliable and I never stress that she will take off or not respond to my commands. This allows us to simply enjoy nature together.
Watching my Staffy freely roam around the trails and sniff to her heart’s content is a beautiful thing. Walking at a good pace with her right by my side and my hands free is a bond I cannot even begin to describe.
With enough patience, practice, and precautions any Staffy can learn to walk off lead safely and reliably. Use these tips to begin your training and preparation for off leash areas, and enjoy the absolute joys of off lead walks with a Staffy.
PIBBLES & BITS TOP PICKS
King Komb DeShedding Tool – One of the best dog brushes on the market. I use the King Komb each and every week with my Pibbles. Easy to use and even easier to clean.
Wahl Dry Skin Oatmeal Shampoo – Smells great, cleans great, and best of all keeps my dog’s skin and coat looking and feeling amazing. Wahl Dry Skin Oatmeal Shampoo keeps my Pibbles skin moisturized like no other.
Earth Rated Dog Wipes – Dog wipes are an essential to keep on hand, and nothing beats Earth Rated. Hypoallergenic, biodegradable, and durable. I keep these dog wipes in the house and the car for everyday use.
Kong Extreme – Kongs are one of my most used tools to give my dogs some mental stimulation and something tough to chew. Kong Extremes are as tough as they come and will give your Pibble the entertainment they crave.
Outward Hound Food Puzzle – Outward Hound food puzzles are the best in the industry. Available from beginner to advanced. These are an excellent way to challenge and mentally stimulate your dog.
BeneBone Dog Chew – The toughest dog chew around. My dogs absolutely love the bacon flavor and peanut butter flavor BeneBone. These will keep your toughest chewers busy for weeks, if not months and years.
BarkBox Super Chewer – Variety is the spice of life, and BarkBox Super Chewer is the perfect way to keep your dog engaged. New treats, toys, and chews each and every month that your super chewer will love.
iCrate Dog Crate – The iCrate is my absolute top recommendation for dog crates. I use this for both my dogs and love the sturdy, easy to store, and versatile adjustable panel. You need the iCrate in your life.
HiKiss Long Training Lead – Recall training and puppy training outdoors requires a long training lead. My favorite to use is the HiKiss long training lead. Available in a range of lengths to suit your long lead training needs.