You may be wondering if you can let your Dachshund off the lead when you walk or hike.
You have visions of walking unencumbered by a leash while your Dachshund goes on a sniffari and takes in all the scents to their little heart’s content.
The truth is though, Dachshunds are one of the worst breeds for being off leash.
Dachshunds are a hound dog bred for hunting, so their instinct is to follow their nose rather than listen to your commands.
Not only is it annoying when your Dachshund doesn’t come when called, it’s dangerous.
That doesn’t mean it will never be possible to walk or hike with your Dachshund off lead but it takes consistent training and careful consideration.
In this article, I explore the factors to consider when deciding whether to let your Dachshund off the lead and offer tips for ensuring a safe and enjoyable experience for both you and your furry friend.
Can You Let a Dachshund Off the Lead?
The short answer is, no, not without proper training because Dachshunds are terrible listeners.
Originally bred for hunting small animals such as badgers and rabbits, Dachshunds possess a strong prey drive, which can make them difficult to control off-leash.
They’re also known for their intelligence, independence, and curiosity, which are traits that can sometimes lead them to wander off or become easily distracted.
However, with proper recall training, you may be able to let your Dachshund off leash.
It’s important to note though that, in my 10 years of blogging and running a large Dachshund club, I’ve never heard of a Dachshund that 100% listens 100% of the time.
But I know some that mostly listen most of the time. Maybe they’re not 100% reliable but probably over 90%.
It’s never not a risk to let your Dachshund off lead so it’s important to consider several factors before deciding to do so.
5 Important Things to Consider Before Letting Your Dachshund Off Leash
You may be wondering when it’s OK to let your Dachshund off lead.
It’s essential to weigh the pros and cons before giving your Dachshund the freedom to roam free.
The decision also depends on the individual dog’s temperament, training, and the environment you’re in.
Here are five things to consider when deciding whether to let your Dachshund off the lead.
1) Recall training and reliability
A well-trained dog is essential for a successful off-leash experience.
Your Dachshund should have a strong foundation in obedience training and a reliable recall.
This means that they should come back to you promptly when called, even when faced with distractions like other dogs or wildlife.
Before attempting off-leash outings, follow these guidelines to train your Dachshund to come back when you call.
Test your Dachshund’s recall reliability using the “three Ds” – distance, distractions, and duration – but be sure to only increase one at a time so it’s not too overwhelming for your Dachshund.
For example, teach recall safely in your fenced yard and start at a distance of 5 feet. Then practice again in your yard from 10 feet away.
Or, once your dog is reliably coming when you call from 5 feet away in the yard, take your dog to a place with more distractions and practice again from 5 feet away.
If your Dachshund makes progress but then reverts to not listening to you, take your level of training back a step or two and start again.
Once your Dachshund will come to you in almost every scenario at almost any distance, and you are comfortable with the risk, you can practice your Dachshunds recall skills during your regular walks or hikes.
Once your Dachshund is reliable off leash, you can give them more freedom but keep in mind that there will always be times when a leash is a must.
Even if your Dachshund has impeccable recall, each potential off lead opportunity should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
Some open spaces have hazards, such as busy roads, potentially dangerous wildlife, or too many strange people and dogs, to safely let your Dachshund off leash.
My personal criteria for letting my Dachshunds off leash are:
- I must have a clear line of sight for at least 50 feet so I can see my Dachshunds if they stray too far away
- My ability to catch them if they run off must not be hampered by terrain like steep cliffs or other obstacles.
If those two requirements aren’t met, at a minimum, I don’t let my dogs off leash.
Once, shortly after I adopted my Dachshund Gretel, we took her to an off leash dog park and she disappeared into a large blackberry bramble patch.
I was unable to follow her in there or see if she ran out the back side.
It was so scary!
A well-socialized and confident Dachshund is essential for a positive off-leash experience.
From a young age, expose your dog to various people, dogs, and sights and sounds to help them build confidence and learn appropriate behaviors.
This will make them more likely to interact safely and positively with others when off-leash.
For key socialization tips, see my article How to Raise a Well-socialized Dachshund.
4) Will you be distracted?
Even with the best training and preparation, it’s crucial to closely supervise your dog when off-leash.
You’ll need to keep an eye on your Dachshund’s body language and interactions with other dogs and people to watch for signs of stress or agitation, and be prepared to intervene if necessary.
If you plan to take a work call while walking, surf social media, chat with a friend, or will otherwise be distracted, it’s not the time to let your Dachshund walk free.
5) Local leash laws
Before letting your Dachshund off the leash, research local laws and regulations regarding off-leash dogs where you will be walking or hiking.
While there are some trails that allow dogs off leash as long as they listen to you and stick by your side, many areas require your dog to be leashed at all times.
Always comply with these rules to ensure the safety and enjoyment of all park users and wildlife.
9 Tips for a Safe and Enjoyable Off-Leash Experience
If you decide that your Dachshund is ready for off-leash adventures, follow these tips to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for both you and your dog.
1) Start slow
Begin with short off-leash sessions in controlled environments to build your dog’s confidence and recall skills.
Gradually increase the time and complexity of the experience as your Dachshund demonstrates reliable behavior.
2) Enlist a friend
If you are walking or hiking with a friend, or a group of people, ask them to help keep an eye on your Dachshund.
It can be hard to keep a keen eye on your dog every second, especially when socializing with others or your dog is walking behind you, so having more people looking out will help prevent a missing dog.
3) Use a long lead or drag line
A long lead, or drag line, is a longer-than-normal lightweight leash that stays attached to your dog’s harness even when you are not holding onto it.
A long lead can be a helpful intermediate step between on-leash and off-leash outings because it provides your dog with more freedom to explore while still giving you control.
Since your Dachshund will be dragging it as they walk, you can step on it to stop them from running away.
It can also alert you to where your Dachshund disappeared to since you will probably see the end of it sticking out of the bushes or around a corner (this is why using a brightly colored one is most helpful).
4) Bring treats and toys
Keep your Dachshund engaged and focused on you by bringing treats and toys along for off-leash outings.
Use these to reward good behavior, reinforce recall training, and redirect your dog’s attention if needed.
5) Be patient and consistent
Training and socialization are ongoing processes.
Be patient with your Dachshund and maintain consistent expectations for their behavior.
If setbacks occur, stay calm and use positive reinforcement to help your dog learn and grow.
Don’t yell or punish your Dachshund for not listening to you or they may be less likely to come back the next time that you call and undo all of your hard work.
6) Know your dog’s limitations
Keep in mind that your Dachshund will probably be walking a further distance than you when they are off leash.
For example, they may run up ahead and come back when you call repeatedly.
Although Dachshunds can be very athletic, it’s still important to watch for signs that your dog is getting too tired, and you should stop.
It might be earlier than you expect!
7) Practice good etiquette
Be respectful of other park users by keeping your dog under control and cleaning up after them.
If your Dachshund will not immediately return to your side when you call and remain there despite the distractions of another dog or person, it’s respectful to temporarily put your dog back on leash until the other party has passed.
8) Prioritize safety
Invest in a sturdy, comfortable harness and a reliable leash for your Dachshund.
Never leave the house without an external form of identification like a tag with your contact information.
Additionally, consider using a GPS tracker, an Apple Air Tag, or a Tile Tracker (Air Tags for non iOS users), in case your dog manages to wander off.
9) Be prepared for emergencies
Accidents can happen, even with the best preparation.
Ensure that your dog is up-to-date on vaccinations and flea/tick preventatives, and carry a basic first-aid kit during off-leash outings.
Know how to handle a potential dog fight.
Ideally, you will have taken a pet first aid class that teaches you how to handle little emergencies but familiarize yourself with the location of the nearest emergency vet clinic, just in case.
Why It’s OK to Keep Your Dachshund on a Leash
There is this perception that letting a dog walk or hike off leash is normal, that being off leash is the only way a dog can enjoy and walk, and that any dog can do it.
But that is not reality.
The freedom of walking off leash is something a Dachshund earns by proving that they will stick by your side and will always come back when you call. It’s not a given.
This skill will be proven during training in increasingly challenging off-leash opportunities for your Dachshund.
The truth is though, not all dogs are safe and reliable off leash and that’s ok. It’s normal.
Keeping your dog on leash unless in a fenced area is ok.
Your Dachshund can still have a good time and live a fulfilled life on leash.
Up until a few years ago, I never imagined hiking with my Dachshunds off leash.
I worked really hard on recall training them and, now, I allow it on a limited basis.
Summit and Gretel were always happy when they get to go hiking. It doesn’t matter whether they are on leash or off.
I see the joy in their faces either way.
Keeping your dog on leash will also ensure you can protect the environment because your dog won’t poop where you can’t see it and pick it up.
Your dog can’t harass wildlife by chasing them or cause environmental damage by digging when on leash.
Allowing your Dachshund to enjoy off lead adventures can be a rewarding experience for both you and your dog.
However, it’s essential to approach this decision with care and consideration for your dog’s temperament, training, and the environment.
By following the tips outlined in this blog post, you can help ensure a safe and enjoyable off-leash experience for your Dachshund and everyone around them.
If you have any doubts about your Dachshund’s reliability off leash, it’s best to keep your dog on one to ensure their safety and the safety of others.
Your dog will have a great time out in the fresh air either way!
Do remember, if your Dachshund starts to display unwanted behaviors or puts themselves or others in danger, promptly leash them and remove them from the situation.