What Age Should I Let My Puppy Off The Lead


Caring for a new puppy can sometimes become a worrying experience. With so much to learn puppies rely on a mixture of instinct and their owner’s help. As an owner, one of the hardest experiences in deciding what age to let your puppy off the lead.

When in public puppies should be let off the lead after their final vaccinations, which is usually around 12 weeks. Off lead training should happen at the earliest age possible and a good bond should be established to help with the whole process. Don’t hesitate to practice recall indoors or in an enclosed yard even before your puppy is fully vaccinated, as this will help later on. 

What Is The Best Age To Let Your Puppy Off The Lead

For many dog owners, letting your puppy off the lead for the first time is a difficult thing to do, especially when located in a large spacious area. I wouldn’t want to push anyone into letting their puppy off the lead before they themselves are ready to do so.

When thinking about the best age to let your puppy off the lead, there are a few questions that you will need to ask yourself.

  1. Has your puppy been fully vaccinated and is in good health?
  2. Are you familiar with the area in which you are letting them off?
  3. Have you gone through some on-lead recall training with your pup?
  4. Is the area you are letting them off in, quiet enough without any major distractions?
  5. Are you mentally ready to let your puppy off the lead?

These questions are all good ones to ask yourself before thinking about letting your puppy off the lead. We will cover each one to fully understand the difference between the right age and the right time.

Has your puppy been fully vaccinated and is in good health?

Simply put, the right age for a puppy to be let off the lead can be anytime, providing they have been fully vaccinated and are in good health. The age at which puppies usually get fully vaccinated is normally 12 weeks, therefore would be the best age to let a puppy off the lead.

The reason your puppy should be vaccinated before letting them off the lead is that they could end up catching a disease or illness that vaccinations are made to protect against. You may also think you will be able to monitor everything they do but it only takes a second for your puppy to find something disgusting and gobble it down…believe me it happens. I covered vaccinations and why they are important in this article “When Can a Puppy Go Outside In The Garden”.

Have you gone through some on-lead recall training with your pup?

Before letting your puppy off the lead you should be confident that they can at least show some form of “recall. It will help a lot more if they are getting to grips with basic recall as there may be some rather more interesting things to explore on the day.

Start practicing recall in a small enclosed space such as your house or garden. Use treats as positive reinforcement for your puppy, this helps tell them that they are doing what they should. remember dogs don’t speak our language and amazingly many humans don’t realize this, shouting at dogs as if they know what you’re saying.  You should slowly bring the gap between you and your puppy further apart.

After you have introduced your puppy to recall in a smaller enclosed space, try going out into a larger area. At this point, you can use a long training lead to establishing recall. Use the same techniques as you did previously, giving out treats to show your pup they are doing good. If you feel confident you can let them off and try to call them back. It’s sometimes good to do this after being on the lead as they will have just performed the actions they needed to whilst on the lead.

Are you familiar with the area in which you are letting them off?

One thing that owners may not think of is whether they know the area very well. Before letting a puppy off the lead you should be thinking about possible dangers, for both your puppy and others. Because the event of letting your pup off the lead for the very first time is unfamiliar you will want to be somewhere familiar, even somewhere you have taken them before on the lead.

It’s true that confidence comes with familiarity and this is precisely what you want. I would suggest somewhere that you know is secure and enclosed. Knowing that your puppy cant run too far or escape beyond a certain parameter will help with your confidence.

Try taking a walk around the area on your own before the big event, this way you will know all the hidden places your pup might hide. Again this is just building your confidence and making sure you know where to look in the event you lose your puppy.

I will also note that puppies don’t usually stroll too far unless you have a particularly confident one. They will often keep looking back at you to make sure you are there and if you keep calling them you can let them know your current location.

Is the area you are letting them off in, quiet enough without any major distractions?

This forms part of knowing the area you are letting them off in. It’s not exactly necessary but can help a lot with the rate of training.

You should be prepared for an infuriatingly ignorant puppy, as most puppies are so involved in the new environment they will not notice you are there. By taking them somewhere during peak hours you are giving your puppy a difficult task to do. They know they need to come back when called but with so many distractions they may want to ignore you instead.

For the first few times you let your puppy off the lead, try doing it when it is quiet. It’s going to be much less stressful for you and your puppy. Remember dogs love to please their owners and you will only stress your pup out if you introduce too many temptations.

Are You Mentally Ready To Let Your Puppy Off The Lead?

The final question you need to ask yourself is…..are you mentally ready. This seems like a stupid question but it is quite vital. If you’re not feeling confident then there is something wrong with your preparation, think about what you have done with your pup as the previous questions above and if they are all yes then you’re going to be fine.

Scared To Let Puppy Off The Lead

If you are scared to let your puppy off the lead, try assessing the worst-case scenario. Often this scenario is not as bad as you think, in fact doing this can allow you to plan correctly and prevent any mishaps when you first let your puppy off the lead.

Most owners will experience some sort of fear before letting their puppy off the lead. Fear is a natural response to something we expect to happen, that’s why ignorance is bliss.

Why Is It Good to Let Your Puppy Off The Lead

One of the best parts of owning a dog is companionship. Adventuring outdoors and exploring new areas, its all about the freedom you and your dog get to experience.

Letting your puppy off the lead at an early age will help develop their sense of independence, which will hopefully lead to a confident dog who shares your own love of the outdoors. Confidence is an important trait in a dog. You may think that a timid dog would be easier to train and would obey your every command, well this is not true. In fact, if your dog is confident and respects you enough they will do as you say without question. However, a timid dog may be apprehensive at a time when you need them to do something for their own safety, like move out of the way of a car.

By letting your puppy off the lead you are taking a step to building the confidence they need and making it easier to train their recall which is so vital if you want to walk your dog off lead in the future.

You may be thinking, “well why don’t I just walk them on the lead the whole time”. There are a few reasons why this is not a good idea.

  • Your dog naturally wants freedom and off lead walking is what gives them that. Off lead, walking is great for your dog’s mental stimulation. This can help with destructive traits like chewing or digging due to being frustrated.
  • Dogs will get more physical exercise off the lead. This is simply because they don’t have to go at your pace. This can also mean you don’t have to spend as long walking your dog, in order to give them the same amount of exercise.
  • You don’t have to worry so much about holding onto an eager dog. I see so many owners being dragged down the street because they have decided to take a fully energized dog for a walk on the lead.
  • Your own level of enjoyment is much higher because you get to watch your dog having fun, rather than concentrating on stopping, starting, being pulled, excitement when you meet other dogs, and the various other aspects of walking a dog on the lead.

walking a dog in winter

What To Do If Your Puppy Runs Away

The biggest fear that a new owner has is losing their pup. Not only do puppies like to have curiosity get the better of them but they also like to run away. Runaway puppies are something that can be common when training recall, it’s not that you have a disobedient dog it’s just that they are full of youthful energy and want to push every boundary going. Here are some tips on what to do if your puppy runs away from you.

  1. The first thing you must never do is chase your dog frantically, this is the number 1 rule. Obviously, this will depend on the situation, for example, if you start losing sight of your pup you will need to keep up with them so you can see them still.
  2. Try your best to stay calm and don’t get angry. If your dog senses your anger they will not return to you, due to a fear of being told off. Try encouraging them positively, using a treat can up the reward of coming back. If they do come back then don’t punish them for running, just reward them for coming back.
  3. If your dog is completely ignoring you then you will have to grab their attention. This is where a whistle can come in handy. If you can get their attention, try running in the opposite direction, this can trigger a response in your pup that encourages them to naturally chase.
  4. If your puppy does runoff and you end up losing them, then a tracker will come in handy. There are many tracking devices that fit collars. these provide GPS tracking to a mobile phone and can give you the peace of mind you need.
  5. Increase the amount of training you give your dog, try focussing more on recall to prevent them from running off in the future.


There are many things new owners need to learn and the confidence to let your puppy learn on their own is something that is difficult. It’s important to be able to guide them through the new freedoms they have, such as running around off the lead. Hopefully, some of the tips and advice here can help you be more confident and understand what the best time to let your puppy off the lead is. If you enjoyed this article please check out some of our other content on our homepage.

Dean Lissaman

As a child I grew up around dogs and have loved them ever since. I now have a beloved Golden Retriever who enjoys exploring the outside world. Being an outdoor enthusiast has inspired me to create the ultimate resource on relating both dogs and the outdoors. For more information on me check out my about page.

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