I’ve been working on training Nova to behave outside off her leash. Well, the leash stays clipped to her harness, but I don’t hold onto it (that way, if she goes off the rails, I need to get only close enough to step on the leash rather than trying to grab her). When she was still really young — late autumn last year, before it got too cold — it was impossible to get her to even look at me when she was on a leash outside. That had really improved with her age by this spring, so I’ve tentatively been trying to get her used to minding me without the leash. After all, how can a dog enjoy all the room out in the country if she can’t run through it?
I would say that I trust her about 85% when we’re on our usual path (at the back of the property, well away from the road, just in case) and I have a pocket full of treats — cereal, usually. She gets more and more responsive each time we go out, and it really is a joy to see her BOUND away (she picks a path through the highest grasses and then leaps about like Pepé Le Pew), knowing that she’ll soon stop and come running back.
I’m fairly certain that I’ll never feel as secure about letting her out as I do with Henny. Unless Nova really slows down with age, I’m planning to always have her on a leash when we’re not on our property — it’s not worth the risk. And Henny often comes out with me when I’m gardening, because I can count on her to stay nearby (she doesn’t have that flight instinct). With Nova, she very clearly goes into ‘walk’ mode, during which she pays excellent attention to me; at any other time (like when she’s outside in their fenced potty area), it’s difficult to get her to listen and respond.
Oh, also: many of the trees on the property are in blossom right now, and I’m trying to figure out which, if any, might be wild plums (our neighbors have some). What do you think about these?