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Off-leash Introductions


Dogs can be introduced off-leash for the purposes of evaluating a dog's behavior with other dogs, introducing potential playmates, or when bringing new dogs into an ongoing playgroup.


Fight kit, fully enclosed play yard or room, treats, toys, a known dog-friendly dog if possible. If opting to leave leashes dragging, use different color leashes for each dog, for easy identification if separation is necessary.


1. Bringing dogs to the play area: ​

  • Start with one (or more) dogs already in the play area;

  • To prevent barrier frustration or crowding at the entrance, dogs should be kept out of sight of each other for long as possible before they meet;

  • Dogs already in the play area:

    • If the dog(s) in the play area might be able to see or hear the new dog approaching, distract them with treats or toys at least 20’ from the entrance if possible, but not so far away they can gain momentum if inclined to charge the other dog);

    • Stop distracting the dog(s) as soon as the new dog enters the play area, and let them meet without interference.

  • Dog(s) entering from outside the play area:

    • If dogs entering the play area can see or hear the other dog(s) as they approach,  distract with treats and/or enter the play area as quickly as possible to minimize barrier frustration.

    • If dogs already in the play area are difficult to distract from entrance, they can wear a dragging leash. Pick up their leash and remove the dog from the entrance so new dog(s) can enter. Alternately, temporarily slip lead the dog until new dog(s) enter.

    • If a leash is used to bring the dog into the play area, remove the leash or drop leash quickly (see below on releasing dogs to meet).

2. Releasing dogs to meet:

  • It is very important that dogs are not experiencing barrier frustration during the release process - therefore, releasing dogs should be done as quickly as possible and ideally all dogs are off-leash as soon as they see each other. The dogs in the play yard are usually already off-leash but being distracted at the time the gate opens for the new dog to enter. The new dog is released right upon entry.

  • Dog handlers should communicate to coordinate releasing dogs. If handlers are new, they should practice releasing dogs into the yard without another dog loose in the play yard, so they become comfortable quickly releasing a dog upon entry into the yard. Fumbling with clips or otherwise delaying the release of dogs should be avoided. Options for how to release dogs once they enter the play yard:

    • Option 1: Unclip leashes and hold collars, and let the entering dog go as soon as he or she gets inside the yard:

    • Option 2: Leave leashes on one or more dogs and drop them at the same time. Each dog should be wearing a different colored leash for easy identification in case separation is necessary. Leashes should be monitored closely to prevent or undo tangling. (See “Monitoring Leashes”) 


After the playgroup is finished, record anything you learned in the Dog Play Profile Sheet and Playgroup Notes:

  • Dog’s play style (chase, wrestle, paws-off, conflict: approach-avoid at first or other?)

  • Any issues observed (bullying, resource guarding, etc?)

  • Any charming moments or stories that can be shared with marketing to help the dog’s adoption?

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