I see people walking their dogs on the footpath without a lead, their dogs stop at the curb and seem to just know not to go on the road. I would love to be able to walk my dog this way, is it ever going to be possible to teach my dog not to go on the road when he is not on lead?
No good trainer would never teach you how to walk your dog off lead where traffic can pose a threat. Off lead road safety is something you can never teach a dog reliably, we all make mistakes and this includes our dogs, a single lapse in concentration from your dog is all it takes for them to be at risk of being killed. It is just not worth it.
However, you can teach your dog to cross the road (on lead) with you in a calm manner. This is a great way to practice sit and heel. Think about how many times you cross the road with your dog each time you walk, if you could practice this each time your skills will greatly improve. Over time your dog would anticipate the ‘sit’ and ‘heel’ before crossing the road with you, enabling you to keep your dog under good control through traffic.
It would be wrong to assume that by doing ‘sit’ and ‘heel’ to cross the road your dog would automatically remember to do this if they were off lead in the street. While you may be able to control your dog well, you cannot control your environment. Even the best, most obedient dog, may get a fright from something or someone and jump in to on coming traffic.
Added to this is the fact that Local Councils have by-laws on dogs off lead, unless the area is a designated off lead area your dog must be on lead. If a ranger happens to pass by and you have your dog off lead you could get fined. Also, if your dog is off lead in the street and injures or threatens someone you could be held liable.
There is already so much work to put in to developing a dog, that eliminating the desire to have off lead control in a risky environment instantly frees you up to practice more relevant skills. Rather than concentrating on off lead road safety you are far better off using your energy to teach your dog other skill such as, heeling, recall and sit and focus. You should practice these at the local off lead dog park.
My advice: Keep your dog on a lead so you can keep them (and others) safe in high risk areas, and reserve the obedience for the off lead dog park.