Can More Dominant Breeds Be Trained to Be Off-Leash Trustworthy?

In response to the following quote that was posted on one of my social media pages, someone asked the following question. You can read my reply below.

Quote: “I yearn to see the day when off-leash training is an everyday reality among dog owners.” – Don Sullivan, “The DogFather”



Even for breeds that supposedly tend to be more aggressive/stronger/more dominant like Pit Bulls, Akitas, Rottweilers, etc.? I realize that many of these dogs are awesome, but would you say it’s possible to train all (or most) of these breeds to walk safely off leash?



The answer to your question is absolutely, yes, as long as you use the right training method (see my Nature-Based Discipline, Praise & Play Method page: and as long as the dogs are trained as very young puppies (beginning at 8-9 weeks old). When you use proven, effective techniques to train breeds that tend to have more dominant personality traits – and when you train the dogs right from Day #1 when you bring them home at 8-9 weeks of age, you have the opportunity to instill positive defaults in these dogs.

More specifically, when you do this, you don’t allow any time whatsoever for bad habits and unprofitable character traits to set in. Rather, you immediately train the dog to defer to you as the pack leader in all situations, you train him to resort to submission versus defense in situations of confrontation (or flight versus fight if necessary), and you establish within the dog a character of passive confidence and emotional stability.

However, there are two provisions to the above:

  1. In order to ensure a dog reaches and maintains the “Trust Zone” level (complete off-leash trustworthiness), the dog owner must implement the fullness of my training instruction and then continue to uphold these very high standards. This includes being acutely and constantly aware of external influences that could creep in and corrupt the training results. These harmful influences can range from lenient family members, to significant exposure to untrained dogs, to simple slackness or complacency on behalf of the dog owner.
  2. I desire to see a certification process put into place whereby owners of certain off-leash trustworthy dogs would have to prove their dogs’ skill levels (i.e. their consistently reliable self-governance in a variety of public situations) before being granted an off-leash freedom certification. The dogs would have to wear their certification (e.g. some kind of colorful neck band) so the public would know the caliber of the dogs’ training straight away – even when spying the dogs at a distance. Plus, the owners/dogs would have to go through regular assessments to maintain their off-leash worthy status.

Question #76 on my FAQs page ( also discusses the origin of the disclaimer that I was legally required to include in my Perfect Dog DVDs.

I hope the above encourages you that all dogs have the potential to be perfect dogs. However, I hope it also reassures you that there are critical factors to consider regarding achieving and sustaining the very rewarding (for both owner and dog!) “Trust Zone” training level.

– Don Sullivan, “The DogFather”


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