Know These Four Commands
Even if you never plan to unclip the leash, your dog needs to respond reliably to a few basic instructions before you leave your house. Burch says that "sit," "stay" and "lie down" are crucial. These commands will allow you to pause should you need to tie your shoelaces or adjust your dog's collar. You'll also want your dog to know "leave it" in case they come across a dead animal or some other disgusting-yet-irresistible item on the trail.
Only let your dog off-leash on the trail if he responds perfectly — even when distracted — to your recall command. To perfect this skill, Miller suggests you train with, "the most wonderful treats; whatever is tops for your dog. Maybe it's the stinkiest gorgonzola or chicken." She also recommends you pick a recall word that the dog won't hear every day. "That can confuse them. My recall word for my dog is in Italian." Finally, Miller says that your recall training should include not only having the dog come, but having it stand next to you while you grab ahold of its collar.