Walking your dog is one of the best ways to keep them healthy, happy, and well-behaved. Not only does it provide them with physical exercise, but also mental stimulation, socialization, and bonding time with you. However, walking your dog can also be challenging, especially if your dog is not well-trained, easily distracted, or has special needs. To make sure you and your dog enjoy your walks to the fullest, here are 10 dog walking tips every pet parent must know about.
1. Choose the right leash and collar
The first step to a successful dog walk is choosing the right leash and collar for your dog. You want a leash that is sturdy, comfortable, and long enough to give your dog some freedom, but not too long that they can get tangled or run into trouble. A standard leash that is 4-6 feet long is ideal for most dogs. You can also use a retractable leash for potty breaks or to let your dog explore more, but be careful not to let them pull too much or get out of your sight.
The collar should fit snugly around your dog’s neck, but not too tight that it chokes them or too loose that it slips off. You should be able to fit one or two fingers between the collar and your dog’s neck. The collar should also have a tag with your contact information in case your dog gets lost.
You can also use a harness instead of a collar if your dog tends to pull on the leash or has a sensitive neck. A harness distributes the pressure across your dog’s chest and back, rather than its neck, and gives you more control over their movements. A no-pull harness or a head halter can also help you train your dog to walk nicely on the leash without pulling.
2. Train your dog to walk on a loose leash
One of the most common problems that pet parents face when walking their dogs is constant pulling on the leash. This can make the walk stressful and unpleasant for both you and your dog. To prevent this, you need to train your dog to walk on a loose leash, which means that there is some slack in the leash and your dog stays close to you without dragging you or running ahead.
To train your dog to walk on a loose leash, you need to reward them for walking nicely and stop them from pulling. Here are some steps you can follow:
- Start by walking your dog in a familiar and quiet area, such as your backyard or a park.
- Hold the leash in one hand and some treats in the other hand.
- Give your dog a cue, such as “let’s go” or “heel”, and start walking at a normal pace.
- As long as your dog walks next to you or behind you with a loose leash, praise them and give them treats frequently.
- If your dog starts pulling on the leash, immediately stop and stand still. Do not yank or jerk the leash back, as this can hurt your dog or make them pull harder.
- Wait until your dog stops pulling and looks at you or comes back to you. Then praise them and give them a treat.
- Repeat this process until your dog learns that walking nicely gets them rewards and pulling gets them nowhere.
You can also use a clicker to mark the exact moment when your dog walks on a loose leash and then give them a treat. This will help them associate the sound of the clicker with the desired behavior.
3. Let your dog sniff and explore
Walking your dog is not just about physical exercise, but also mental stimulation. Dogs experience the world through their noses, and they love to sniff everything around them. Sniffing allows them to gather information about their environment, communicate with other dogs, and relieve stress.
Therefore, you should let your dog sniff and explore during their walks, as long as it is safe and appropriate. Sniffing can enrich their walks and make them more enjoyable for both of you.
However, you don’t want your dog to sniff everything they see or spend too much time in one spot. You also don’t want them to sniff things that are dangerous or disgusting, such as trash cans, dead animals, or feces.
To balance between sniffing and walking, you can use cues to tell your dog when they can sniff and when they need to move on. For example, you can say “Go sniff” when you want them to explore an area and “Let’s go” when you want them to resume walking.
You can also use different types of leashes for different purposes. For example, you can use a shorter leash for walking and a longer leash for sniffing.
4. Vary your routes and routines
Walking the same route every day can get boring for both you and your dog. To keep your walks interesting and exciting, you should vary your routes and routines as much as possible.
Try to explore different neighborhoods, parks, trails, or streets with your dog. You can also change the direction, length, or time of your walks. This will expose your dog to new sights, sounds, smells, and experiences, and keep them mentally stimulated and curious.
You can also vary your routines by adding some fun activities to your walks, such as playing fetch, doing tricks, or meeting other dogs. You can also use different types of leashes, collars, or harnesses to spice things up.
5. Avoid walking in extreme weather
Walking your dog in extreme weather can be dangerous for its health and well-being. You should avoid walking your dog in the heat of the day, especially in the summer, as they can get overheated, dehydrated, or suffer from heatstroke. You should also avoid walking your dog in the cold of the day, especially in the winter, as they can get frostbite, hypothermia, or paw injuries.
To protect your dog from extreme weather, you should follow these tips:
- Check the temperature and humidity before you go out. If it is too hot or too cold, postpone your walk or shorten it.
- Choose a shady and cool route in the summer and a sunny and warm route in the winter.
- Avoid walking on hot pavement or ice in the summer and winter, respectively. Use grass or dirt instead.
- Provide your dog with plenty of water before, during, and after the walk. You can also carry a portable water bottle or bowl with you.
- Use sunscreen or a sun hat for your dog in the summer and a coat or a sweater for your dog in the winter.
- Use booties or paw wax for your dog’s paws to protect them from hot pavement or ice.
- Watch out for signs of heatstroke or hypothermia in your dog, such as panting, drooling, lethargy, shivering, or confusion. If you notice any of these signs, stop the walk and seek veterinary attention immediately.
6. Be aware of potential hazards
Walking outside comes with its own risks and hazards. You should be aware of potential dangers that can harm your dog or ruin your walk. Some of these hazards include:
- Traffic: Cars, bikes, motorcycles, and other vehicles can pose a threat to your dog’s safety. You should always keep your dog on a leash and under control when walking near traffic. You should also teach your dog to sit and wait at crosswalks and intersections until it is safe to cross.
- Wildlife: Animals such as squirrels, rabbits, birds, skunks, raccoons, snakes, or coyotes can attract your dog’s attention and trigger their prey drive. You should keep your dog on a leash and prevent them from chasing or approaching wildlife. You should also be careful of animals that can bite or sting your dog, such as bees, wasps, spiders, or scorpions.
- Plants: Some plants can be toxic or irritating to your dog’s skin or mouth. You should avoid letting your dog eat or chew on plants that you are not familiar with. You should also watch out for plants that have thorns, burrs, seeds, or sap that can get stuck on your dog’s fur or paws.
- Garbage: Trash cans, dumpsters, litter, or food scraps can tempt your dog to scavenge or eat something that is not good for them. You should keep your dog away from garbage and prevent them from eating anything that is not their food. You should also be careful of sharp objects that can cut or injure your dog’s mouth or paws.
- People: Some people may not like dogs or may be afraid of them. You should respect other people’s space and preferences when walking your dog. You should also keep your dog away from children who may not know how to interact with dogs properly. You should always ask for permission before letting your dog greet someone.
7. Socialize your dog with other dogs
Walking your dog is a great opportunity to socialize with other dogs and improve their social skills. Meeting new dogs can enrich your dog’s life and make their walks more fun.
However, not all dogs are friendly or want to interact with other dogs. You should always ask the other owner before letting your dog greet another dog. You should also watch for signs of stress or aggression in both dogs and end the interaction if it is not going well.
To socialize your dog with other dogs safely and positively, you should follow these tips:
- Choose a neutral and open area for the first meeting.
- Keep both dogs on leashes and let them approach each other slowly and calmly.
- Let them sniff each other’s noses and butts for a few seconds and then move them away.
- Praise and reward both dogs for being polite and friendly.
- Repeat this process until both dogs are comfortable and relaxed around each other.
- If possible, let them play off-leash in a fenced area, but supervise them closely and intervene if they get too rough or aggressive.
8. Reward your dog for good behavior
Walking your dog is not only a physical activity but also a training opportunity. You can use your walks to teach your dog new skills, reinforce existing ones, or correct unwanted behaviors. To do this, you need to reward your dog for good behavior and ignore or redirect bad behavior.
Rewards can be anything that your dog likes, such as treats, toys, praise, or petting. You should give your dog a reward as soon as they do something you want them to do, such as walking on a loose leash, sitting at a crosswalk, or ignoring a distraction. This will help them associate the behavior with the reward and motivate them to repeat it.
On the other hand, you should not reward your dog for bad behavior, such as pulling on the leash, barking at other dogs, or jumping on people. Instead, you should ignore or redirect the behavior by stopping the walk, changing direction, or asking your dog to do something else. This will help them learn that bad behavior does not get them what they want and discourage them from doing it.
9. Keep your dog healthy and safe
Walking your dog is a great way to keep them healthy and fit, but you also need to take care of their health and safety before, during, and after the walk. Here are some things you should do:
- Check your dog’s health before the walk. Make sure they are not sick, injured, or in pain. If they are, consult your vet before taking them out.
- Check your dog’s gear before the walk. Make sure their leash, collar, harness, or other accessories are in good condition and fit properly. If they are damaged, worn out, or too loose or tight, replace or adjust them.
- Check your dog’s paws before and after the walk. Make sure they are clean and free of cuts, cracks, or foreign objects. If they are dirty or injured, wash them and treat them accordingly.
- Check your dog’s body after the walk. Make sure they are not overheated, dehydrated, exhausted, or stressed. If they are, provide them with water, shade, rest, or comfort as needed.
- Check your dog for parasites after the walk. Make sure they do not have any fleas, ticks, worms, or other pests on their fur or skin. If they do, remove them carefully and consult your vet for treatment.
10. Have fun with your dog
Last but not least, walking your dog should be fun for both of you. You should enjoy spending time with your furry friend and make the most of every walk. Here are some ways to have fun with your dog:
- Talk to your dog during the walk. Use a cheerful tone of voice and tell them how much you love them, how proud you are of them, or how beautiful they are. You can also ask them questions or tell them jokes.
- Sing to your dog during the walk. Use a catchy tune and make up lyrics about your dog or the things you see along the way. You can also use existing songs and change the words to suit your dog.
- Play games with your dog during the walk. Use toys or treats to play fetch, tug-of-war, hide-and-seek, or other games with your dog. You can also use obstacles or landmarks to create challenges or courses for your dog.
- Take photos or videos of your dog during the walk. Use your phone or camera to capture memorable moments of your dog walking, playing, sniffing, or posing. You can also use filters or stickers to make them more fun.
Walking your dog is more than just a chore; it is an opportunity to bond with your best friend and make them happy. By following these 10 tips, you can ensure that every walk is a positive and rewarding experience for both of you.
In conclusion, walking your dog is a crucial aspect of caring for your furry friend. Not only does it have physical benefits, but it also promotes mental and emotional well-being, and strengthens your bond with your pet. However, walking your dog can be challenging at times, especially if your dog is not well-trained or has special needs. Therefore, it’s essential to follow the 10 dog walking tips every pet parent must know about, mentioned above to make your walks enjoyable and safe for both you and your dog. By doing so, you can look forward to each walk as a positive and rewarding experience. So, grab the leash, put on your walking shoes, and enjoy the adventure of exploring the world with your furry companion. Happy walking!