Walking your dog is something that all dog owners do almost every single day. It's one of the most important and enjoyable things you do together. It's a fantastic time to bond with your dog and no matter where you go for your walk there are some things to do so we can all enjoy walks in peace with our pups. We don't want to slip into poor habits and these have a tendency to creep up on us in all walks of life. Here's our list of do's and don'ts to make your dog walking a great experience for all involved.
Pick up after your pooch: You should always pick up your dog's waste. It should go without saying really, but we're all human and it's easy to forget to bring a supply of poop bags. An easy way to always be prepared? Tie spare bags to your dog's leash or keep them in those holders you see everywhere. Leaving them right next to your dog's leash is also another way to never leave your front door without supplies.
Think ahead: Before going out for your walk, take a minute to remind yourself what type of scenario might cause your dog to become anxious or react in an undesired way. Does he like to chase after the neighbor's cat if the opportunity presents itself? Does the UPS delivery guy cause your dog to default to primal protective mode? What about cyclists? While you always want to work with your dog to eliminate these types of behaviors, you can avoid these situations by recognizing his triggers. Take healthy treats with you or his favorite toy to provide a positive distraction before a negative encounter.
Keep your head up and eyes forward: Remember, dogs are intelligent animals and one of the reasons they make such wonderful companions is their sensitivity to our needs. So if you're feeling anxious about a situation they will likely pick up on this, leading to a reaction you're hoping to avoid. Teach yourself to spot the situation without reacting in a way your dog can sense, giving you time to steer away from potential trouble. Put your phone in your pocket and be aware of what's ahead of you.
Be on the lookout for cars and cyclists: Always stay alert to cars, cyclists, runners or other fast moving (maybe not paying attention) humans. Driveways, poorly marked intersections or crosswalks should always be approached with caution. We recommend teaching your dog to stop, sit and wait for your command before crossing any street at an intersection.
Don't assume all dog walkers have full pooch control: Different people, with different habits and levels of control, are out walking their dog just like yourself. Don't assume that every person has full control. If you get the sense that an approaching owner isn't in full control, err on the side of caution and cross the street before you meet or put some safe distance between you and them. Dog owners that don't demonstrate this are the most likely to cause issues. Leash pulling is a good sign that an approaching dog is calling the shots.
Change direction in style: Of course having to cross the street to avoid other dogs isn't the most enjoyable thing to have to do while on a walk. Here's how to do it in style; make it seem like it's a perfectly normal and intentional change of direction and pace. Don't make a sudden movement that involves you yanking your dog by his leash.
Communicate those issues: If your dog has specific tendencies or issues, don't be afraid to let other walkers know. For example, "we're working on him greeting large dogs politely". This will give the other dog owner the opportunity to prevent a negative situation or assume your dog wants to be greeted by theirs.
Ask permission: You should never let your dog approach other people or dogs without asking them first if it's okay. You have no way to know how your dog is going to react to a strange person or dog. The same thing goes for other people approaching your dog.
Don't use a Retractable Lead: Avoid using a retractable lead if you're just out for a walk with your dog. The last thing you need is your pup being able to run 10 to 20 feet away from you in response to something. Depending on the size of your dog these leads are also not difficult to snap, get hung on shrubbery or even trip you! They are conducive to terrible walking habits and more than likely lead to constant leash pulling. When you're walking on a public sidewalk they're neither necessary nor safe.
Hands-free walking: Put your phone away, plain and simple. The emails, texts and social media check-ins can wait until you get home. This is a time to bond with your pup and your phone is a distraction you don't need when on a walk.
Don't panic: Whatever happens on your walk don't panic. As we mentioned previously dogs sense any anxiety, fear or frustration which can lead to bad behavior and your walks together should be a high-point in both of your days!
Once you've mastered all of these, congratulations, you're a dog walking pro and it's time to move on to a running routine with your dog!