Nothing makes your pup happier than going out for daily walks with their favorite humans! For many pups (and people!) this is the highlight of their day and is a chance for your beloved pet to get outside for some exercise, socialization, stress release, sniffs, and sunshine. While many of these simple tips might seem like common sense, it is important to remember a few ground rules for dog walking to ensure that you, your dog, and your community are all happy and safe and prevent becoming a rude dog walker.
Read on for the top tips and dos and don’ts of Dog Walking 101!
Rule #1: Safety First!
It is important to use the proper gear when you walk your dog.
You should always use a leash while walking your dog. Pick a leash that is sturdy in case your pup is in a chewing phase. Keep the leash on the shorter side, around 3-4 feet long, so as to allow your dog to sniff with ease while keeping them close in case a situation arises.
Do not use a retractable leash as it can be difficult to control your dog during social interactions or keep them out of harm’s way if there is a car, hazardous street treats, or aggressive dogs around the corner.
Aside from the many safety benefits, many places have laws regarding using a dog leash at all times unless in a designated off-leash zone in a park or dog run.
Using a harness that is properly fitted to your dog’s size and walking style is also imperative. There are many different types of harnesses that can be used. Some are great for dogs that are pullers, some are designed for dogs with short legs or wide chests.
Always be prepared! Carry dog treats, plenty of poop bags, water, and a bowl for your dog.
Always stop at crosswalks and look both ways before crossing the street. Look out for bikers and cars that might be turning as they may not always see you. It helps to have your dog sit and wait before crossing the street as well. You can also use this time to pet your dog.
Hire a dog trainer for basic dog training to train your dog how to walk nicely and to pay attention to you on walks and basic recall skills are also beneficial. Teach your dog how to properly meet people and other dogs without jumping or pulling. This can also teach you how to interpret basic dog body language.
Rule #2: Socialize Appropriately
Not all dogs are friendly! It also goes without saying that not all people are friendly or dog lovers themselves. Always ask dog owners if their dog is friendly and if your dog is permitted to say hello. Some dogs can be leash reactive, nervous, or fearful so approach cautiously.
Do not allow your dog to pull towards or jump on people or their fellow dogs. Watch when a situation is getting unfriendly and act accordingly.
Don’t let your dog approach other dogs while they are going to the bathroom! It is not the right time to make friends as the dog is distracted and taking care of business. It can also be a little frustrating for the owner who might have a hard time getting their dog to do their business in a timely manner, particularly when distracted by a passing dog.
Keep the interactions between people and pups brief and pay attention to cues from other people and pups. Not everyone has the time to chat so don’t take it personally when people and pups can’t stick around for too long.
Rule #3: Be Respectful of other dogs and the neighborhood
Always pick up poop and dispose of it in the proper bins. Never leave poop on the ground as this is a health hazard to people and the environment and could potentially spread diseases. Do not dispose of the bags in private garbage cans or recycling can. This is a surefire way to start a fight with a neighbor!
One should never permit a dog to pee on flowers, bikes, vehicles, buildings, etc. It is common courtesy to respect the property of your neighbors.
Do not allow your dog to walk on a neighbor’s lawn.
Do not take up the whole sidewalk! Move to the side when you can and give other people and their dogs some space to pass you and your dog. Be mindful of other people who have small children who are not familiar with how to approach dogs safely. Also, be mindful that other people might be training their dogs or keeping their dogs from being reactive.
Rule #4: Pay Attention
Be present at the moment! Don’t bury your face in your phone – that social media post can wait. It also helps to avoid wearing headphones so you have the use of all of your senses.
Pay attention to traffic signals, signs indicating to avoid trespassing on private properties, and signs of dangers in the area like constriction sites, rat poison, etc. You should always be mindful on walks for any potential dangers you might encounter.
It is important to allow your dog to sniff and explore their environment, but sometimes they can be sniffing something that could be potentially harmful to them if ingested. Watch out for triggers for your dog if your pooch has reactivity to specific stimuli.
Be mindful of the weather! If it is hot outside, make sure your dog is taking plenty of breaks for water and rest. Stick to the shade when possible. Be careful of hot pavement which can burn paws. In winter, put your dog in the proper gear to protect against the elements and the salt.
If our dog is not enjoying their walk, do not force them to stay outside long. This is their time!
RULE #5: Have fun!
No matter what life stage your dog is at, whether they are an adult dog or a young puppy, keep in mind that walk time is their time. Whether you spend this time playing, throwing the ball, running, or walking, make sure your dog is safe enough to be fully engaged, happy, and enjoying their time with you outside.