The idea of walking your dog sounds pleasant, relaxing, and fun for you both. But the reality is sometimes a little more stressful — especially if your dog pulls on its leash or reacts to other animals or people.
Most dogs really love going for walks. It lets them get out of the house with their beloved owners and explore the world around them. Walks are also a great way for the two of you to bond and provide necessary exercise and mental stimulation for your dog. If your dog seems bored or is acting out, it’s possible that they’re not getting out enough. Consider taking your dog for a walk at least once a day.
Most dogs need to be walked at least once each day, though some dogs, particularly very active dogs, may require more. The breed of dog you have, as well as its level of fitness and age, will also determine how long and how vigorous your walk should be.
Going for walks should be fun and stimulating for your dog. It’s also important to exhibit proper etiquette when out in public and on the leash.
After all, walking your dog is important to his health and happiness. Walks keep your dog agile and limber and can help relieve issues like constipation, according to PetMD. Regular walks also help keep your dog from gaining unwanted pounds. Walking a dog can also go a long way toward reducing or eliminating destructive behavior. Dogs who haven’t had enough exercise–who feel pent up or have extra energy–can turn to digging holes in your yard or chewing everything from your shoes to your couch cushions.
Walks with you also strengthen your bond with your pooch and give him a chance to meet and interact with other people and dogs in a controlled environment. Having a dog that is socialized is very important. Socialized dogs are typically happier and friendlier than unsocialized dogs, who can be anxious and fearful around new humans or animals.
Walking your dog is a great way to maintain a healthy weight. In fact, researchers have found that people who walk their dog get at least 30 minutes of physical activity on more days a week than non-dog walkers.
It’s good for your dog, too. When dogs get outside and exercise, it can help keep them healthy, reduce anxiety and boredom, and stimulate their minds. Normally a walk also gives a chance to socialize with other dogs, but for now it’s better to keep your distance.
Dog owners enjoy numerous health and social benefits by walking their dog a few times a week. Benefits include improved cardiovascular fitness, lower blood pressure, stronger muscles and bones (built up by walking regularly), and decreased stress.
A regular walk is vitally important for your pet’s health too. Obesity in pets is associated with a number of medical complaints including osteoarthritis, cardiovascular disease, liver disease and insulin resistance.
Did you know that a third of dogs and cats in the U.S. are overweight? When you consider that obesity is linked to more than 20 health issues, daily exercise becomes that much more critical for your furry best friend.
Preparing to Walking Your Dog
Getting ready to go for a walk is not difficult. Possibly the hardest part is finding the time to do it! When you’re busy with work, family, and everything else, the day can quickly get away from you. However, it’s important for your dog’s health and well-being (not to mention your own), so do your best to make time for it daily.
You will need to choose an appropriate leash for your dog. It should be comfortable for both you and your dog, easy to handle, and not too long; four to six feet is ideal. Before walking puppies, make sure they have been properly introduced to the leash.
Avoid retractable leashes, or at least use them properly. Ideally, your dog should walk at your side. They should definitely not be walking more than a few feet ahead of you because you will not have control if a distraction comes along.
You might also consider a harness over a collar. Harnesses redirect any straining onto the dog’s shoulders and chest rather than their neck. It also gives you greater control over your dog and many dogs find them more comfortable to wear when on a leash.
Last but not least, be prepared to have fun! Walking should not be seen as a chore, but as an experience to share with your dog. Show your dog that you’re excited about getting some exercise and it will be more willing and excited to go too.
What You Need
- Collar or harness
- Small treats
- Poop bags
- Appropriate clothing (for you and the dog if necessary)
A Leash That Lets You Maintain Control
For most, if not all, of the time you’re walking your dog, your hand will be holding a leash—so get something comfortable. “You want something you can really grip,” Perry says. For a medium-size dog, she suggests a ½- to ¾-inch-wide nylon leash. Try rope-style leashes for another option.
Perry’s ideal leash is 6 feet long with three sets of knots along the length to use as grips if your dog pulls away from you (also the perfect length to help you keep proper social distance from anyone you walk by). If you don’t want to knot up your lead, you can buy a leash that has two or three loops sewn in.
A waist leash is another option. Mynchenberg says she likes these because they allow her to keep her hands free to work on training or simply enjoy time with her dog. Perry, however, isn’t a fan of these, as your dog could pull and injure you. Ultimately, it comes down to how well you know your dog and how well you’ve trained them, she says.
Another note: Don’t get a retractable leash unless you’re going to spend a lot of time roaming parks, beaches, or hiking trails, where you can let your dog run relatively free. On city streets, they can be more trouble than they’re worth. For one, you don’t really have control when you let the leash spool out, and while you’re supposed to be able to reel it back in, they sometimes malfunction. Perry has also seen unsuspecting pedestrians walk into leashes linking dogs and owners that are far apart.
Use a Front Clip Harness if Your Dog Pulls on Leash
Does your dog constantly pull on leash? Try using a front clip harness. Dog collars and harnesses that clip on the back actually promote more pulling. Figuring that out was a major Aha! moment, and I’m still not sure why it took me so many years to figure out. As you can see below we used to have a lot of problems with pulling.
Getting a front clip harness is the best investment I’ve made when it comes to making walks easier, even better than my favorite pair of sneakers.
Just be sure to check for a clip on the front when shopping for a harness. My local pet store had about 10 harnesses, but they were all single back clip ones. I ended up going with the Easy Walk harness from amazon and it’s been working great. If you want a harness that will help keep your dog from pulling just be sure to search for “front clip” options.
Keep in mind that the right harness won’t solve everything. You still need to devote time to training your dog to walk nicely, so here’s an awesome loose leash walking guide that will help get you started.
Carry Poop Bags
Part of being a responsible dog owner is leaving no trace that you were there. That means you should always pick up after your dog! Rather than leaving poop around the neighborhood or park, it’s only considerate to others to carry poop bags with you so you can clean up. No one wants to step in poop!
Consider getting a bag holder that will attach to your dog’s leash or stuff a few in your pocket before walking out the door. Deposit the filled bags in a public garbage can along your walk or wait until you get home to dispose of it. It’s not disgusting once in the bag and is simply kind to your community.
Bring Plenty of Water For Your Dog
If you’re going to be walking for more than a half hour or out in the hot weather bring plenty of water along for your dog. Dog’s have a harder time regulating their temperature than we do, and it’s easy for them to overheat. And since dogs sweat through panting they can easily become dehydrated during exercise, especially in warm weather.
You can buy a collapsible water bottle (sold in pet stores) or use a container of your own. I prefer using a water bottle with a lid since it’s easy for my dog to drink out of, and one that has clips so it’s easy to carry. (you can also use a dog backpack if you want a nifty place to store extras for your walk)
Make Sure Your Dog is Wearing Proper Identification
Every time you leave the house with your dog ensure that they’re wearing ID tags. Unfortunately you can’t control everything that happens, and sometimes dogs get lost.
Be prepared by making sure your dog is wearing tags that are up to date. (I use a personalized collar with our phone number as well since we’ve lost plenty of tags over the years) And since collars can break or be wriggled out of talk to your vet about getting a microchip.
If you get a microchip for your dog be sure to register your information. As long as your information is current anyone who scans your dog for a chip can get in touch with you. If you’ve seen those stories in the news about dogs being lost for months & turning up hundreds of miles away they’re almost always reunited because of a microchip.
Keep Your Dogs Focus By Bringing Along High Value Treats
No matter where you walk there’s going to be distractions. If your dog is like mine every single squirrel sighting becomes a major event. In those “oh crap” situations keep your dogs attention by having some high value treats on hand.
And if you’re cheap like me don’t worry – you don’t have to use store bought treats. You can make your own healthy DIY dog treats or use some fruits & veggies that you’ve already got on hand. My dog goes crazy for carrots so I have it easy, but not all dogs find veggies that appealing. Chopped up meat is almost guaranteed to get any dogs attention.
Wear Reflective Gear if You Walk During the Evening
If you’ve driven at night before I’m sure you’ve had plenty of “oh crap” moments. Those times when you almost hit someone walking on the side of the road due to poor visibility.
Don’t be that guy. If you don’t have sidewalks in your neighborhood make sure you give drivers the ability to see you from a distance.
For the safety of you and your dog get wear something reflective if you walk at night. And if the majority of your walks are during the evening you can get a reflective collar/leash combo for your dog as well.
Plan When to Walking Your Dog
Think About the Route
In short, don’t walk your dog on hot surfaces. If you can’t touch the ground with your bare hand or step on it with bare feet, it’ll hurt your pet, Perry and Mynchenberg both say.
Beyond that, though, the preferred path depends on the dog. Among Mynchenberg’s companions, Denver will walk on anything because he’s had a lot of experience getting to know different environments. Hercules, on the other hand, took a long time to walk over bridges. If something is new, dogs sometimes respond with fear or hesitation—so if they’re not a fan of what’s around them, you’ll know, she says.
Keep Your Dog’s Pee Away from People
Generally, try to find a grassy area or curb for your dog to urinate on and stick to it. Ideally, you’ll want to train your dog to pee in one or a few spots and keep them away from hosing down anything people might touch or pick up, including trash cans, Mynchenberg says.
To make the walks enjoyable and safe, you must maintain control of your dog at all times. Keep your dog close to you when you are around other dogs or people by keeping a short leash.
You can make walks less stressful by training loose-leash walking as well. This will let your dog get plenty of chances to sniff around during the walk. After all, your dog’s nose is the main way it explores their world!
Consider training your dog to stop and sit at intersections, especially in the city. It’s a good safety measure around traffic.
It’s also rude to let your dog wander into private yards. Keep your dog on the curb strip side of the sidewalk whenever possible. Be sure to avoid letting your dog eliminate in yards as well. If they do, pick it up!
Handle Distractions Properly
When out on your walk, pay attention to the environment around you. If you notice potential distractions (like cats, birds, other dogs) before your dog, you may be able to minimize its reaction. You can have your dog sit and look at you while the distraction passes. Keeping some tasty treats in your pocket might help your dog focus on you as well.
Don’t assume other people or dogs want to meet your dog. Always ask before you allow your dog to greet others. Make sure your dog is well-socialized and trained on how to properly meet other dogs and people (especially children). If they’re not there yet, kindly tell people who try to approach your dog that they shouldn’t. It’s not rude and is for their own safety.
Understand the Risks of Exercising With Your Dog
You may be a marathoner or an expert cyclist, but your dog may not be (we’ll bet they can’t even ride a bike). “Just like humans have to work up to running or exercising, dogs do, too,” Mynchenberg says. “You’re not going to be setting any personal records on your dog’s first run.”
If you do exercise with your dog, pay attention to them and make sure you meet their needs first. That means running when it’s cool out, bringing a bottle of water to keep them hydrated, and taking frequent breaks. After all, a dog’s normal body temperature is a few degrees higher than a human’s, and they’ve got a full suit of hair. “Imagine having a fever, with a coat on, and running,” Perry says.
Riding a bike with a dog is more complicated because wheels move faster than legs (even four of them). Any ride you take will have to be fairly leisurely. There’s also the risk that your dog pulls the bike off balance. But before you even get on a bike, you’ll want to make sure your dog is used to being near them. A good way to familiarize them with the machine, Mychenberg says, is to walk them next to it. To avoid having to hold anything while riding, you can get a bike seat attachment that connects to your dog’s leash.
Be Careful When Going Off-Leash
Be careful when going off-leashBefore you set your dog free, make sure you know the leash laws in your area. Many places require dogs to remain linked to their humans at all times. You’ll also want to have rock-solid commands that will make them come to your side immediately, stop what they’re doing, and drop animals and objects they’ve picked up, Perry says.
Both Perry and Mynchenberg stress that enclosed areas, like a dog park or fenced-in yard, are most ideal for off-leash sessions. That goes for well-trained dogs, too, because once you take the leash off, a lot of factors will be beyond your control. Even wide open areas like beaches and parks are risky because your dog may encounter an unexpected trigger or unseen danger, says Perry, who has also authored the book Training For Both Ends of the Leash. In such situations, it’s crucial to have a deep understanding of your pet and a learned list of commands.
Lying Down and Refusing to Move
Why your dog does it: He could be hurt, sick, or just plain tired.
What to do: Examine your dog. Are his paws rubbed raw? Is the cement too hot? Is he too hot? Let him rest and give him a drink. If that doesn’t work and there’s no obvious signs of injury, coax your buddy home with treats. Keep in mind your dog’s abilities and exercise needs before embarking. An English bulldog, for instance, will likely have much different walk expectations than a Labrador retriever. Never force walking. If he truly isn’t having it, come back and try again later. Forcing your pooch to walk when he doesn’t want to could lead to injury. If it becomes a chronic problem, consult your vet to see if there is a larger health issue that you might not be aware of.
Cool Down After the Walk
Once you get back home, you can flop down and relax or try to squeeze a little more productivity out of your pooch. When a dog is calm and tired post-walk, Mynchenberg likes to take advantage of that time to work on essentials that are tough when a dog is amped up, like crate training.
Not every walk is going to be perfect, but if you have a plan and know what you and your dog want to get out of it before you go, each one will be better than the last.