10 Dog Walking Tips Everyone Should Know
We all know that we’re supposed to walk our dogs at least once a day, and yet studies have shown that 20% of us don’t walk our dogs everyday.
If you want to start walking your dog every day it comes down to getting motivated and making it a habit. Remember that walking isn’t just good exercise for you, it’s important to your dogs well being.
Here’s a list of 10 dog walking tips that will make your walks smoother and more enjoyable for both you and your dog.
1. 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.
These harnesses actually help train your dog to ignore you and pull you because when you pull on the leash to try to gain some control, they direct the dog’s attention away from you. – Dr. Sophia Yin
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.
2. Let Your Dog Sniff Around for Mental Stimulation
Did you know dog walks are about more than just physical exercise? Your dogs walk is (usually) the only time they get to go out and explore each day. Give them a little extra time to sniff around.
If you don’t want to stop every 5 seconds or have you dog sniffing around in your neighbors yard that’s fine. You decide which areas are appropriate (and safe) for them to explore. Just loosen your dogs leash for a few minutes and give them a chance to take in all those smells. I have a “go smell” cue for Laika, and a “let’s walk” cue for when it’s time to move on.
All those smells provide your dog with stimulation and information, it’s their way of keeping track of what’s going on in the neighborhood. And you’d be surprised at how exhausting a nice ‘sniffer’ walk can be for your dog compared to a brisk 15 minute one around the neighborhood with no sniff breaks.
We often focus on just the physical aspect of walking, but keep in mind that extra mental stimulation your dog gets from sniffing really adds up.
Some scientists argue that we’re doing a disservice to our animals by not acknowledging the importance of smell for their well being. You can make walks more meaningful & enriching to your dog just by giving them a few extra minutes to sniff around.
Programmes of sensory enrichment that target the dominant sense for the species under scrutiny, using harmless, non-stressful stimuli, are likely to result in the greatest benefits for animal welfare. – Applied Animal Behavior Science
3. Don’t Use a Retractable Leash For Dog Walks
When it comes to using the right leash for your dog walk I have one recommendation: avoid retractable leashes. Retractable leashes cause many unnecessary hazards compared to traditional leashes.
The length of most retractable leashes makes it difficult for you to maintain control of your dog, especially in high traffic areas. Dogs can easily run into the street, and those leashes are not easy to reel in. And those locks on retractable leashes? Well they’re known to disengage with enough pressure.
Retractable leashes are also known for causing injuries to dogs and humans. Grabbing onto the leash itself for more support while your dog is moving can cause severe burns (and in extreme cases digit amputation). And when your dog reaches the end of the leash that sudden jerk can cause you to fall over, and it can cause serious injuries to your dog.
If your dog already pulls while walking a retractable leash will only it worse. Why would he stop? He’s being rewarded with more freedom every time he pulls.
Retractable leashes are a poor choice for normal walks, but I will admit that in certain situations (like the beach or potty breaks in the yard) they are convenient. Just make sure to stick to your normal leash when walking your dog in any area with traffic.
4. Always Pick Up Your Dogs Poop
Picking up your dogs poop is more than just being a good, tidy neighbor. Dog poop that isn’t picked up causes major health concerns to humans and pets alike.
Pet waste may contain harmful organisms such as giardia, E. coli, roundworms, hookworms, and salmonella that can spread to other animals and humans. And when pet waste is left on the ground those diseases, pathogens & bacteria make their way into the soil and pollute water supply.
Pet feces can be catastrophic to the local water table, contaminating nearby ponds, lakes, rivers and drinking water. – AAPAW
And these nasty organisms can live a long time in the ground. Hookworm larvae, for example, can live for several weeks in the soil. Studies have found that 20-30% of the bacteria in urban watersheds is due to dog waste.
I understand that picking up poop isn’t glamorous, but it’s part of being a responsible pet owner. It’s not just rude to leave your dogs poop laying around, it’s a potential health hazard.
You can buy poop bags in any pet store, and they’re really easy to carry. Just shove a couple bags in your pocket before heading out, and if your dog gets a little poop happy on walks (are there actually dogs that don’t poop a lot on walks?) be sure to bring a few extras.
5. 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.
Dogs that drink during exercise stay cooler and are able to burn glucose more effectively. – Pet Education
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)
6. 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.
7. Watch Out For Hot Pavement in the Summer
Wanna know if the pavement is too hot for your dog? Place your hand or barefoot on the pavement for 5 seconds. If it’s too hot (or uncomfortable) for your skin it’s too hot for your dogs feet. And hot pavement isn’t just uncomfortable, it can cause serious injuries to your dogs paws.
On those really hot days you can walk in the grass, go to the park, or walk in the woods. If your dog is pretty tolerant you can even get them some booties to help protect their paws. (Laika is not tolerant of booties, we stick to the grass on hot days) You could also walk earlier in the morning or evening stroll to avoid the hot sun.
8. 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.
9. Ask Before Approaching Other Dogs
Just because your dog is friendly doesn’t mean every dog to dog meeting will be pleasant. Avoid any unnecessary risk by asking before letting your dog approach another dog.
Not all dogs are dog-friendly, and there’s plenty of dogs that don’t do well with on leash greetings. So if you run into anyone else walking their dog please ask permission before approaching them.
If your dog is the one that’s reactive and doesn’t do well meeting other dogs check out these 10 tips for walking reactive dogs.
10. 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.
What Are Your Favorite Dog Walking Tips?
Do you have any additional dog walking tips? Do you let your dog sniff around on walks? Let me know in the comments.