With the warm weather and sun-filled evenings coming in, let’s talk about dog walking! Here we will give you some tips to ensure your daily walk with your dog is easy, enjoyable, and something the two of you can do together to bond!
DO USE: A front-clip harness, an adequately conditioned head halter, a flat collar, or a body harness with a 4-6 ft leash.
These pieces of equipment will give you the control over your dog you need while not hurting your dog or sending them incorrect messages. Walking your dog should be bonding for the two of you; it’s a great time for training, mental and physical exercise, and fresh air!
AVOID USING: Prong collars, shock collars, slip chains, or "Flexi"/retractable leashes.
Prong collars, shock collars, and slip chains damage your relationship with your dog. Sure, they may make your dog walk right with you, but what are you trading to get that behavior? Their trust. Using these devices, especially incorrectly, can send the wrong message to your dog and even make them associate the pain with strangers or dogs.
Retractable leashes teach your dog to pull, since they get extra leash every time they jolt forward! While that sounds fun for them, it can cause a lot of issues for you. Retractable leashes can also cause serious injuries to you or those around you if someone gets wrapped up in it. Instead, get your dog conditioned to a standard 4-6 foot nylon or leather leash.
There are a few things you’ll need to bring on your walk besides your pup and his equipment. You’ll want to put together a small pouch and fill it with a few essentials- bring a small water bottle, some poop bags, and treats. A few extra items you can bring include a small first aid kit, a clicker, hand wipes, and pepper spray.
Being prepared for any situation is important for the safety of you and your pup. Walks are meant to be fun- in being prepared, you ensure that your walk is safe and exciting!
Our pups want our attention, we hold all the cards already! We give them food, love, walks, cuddles, toys, etc. they already want to make us happy and spend time with us. When you are on a walk, you are competing with all the other things they see, smell, and can touch. This means you want to teach your pup you can give and take away all of these things.
If your dog is walking with you, give them treats and praise! If they walk with you towards a thing, they get to see/ smell/ touch the thing- if not, say “oops” and walk the other way. Your dog will learn you are the most exciting thing on the walk and stay right with you. Using positive reinforcement will not only train your dog to stay with you and walk nicely on the leash but also build your bond and their trust in you.
We’ve already established that you should become the most exciting part of your dog’s walk- but the treats you use are equally important to keep their attention on you. Bringing overcooked baked dog biscuits may interest your dog’s attention for a few minutes, but they’ll realize that their walk is much more exciting.
The best dog training treats to maintain your dog’s attention will be real meat, which has a scent and taste that dogs would do anything for. Bringing a bag ofair-dried lamb lung or smearing a spoon withdog-safe peanut butter is a surefire way to keep their attention on you for the duration of the walk.
While treats are made to treat your pup, they should still contribute positively to their overall health and wellbeing. When choosing your pup’s treats, make sure to go with single-ingredient, 100% natural treats that are free of preservatives and fillers. This way, your dog is getting a treat for their tastebuds and their whole body!
Our dogs thrive on routines- they feel most comfortable when they know when to get out of bed, when to eat, when to play, and when it’s time to walk. Making sure your pup receives their daily exercise at around the same time every day will develop a routine where they know what to expect.
Different breeds have different exercise requirements, some needing longer walks than others. Smaller breeds may get winded after 20 minutes a day, but active breeds like huskies will need over 30 minutes every day. If you can’t meet your dog’s exercise requirements, it may be time to get a dog walker.
Without daily exercise and stimulation, our dogs tend to take out their energy in unhealthy ways. For example, they may destroy the furniture in the house, excessively nip, or have increased anxiety and depression. Meeting your pup’s exercise requirements every day will make sure they stay healthy!
While grass can be a great place to sniff and flower beds look like a blast to run around in, there are lots of flowers and lawn products that can be toxic to your dog.Toxic plants can be very serious for your dog and they are not always easy to spot or identify. Best to steer clear and let your dog sniff and play elsewhere.
Aside from the toxic plants, it’s common courtesy to make sure your dog doesn’t use the bathroom on your neighbor’s lawn. Just in case, bring a handful of poop bags if your dog happens to go potty somewhere that could inconvenience your neighbor’s day.
Your dog's walk is their only chance to get out and safely explore the world. Think of your commute to work- you do it 5 days a week and it never changes. That isn’t how we want our dog’s walks to be, so try switching it up sometimes! It will give your pup new sights, sounds, and smells, and give you a chance to take in a different part of the city.
Novelty is an important part of mental stimulation for your pet, it gives them a chance to exercise their brain. From studying dogs we have realized they have the cognition of a two-year-old human child, on average. That means they are actually a lot more bored than we think.
It is incredibly important to let your dog think and solve problems. Walking to a different side of the neighborhood can be an easy way to do this! You can also let your dog sniff around by not pulling on the leash when they find something intriguing to smell.
While walks are the highlight of every dog’s day, some safety should be established. When you’re walking your pup and get to a busy intersection, the last thing you want is for your dog to go rushing into the street. By training your dog to sit before crossing, you allow them to be more aware of their surroundings and develop a strong habit.
You’ll want to start by teaching your dog to “sit” at home. The process is relatively simple, and you can find someinstructions on beginner training here! After your dog has learned to sit at home, you can start introducing them to more distracting environments, using their favorite dog treats as motivation.
Eventually, your pup will learn that at every curb, they must sit before the walk can continue. Now, taking your dog for walks around the dog beach or across a busy street will be much less stressful!
“Walk” just might be my dog's favorite word. Your dog is thrilled you’re about to take him outside to explore and spend time with you! Don’t disappoint him by playing on your phone or ignoring him while you have a podcast playing in your ears. This is your chance to bond and spend time together.
Interact with your dog, have him practice some tricks, sit on the street corners, and have him walk next to you to earn some praise andVenison Treats! Interacting with him on the walk is a mental exercise, just like taking a new route. Watching and interacting with your dog on the walk will also give you the chance to notice if anything is different in their health or demeanor.
Training your dog to walk nicely is one of the more difficult behaviors to establish- after all, that squirrel is looking like it needs some chasing! Some dogs, especially puppies, may not want to sit at curbs or walk beside you, even with lots of treats.
Understand that this is a perfectly okay and normal process in training your dog. Every individual pup learns at different rates, with different methods being more effective. For example, your furry friend may not get the point of stopping every time they pull, but they might be super excited about heeling with those treats in your pocket.
Despite your dog’s personal progress, the last thing you want to do is become frustrated with them. If it seems like no progress is being made one day, take a stroll back home and try again later. Our dogs are doing the best they can for us, and extra appreciation is the key to keeping them engaged!
Marissa Sunny CPDT-KA is a behavior consultant and owner of a local dog training company, Epiphany Dog Training.