With the warm weather and sun filled evenings coming in, let’s talk about dog walking!
1. Use the right equipment
DO USE: A front clip harness, a properly conditioned head halter, a flat collar, or a body harness and 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, every time they jolt forward they get extra leash! 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 they get wrapped up in it. It is best to avoid them all together. Instead, get your dog conditioned to a standard 4-6 foot nylon or leather leash.
2. Show your pup you are the most exciting part of the walk
Our pups want our attention, we hold all the cards already! We give them food, love, walks, cuddles, toys, ect. 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.
3. Stay off the grass and flower beds
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.
4. Take a different route
Your dogs 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. 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 problem solve. Walking to a different side of the neighborhood can be an easy way to do this!
5. Focus on your dog
“Walk” just might be my dogs 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 walk next to you to earn some praise and treats! Interacting with him on the walk is 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.
Marissa Sunny CPDT-KA is a behavior consultant and owner of local dog training company, Epiphany Dog Training.