Regular walks are an important part of your dog’s overall health. Besides helping to keep him in shape, regular walks help curb a dog’s inappropriate behaviors by channeling his energy into a positive activity guided by you, his owner. The regular activity also helps strengthen the bond and trust between you and your pet. To make your walks as stress-free as possible, consider following these tips.
#1 Use a front-clip harness or head halter to discourage pulling. Your dog will have a natural inclination to pull in response to a leash pulling or jerking on his collar or rear-clip harness. A front-clip harness or head halter can help discourage both of you from pulling on the leash. These devices provide pressure in places that naturally make the dog want to walk slower.
#2 Ask your dog to sit before you put on the leash. To encourage calm behavior during the walk, start with calm behavior before you walk out the door. Only put the leash on your dog’s harness or halter after he calmly sits.
#3 Give yourself enough time for the dog walk. Most dogs need at least 30 minutes for an effective walk, and might need as long as an hour. If you are hurried and stressed while walking, your dog will pick up on your stress and could exhibit stressful behaviors himself. Head out for the walk when you are relaxed and able to enjoy the process—and your dog will enjoy it more, too.
#4 Let your dog sniff. The daily walk is likely the one time your dog is away from his familiar territory. Help him fulfill his needs for mental stimulation by allowing him to explore his surroundings by one of the best ways he knows how—sniffing.
#5 Bring plenty of water. For longer walks—or walks to a destination where you will be staying for a while—be sure to bring plenty of water or a vessel to hold the water once you arrive.
#6 Outfit your dog with proper I.D. Your city or town may require a dog license, and it’s always a good idea to make sure your dog has an identification tag or microchip (or both) that easily allows you to be reunited with your pet if he somehow becomes lost.
#7 Bring treats to encourage proper behavior and keep your dog’s focus. Only use the treats to reward very good behavior. When you are first leash training your dog, you could choose to reward him when he walks next to you—instead of pulling—for several steps. As his good behavior increases, you can set the bar higher for earning a treat.
#8 Don’t approach other dogs without permission. You will likely encounter other dogs and their owners out for walks—but remember, just because your dog is friendly doesn’t mean other dogs are. Ask before you and your pet approach an unfamiliar dog.
#9 Wear reflective gear during the evening. Sometimes, the only time available for a good walk is the evening, after the sun has gone down and visibility has diminished. Make sure you and your dog are visible to approaching cars by outfitting him with a reflective or flashing collar and wearing a reflective vest or jacket yourself.
#10 Always pick up after your dog. Be courteous to everyone who uses the same paths and sidewalks as you and your pet. You’d want other dog owners to do the same.
About the Author: Stacy N. Hackett is an award-winning writer with more than 25 years’ experience in the pet industry. She is the former editor of Pet Product News and a former staff editor with Cat Fancy, Cats USA, Critters USA and Ferrets USA. To learn more about her work, visit stacynhackett.vpweb.com.