Walking a dog is not as simple as it looks. Whether you’re a dog owner or walking someone else’s dog for them, it takes time, awareness, and perhaps research to learn how to best walk your dog.
Different dogs react to different things you encounter on a walk — cars, wild animals, other dogs, joggers, and bikers — so it may take time to learn your dog’s tendencies.
Here are a few things that might stress your dog – and simple ways you can avoid them.
Your dog will almost always react in some way when you pass another person, whether they’re by themselves, on a bike, or with their dog. If they don’t have a dog and are occupied, like on the phone or exercising, they won’t want to be bothered by you or your dog, so keep walking, no matter how much your dog wants to go over and greet them.
If they eye your dog and look like they want to pet it, then you can go towards them. Kids especially might be nervous to ask, so feel free to initiate it if you’re comfortable doing so.
Interacting with other dogs is a whole different story. It’s entirely up to you and the dog owner you’re passing as to whether or not you want your dogs playing with each other.
If they don’t look your way and are visibly urging their dog to keep walking, then don’t bother and do the same. Don’t go out of your way to ask them if they’re not interested, no matter how much your dog might want you to.
If you make eye contact with each other and are both fine with a quick play session, let your dogs sniff and wrestle it out for a little bit, then go on your separate ways.
Ever accidentally step in or narrowly evade dog poop and curse out whoever left it there? Don’t be one of those dog owners. Bring at least two bags whenever you go on a walk with your pup. It’s what good Samaritans do.
You don’t have to pick up your dog’s feces all the time, though. If you’re able to nudge them into the woods or somewhere people can’t see or walk, you can get away with leaving their poop there.
For the most part, though, you should pick it up, and you can’t do that without a bag – never leave home without one.
Whether it’s because of a passerby, a wild animal, sudden noise, or smell, your dog will undoubtedly pull you every which way during your walk.
If your dog is a serial puller, consider using a harness, which wraps around its torso, rather than a traditional collar around its neck. If you let your dog pull you wherever it wants, you’ll be on a three-hour walk, so you’ll have to assert yourself and keep your dog from being the boss.
You do, however, need to find a balance.
It’s important to let your dog enjoy the walk by sniffing and marking its territory. That means not pulling it back every time it tries to lead you in one direction. Letting your dog sniff around outside not only lets it learn about its surroundings and the environment, but it calms them down and acts as a mental exercise.
Depending on where you live, it can be challenging to find a place to let your dog run free off-leash. Many public places in cities and suburbs require leashes.
If there is a place for off-leash fun, like a local dog park, bring your dog there every once in a while. Its only outdoor activity and exercise should not happen attached to a leash.
But when you’re on the street or in a park, do keep your dog on a leash, especially if it’s not adequately trained or well-disciplined because it could cause a ruckus in one way or another, and could be a danger to itself.
When you’re at the dog park, on a trail, or in an open field, there is no need to keep laser-focus on your dog at all times. When you’re on the side of the road, you must.
Make sure your body is closer to the road than your dog’s to avoid them pulling you into the street. Some dogs, believe it or not, will pull you toward or even lunge at moving cars. If you don’t have complete control of the leash and proper body position, your dog could get hit or cause an accident.
When you’re on the side of the road or a sidewalk, keep a shorter leash to make sure your dog can’t wander into a dangerous area. Despite your dog’s sharp hearing and smelling ability, it won’t think going onto the road is bad.
It’s up to you to keep you and your dog safe.
Following these tips becomes second nature when you’ve been a dog owner for a few years, but for new owners, there is a lot of learning to be done.
A dog looks forward to its walk every day, and it’s your job to make it enjoyable for them, even when it’s slow or inconvenient for you.
Following these rules and more will result in a happy, healthy dog – and a happy, stress free owner!