January Is Walk Your Dog Month

January, 2016

Tips for Safe, Healthy and Fun Outings with Your Dog

Sure, you adore your pooch, but lately are you feeling less-than-thrilled when walk time comes around? That’s probably because you’re having trouble controlling your dog’s behavior—or you (and your dog) are tired of the same old routine. This month, focus on making those daily excursions more enjoyable for you and your dog.

Be the pack leader. Be in charge when you walk your dog. Use confident body language—head up, shoulders back—and don’t let your dog walk in front of you. You dog should walk beside you or slightly behind. If your dog pulls ahead, shouting won’t get him to return to your side. Reinforce good behavior by rewarding with a treat when he’s walking by your side and that will help keep them in the best place for them.

Practice leash lessons. Many of us live in cities and neighborhoods where leashes are a must. Choose the right one for your dog. There are many types of leashes, and the one that’s best for you is the one you feel most comfortable holding. Whichever type of leash you use, keep it short, but not too tight. Your dog will be discouraged from bolting, dawdling or wandering, and you can maintain close communication and control. Until your dog knows how to walk without pulling, view walks as training sessions, and keep them short, frequent and low stress. Again, reward your dog with treats when she stays by your side.

Bring the necessities. Make the walk pleasant for you and your dog. Always carry bags for cleaning up and disposing of doggie poop—leaving dog waste is not only a health hazard, but in many cities, it’s a code violation. Don’t forget to hydrate, carry water for yourself and your dog, especially in warmer weather. Dogs can lap water from your cupped hands, or you can carry a collapsible water bowl.  Don’t forget to pack your dog’s favorite bite-size treats for rewarding good behavior or good old hunger pangs!

Change it up. To make walks more fun for you and your dog, rove a little—and travel off the beaten path by taking your dog on different routes, going to cool places like the dog park or a friend’s house (preferably a dog owner!), and taking walks with buddies—borrowing a friend’s dog or asking another owner to join you on your walk.

Know how far to go. How much walking time is enough for your dog? Every dog’s exercise needs are different; there is no single right answer for all dogs. Factors to consider are your dog’s size (especially the length of his or her legs), breed, age, general health, and the walking environment. Watch your dog while you’re walking—if he starts panting and slowing down, you’ve gone far enough. Did he used to go for miles and now he can do only a few blocks? Check in with your vet.

And most of all enjoy your walk with man’s best friend, you’ll be glad you took the time.