Research shows that dogs understand a variety of different human words - but the most popular one has to be walk: in fact, one of the first tips for walking your dog may be to teach your dog how to respond to the word calmly (no mean feat!). While walking your dog might sometimes seem like a chore - to dogs, it’s a taste of freedom: the chance to meet new friends, smell new smells and bond with their human. To ensure a safe and enjoyable experience- here are a few dog walking tips .
1. What is the best way to walk your dog?
On, or off the leash? With you holding the reins (so to speak) - you might know where you stand with your dog, but going off-leash could land you both in trouble - unless you train them to respond to your call. Stay mindful of risks (such as other dogs and traffic), and considerate of others while out with your dog - particularly small children. Teaching good behaviour starts at home, where you can minimise risk and distraction - then once you have the basics down, it’s time to step outside.
Choosing the right equipment is key: if you have a dog that pulls, a front clip harness is usually a kinder alternative to a head collar, which should generally be used (with proper fit and instruction) as a last option if the above techniques and equipment don’t work. Where possible, avoid using a retractable leash - these can pose a number of risks (but may be safe for specific outings such as bathroom breaks in the garden). A safer option is to use a shorter leash that will allow greater control.
2. How do I get my dog to walk beside me?
If you’re not the type of dog walker inclined to enter a pet show (the kind where dogs are trained to trot alongside their owners), you may wonder what the point is in teaching your dog to “heel” - but in fact it’s essential for two reasons: the first being visibility. Keeping your dog where you can see them - whether on or off leash- is part of being a responsible dog owner. Secondly, “heel” is doggy shorthand for asking for them to not to pull on the leash - and as we’ve learned, dogs tend to understand short words better. Teach your dog to walk nicely using loose leash training to discourage pulling. It can take time to train your dog - but with persistence, patience and care, you’ll have a happy pooch who is far less likely to pull.
3. How do you walk your dog for the first time?
A walk is an exciting prospect for your dog - but for first-time owners, it can be fraught with worry - spoiling the experience for you both. If this is the case, remember to relax and that you’re the one in control: if you’re calmer, your dog will be too. While you can’t prepare for every eventuality, having the right equipment always helps - take something to safely dispose of dog waste, like a scoop or bags - and a bottle of water to help your dog stay hydrated - especially in warmer weather.
When training, be consistent - dogs thrive on this. Walk them on the same side of you each time, and while you can switch up the location now and then, have a basic routine in place so your pet knows what to expect on their walk every day. Create positive associations by using treats to reward your dog (gradually fading them out as time goes on). As for where to go - the world is your oyster, but if you have a dog park nearby, this can be a great opportunity for both you and your pet to socialise with others.
4. Should I let my dog sniff on walks?
While humans have a tiny 5 million scent receptors in their nose, dogs have up to 20 million, which is why you might see dogs with their head out of car windows (it’s like a buffet of smells going at 30 mph!). Smell is a huge part of a dog’s mental stimulation - so it’s important to let them explore using their noses. From time to time, there may be things you don’t want your dog to go near - such as smelly messes or potentially dangerous plants - in which case, employing proper training using a command such as “off” or “away” to deter your pup is essential and best followed by a distraction from that fascinating (but possibly dangerous) whiff.
5. Is it OK to let your dog walk in front of you?
This might appear like an odd question to some dog owners - but it’s based on your dog’s primal instincts: by allowing your pet to walk in front, they will perceive themselves as “leader of the pack” (yes - if you didn’t know already, you’re in a pack with your dog!). Take the lead instead - and use a harness with a front clip if your dog tends to pull. Establish authority by ensuring you’re the first one out of the door and the first one back in, and your pet will feel more secure and aware of their place in the pecking order.
When it comes to walking your dog it’s always best to have proper training in place, ensure you have the right equipment and to stay aware of your surroundings at all times - including factors such as hot pavements, icy weather, dangerous terrain, water or poisonous substances. Keep these walking tips in mind and above all - enjoy it! Your dog is being trained to pay attention to you, so it’s only fair that we do the same. Instead of browsing social media, use this time to interact and bond with your dog - (everyone knows a wag of the tail is worth a million likes). By following our dog’s lead, we can learn to live in the moment and enjoy life’s simple pleasures: even just going for a walk.
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