Walking is an adventure! Your dog will enjoy new sights, smells, and sounds that they encounter while strolling. We want to make sure that each walk is both fun and safe for you and your four-legged friends. Below are some ways to help you be prepared and keep you both safe while on your walk.
Have a talk with your dog before walking.
Some dogs get really excited when exposed to something interesting and new. They forget their manners and rush up to the interesting dog or person or bird or squirrel… you get the picture. While you should have leash control of your dog, it’s a good idea to have a backup control mechanism in the form of voice commands. Your dog should listen when you talk. He should sit, stay, or come when called. So before setting out on a walk, spend some time reviewing (or teaching) basic obedience skills.
Pick the right leash for the occasion.
To have tangible control over your dog, it’s important to have a sturdy leash that is 4-6 feet long attached to a properly fitting collar or harness. Wrap the leash around your palm so it doesn’t slip out of your hand. While retractable leashes provide dogs a little extra freedom and privacy when on potty walks, they aren’t the best restraint for exercising.
Some pet owners allow their dogs to roam off-leash. This requires walking in a controlled environment with a well-behaved dog. Off-leash play is allowed in many dog parks but may be restricted on walking paths, so follow the rules wherever you go. A short leash is always a safe bet and facilitates a quick retreat in case you are approached by something that’s not so friendly, like a loose dog, porcupine, skunk, or other wildlife.
Wear proper footwear for both you and your dog.
You’ll need sturdy walking shoes to protect your feet, but your dog’s feet need protection, too. Avoid extremely hot concrete, asphalt, or sandy beaches that can burn tender footpads. Here’s a good rule of thumb: if the walking surface is too hot for you to place your hand or bare foot on it for 10 seconds, then it’s too hot for your dog to walk on “bare pawed.” There are booties for dogs that walk on really hot or really cold surfaces. These booties also protect your dog from chemical irritation that may occur when walking on snowy or icy sidewalks that have been treated with salt or de-icing compounds.
Check those tootsies.
After a walk, it’s a good idea to look at your dog’s paws. Check for cuts, bruises and foreign bodies like cockle burrs or splinters. If you walked on the beach or in the snow, wipe your dog’s feet with a warm, wet towel. Clean between the toes and around the footpads well. While you’re at it, take a peek for unwanted hitchhikers (fleas and ticks) you may have picked up during your walk. If you live in a flea or tick-infested area, ask your veterinarian about the best preventive for your dog.
Staying hydrated is important for both you and your dog. For long walks, bring along a collapsible dog bowl or water bottle fitted with a special spout that allows your dog to sip easily. Offer frequent drinks especially if going on long walks in warm weather. Sports drinks are great for hydrating us humans but are not formulated for dogs, so it’s best to stick with water for our furry friends.
Carry Proper Identification.
Both you and your dog should be identified when venturing away from your home in case you become separated while walking. Since your dog doesn’t have a driver’s license, he will need to carry another form of identification. Many people place ID tags with the dog’s name and owner’s phone number on the collar. Collar tags provide quick identification making you only a cell phone call away.
Since collars or ID tags can be lost, microchips are a more permanent means of identification and provide an added measure of safety. Microchips are inserted under the dog’s skin and hold identification information that a vet or shelter can scan. Many dogs are reunited with their owners thanks to microchips.
Allow time to warm-up and cool down.
Just like when we exercise it’s good to allow your dog a little time to warm up his muscles before setting out on a vigorous walk. Let him smell the flowers and take a potty break. This will help satisfy his curiosity and decrease the number of potty stops during a long walk. Toward the end of your outing, you should take some time to cool down by strolling more slowly.
Walking with your dog should be an enjoyable time for both of you. So stay safe and have fun!