Dog walking is an excellent past time for both dogs and dog owners alike. Not only does it help improve the bond you have with your pooch but it also helps your dog stay fit and healthy – as well as helping you burn off some excess calories in the process.
Whilst it is the metaphorical dream to use a dog walk as a pseudo form of meditation owing to the ability of the great outdoors to help clear human minds, often dog walks can be fraught with tension and stress as sometimes our canine friends are prone to misbehave or not come back when asked.
We’ve listed a whole host of tips that will help even the naughtiest of dogs behave well, which will then help respective dog owners learn to enjoy their walks too. By employing just a few of our ideas you’ll notice a big difference quickly and easily, especially if used little and often.
Dogs respond well to food. Fact. Taking doggy treats out on a walk is a sure fire way of getting them to listen to you and your commands to sit, come or heel.
It’s a good idea to give your dog a treat from your pocket at the beginning of your walk. Try to keep your keep your dog treats in the same pocket, or rather on the same side, every time you take your pooch out for walks. That way, when they see your hand going to that side, they are more likely, again, to respond to your commands. For easier carrying treats while walking with your pup, check out our review of Dog Treat Pouches & Bags.
High-value treats, in particular, are ones worth taking out with you – you’ll figure out soon enough what treats your dog enjoys and consequently what he responds to most readily. This way, you can be certain of the best behavior when out on walks as your dog will soon learn that this is is when he receives his tastiest morsel.
If you give him or her high value treats all the time, they lose their magic touch.
Picking Up after Your Dog
It may sound daft, to the point of far too blatantly obvious, but taking out dog poop bags so you can pick up after your dog is essential.
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Whilst it may not help train your dog per se, it pays to be the good dog walker by clearing up after him and her for a plethora of reasons. It’s not only good manners but it is good for the environment to ensure the nasties that breed on dog faeces can’t multiply. To further be kind to the environment, biodegradable poop bags are available to buy.
Also, on another practical level, the less mess that is around, the less chance there is of your dog stepping in something and trailing the mess around with him or her. Whilst it is the least glamorous part of owning a dog, using a dog pooper scooper can remove some of the pain of picking up after your pooch.
A dog harness is really the only way to go for dogs that pull when you take them out on their walks. Their design stops them pulling so much – making walks much more pleasant for their walkers too. They will no longer suffer from having their arm pulled off at every interesting smell.
Whilst you will still have some work to do with respect to your dog’s behavior on a lead, you can still expect to see some immediate changes to their usual actions when out on a walk.
A chest harness means that when an owner pulls on the lead to get a dog to stop or to garner their attention, they have a much higher chance. Traditional leads and collars mean that when the lead is tugged by an attention seeking owner, the dog actually has his or her attention snapped away from the owner themselves.
A chest harness stops this from occurring and puts an owner back in charge.
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Don’t Always Put Your Dog on a Lead When You Call Them
Dogs and leads have curious relationships. Show them the lead whilst you’re in the house and you’re certain to have your hand almost bitten off in excitement. Show your dog the lead whilst out on a walk and you may find that your dog disappears into some undergrowth for a while, feverishly sniffing every single blade of grass.
Dogs arena stupid and they know the signals for a beginning of a walk and the signals for the end of one. To circumvent this issue, a good idea is to call your dog back to you several times on a walk whilst holding the lead – but don’t always automatically put him back on its dog leash. Instead, praise him with either cuddles or a stick.
That way, they always see you as fun and will come back to you when you are putting them back on the lead or not.
Follow What other Dog Walkers Do
This is one of the cardinal rules of dog walking.
When you see a dog walker from afar, notice what they do with their dog. If they seem relaxed and their pooch is off the leash, it’s fine to keep your own dog off the lead as you can be fairly confident that the approaching canine is friendly and will just want to play at most.
If a dog owner recalls his dog and puts him on the lead when he sees you, it’s a good idea to do the same with yours. Owners will do this because either their own dog is too boisterous and playful when another dog is in the vicinity, or because their dog is grumpy which can manifest itself violently on another unassuming dog that is walking by.
More often than not dogs are friendly, but it’s best not to risk it and get your own pooch mixed up in a dogfight that could otherwise be avoided.
Use a Lead if Your Dog is on Heat
In a similar vein, if your bitch is on heat, it’s a good tip to take your dog out on a lead for the whole of her walk. Not only will this protect her, but it will also help keep male dogs safer.
Should a situation arise where a male dog approaches your bitch, it will be easier to control what happens if your bitch is already on the lead.
It will make walking more pleasurable for you knowing that you will be able to keep your dog safer more easily as well as keeping other dog owners happier. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to get a male dog recalled if he has smelt a bitch. Even the best-trained dogs will have their nose turned.
Allow for Sniffing
Walks aren’t just great exercise for dogs. They’re a form of mental stimulation too. Both running around and giving your dogs the opportunity to use their brains will tire them out – leaving a well-behaved dog tired for the rest of the day.
To do so, patiently stop by your pooch when he or she stops walking to sniff an interesting smell on the ground. It will do him or her the world of good and make a walk that little bit more interesting to them overall. It can be very tempting to tug on your dog’s lead to keep them moving, but practicing some patience with them when they stop will pay dividends overall.
Not least to mention that the bond between you will improve as your dog will think you’re the best person ever for taking him or her on such a great walk.
Switch Up Your Routes
In another effort to keep your dogs mentally stimulated, it is beneficial to change your walking routes.
So often dogs are taken on the same route every day, which, whilst they still enjoy them, are not as stimulating as a route they have not been on every day prior. By just having a handful of routes at your fingertips, you will see a difference in how your dog behaves. He or she will be ostensibly more engaged, happier and at the end of the walk, more tired for a day of relaxation ahead.
Walks don’t need to be long to help tire out your pooch – especially of you do change where you go every few days or so.
Walk with Other Dogs
If you can manage it, this is a great top tip.
Most dogs love to play with other dogs. Games of chase mean that your regular dog walk can actually be up to four times longer for your pooch if you go with other dogs and dog walkers. This is because they cover so much more distance while running after one another.
Whilst not for everyone – some dogs are simply not sociable – this is a tip where you will see an immediate difference in your dog the moment you get home. They’ll be so well behaved due to having exhausted themselves out playing with their new canine friends.
If you don’t have friends with dogs, look out for local dog walking groups or even approach a local dog walking business and see if you can join them for their daily outing at least once a week. Your dog will love you for it!
Reflective Gear in the Evening
Whilst this may not help your dog’s behaviour, it’s a tip of a practical nature that will keep your dog safe at night.
Reflective gear, just as a LED collar is a must if you take your dog out in the evening. It will help keep you safe too. Even if you are walking on a pavement, it’s still a good idea to clothe your pooch in something that will light up in headlights. It’s not uncommon for dogs to become loose from their lead. Should this happen when out on a night walk, it will protect them when you have inadvertently lost control of your pet.
Beware hot Pavements in the Summer
Another practical tip is to be wary of pavements in the summer if the weather has been exceptionally hot. Tarmac sidewalks can heat up pretty quickly, so it’s a good idea to take your dog out early in the morning during hot periods.
Pavements can reach temperatures that can be used to fry an egg and so they can be dangerous to your dog’s paws. As their paws are not protected by even fur, their feet can burn easily. One of the most common reasons why dogs are taken into the vets in the Summer is dehydration and burnt paws.
It’s incredibly painful for them and what makes it worse is that dogs do not always have the knowledge to sit still whilst their paws are healing. In fact, it is nigh on impossible to tell a dog just to lie down and not put any weight on their feet.
Take Water with You
A good summer walking tip is to take a dog water bottle and a collapsible dog bowl with you out on a walk. Dogs largely cool down by panting with their tongue hanging out. It’s easy for them to become dehydrated, therefore. Taking water with you is, therefore, a must in hot weather, and a good idea even if in the cooler months.
Ideally, when it is hot, take walks in the morning and in a shady area near some water.
If it is baking hot, it’s best simply not to take your dog out at all. Dogs don’t die from not being walked for a couple of days or weeks – they can die from dehydration. One way around this if they are desperate to leave the house is to use a dog stroller — Check out our guide to the Best Dog Strollers if you’re interested in taking this route for your pup.
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Consider Taking some Toys
This can really help with your dog’s recall. For your dog to learn to come back to you every time you call, they need to know you are the most fun and fascinating thing at all times – particularly when off the leash on a walk.
To do so, a number of means can be employed, but often favorite dog toys are the best way to ensure your dog’s attention. Many dog owners use tennis balls which can then be used for a game of fetch, but a stick will also suffice if you are in a bind!
Ones that squeak are a good starting point for any new dogs or puppies out on their first walks. The change in sound from your voice will help get their attention back to you quickly.
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Another practical tip, which seems obvious but is so often not employed by dog owners, is to have your pooch wear a dog collar and dog tags at all times – especially when out on a walk. By doing so, should your pet somehow become lost when out, they will be much easier to return to you immediately.
With that in mind, remember to update your contact details on their tags every time you change your phone number or address. Similarly, if your dog has a microchip, ensure that you update the documented contact details connected to the chip each time you move. That being said, microchips should not replace collars and dog tags. They should be used in conjunction with one another as only vets and local authorities will have the means of reading a microchip in the neck of a dog.
Don’t use a Retractable Lead
Lastly, we don’t recommend using a retractable lead when out on a dog walk. In fact, our recommendation would be to avoid them entirely.
Whilst they seem like a good idea, they are actually fraught with risks and dangers. Plus, more often than not they simply don’t work.
Owners themselves are at risk of injury when trying to retract the lead that can cause cuts and burns, if not worse, in the process of reeling the leash in.
Often, the stoppers or retract button on the handset are fiddly or get stuck so that owners can’t retract the lead when needed – leaving dogs at risk. When a leash is too long, owners have little control over their dogs who can then walk into busy roads, oncoming traffic or get themselves tangled up in hedgerows.
It is best, therefore, to use a fixed length lead that has tension at all times so that when your dog is on the lead, you have complete control of their safety.
Obviously, we cannot implement these dog walking tips all the time and certainly not all at once. However, choose just a few to instigate on your walks and slowly build up to a few other changes. It will eventually make life a whole load easier for the both of you – or especially so if you own more than one dog that you like to walk at the same time.
99.9% of dogs love their walks and it really is the highlight of their day. By taking on board some of our tips, it will hopefully become the highlight of yours too.
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- Dog Walking 101, WebMD
- Victoria Schade, CPDT-KA, Dog Walking Tips: What Not to Do When Walking Your Dog, PetMD
- Puppy and Dog Walking Tips, The Kennel Club