Dog walking is an essential part of your dog’s care, but it’s not always easy. Some dogs pull while others act aggressive toward other dogs. On top of all that, walking an unfamiliar dog can cause additional stress if you don’t know how to properly control them. So, safely taking your dog outside for a walk is the key to keeping everyone safe during your outdoor adventures.
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Common Mistakes for Walking Your Dog
Walking a dog seems like an easy task, but many dog parents make a lot of simple mistakes. If your dog doesn’t want to listen during your walk, it’s likely that you’re doing one of the following things:
- Rushing their bathroom breaks
- Not letting them sniff and explore enough
- Pulling on your dog’s leash when they stop or walk too fast
When your dog walks too slowly, chews or pulls on their leash, it can be frustrating. Many dog parents want walks to be quick and easy, especially if the weather isn’t ideal. Yet, walks are so much more than just bathroom breaks for dogs. They’re the one opportunity your dog has to get out of the house and explore.
So, instead of growing impatient with your dog, give them time to sniff and explore. Having a dog should be about your dog’s health and happiness, not your own wants. As for pulling on their leash, it’s better to work on training with loose leash walking by using positive reinforcement. Pulling on the leash may only cause your dog to pull harder in return.
Tips for Walking Your Dog Safely
In order to walk your dog safely, you’ll have to spend some time training them. Just because your dog knows how to walk on a leash doesn’t mean they’ll always behave. Pulling, barking, and chasing are all behaviors that need work.
Tip #1 – Let Your Dog Know Who’s Boss
Dogs need to know that you’re in charge. So, you should be the one to lead the walks. Walk in front of your dog or beside your dog so they can understand that you’re leading the walk and not vice versa. You should also be the first one out the door and the first one in when you come home.
You might want to teach your dog a command like “wait” or “stay” to encourage them to let you go first. Practice this command at home or in your yard before testing it on a walk full of distractions.
Tip #2 – Use a Short Leash
Long leashes provide too much freedom for a dog who’s in training. Thus, you should use a short lead to give you better control. If you often walk at night, consider choosing a leash with reflective strips on it to keep your dog safe.
Along with a short leash, you should also use a harness at all times. Attaching a leash to a collar can cause your dog to choke, which can be dangerous if they pull or if their collar gets stuck on something. Plus, harnesses give you better control over your dog too, so always attach a leash to their harness instead of their collar, especially for training sessions.
Tip #3 – Set Aside Plenty of Time
Most people have busy schedules, which makes it difficult to find time to walk dogs. Yet, a dog’s walk should never be rushed. No matter how busy you are, you should find time for a walk or two throughout the day. So, if you’re having trouble finding the time, you should schedule your walks so you don’t have to rush your dog.
Dogs often require between 30 minutes and an hour of walking each day. This differs for every dog, so consider your dog’s specific needs when making your schedule. You might have to get up earlier in the morning, but it’s worth it if your dog gets their necessary exercise.
Tip #4 – Reward Your Dog for Good Behaviors
Dogs don’t always behave how we want them to. They could end up chasing a squirrel or growling at your neighbor when they’re out and about. So, it’s important for you to take advantage of this time outside by working on training.
Every time your dog listens to a command while walking, give them a treat. Keeping training treats in your pocket at all times is a good idea. Work on commands like “quiet,” “heel,” and “come” to ensure that you have control over your dog at all times. Dogs learn best from positive reinforcement, so keep rewarding them when they do something right, even if it takes a few tries.
How to Deal with Difficult Dogs on Walks
Unfortunately, walking safely with your dog isn’t always easy. Some dogs have high prey drives, some are leash aggressive, and some have anxiety. These factors could put a strain on training, but don’t give up! Difficult dogs need extra patience when it comes to any type of training.
Until you know the cause of your dog’s bad behaviors, you should keep them away from people and dogs. That way, they’re never given a chance to misbehave. Then, look for the root of the problem. Some dogs don’t walk well because they’re traumatized from past experiences while others might have a high prey drive and react to anything that moves quickly.
If it’s clear that factors like people, dogs, busy roads, or wildlife affect your dog’s behaviors, then you’ll want to take a slow approach. Start by walking in areas that avoid these stress factors. Then, slowly introduce your dog to these scary or unfamiliar experiences. Reward them when they come near the thing stressing them out. This should help them relax and associate it with good things instead.
It’s also a good idea to practice walking your dog on a leash in your home or yard. Reinforce commands like “stay,” “come,” “sit,” and “heel.” The more you work on training with your dog, the better they’ll likely behave when walking.
Safely walking a dog isn’t as easy as it sounds, especially if you don’t know the dog very well. Yet, with enough caution and training, you can help your dog behave like a model citizen. Walks are the highlight of most dogs’ days, so they should never be taken for granted.