Daily walks are essential to your dog’s overall health. In addition to providing bathroom breaks and a necessary opportunity for exercise, a daily dog walk also gives your pooch a chance to work his mental muscles. Plus, dog walking is great for some quality bonding time between you and your furry best friend.
Typically, a dog walk should occur at least once per day for about 30 minutes—of course, this could vary depending on your dog’s breed, age, and health. Some dog owners like to circle the block, others head to the park for a game of fetch, and more adventurous types enjoy running or hiking with their dogs.
Regardless of how you and your dog like to get moving, it’s important to follow proper dog walking protocols to ensure a safe, enjoyable experience for you, your dog, and others around you. Read on for some of our favorite dog walking tips!
Things to Bring on Dog Walks
In addition to the obvious leash and harness or collar ID, there are a few other things you should always bring when walking your dog.
Even if you’re just going for a quick stroll, be sure to pack water to keep your dog cool and hydrated.
Always bring extra poop bags to clean up after your pooch, too.
Of course, you can’t forget about treats! After all, a walk is a great opportunity to work on training and good behavior. Plus, treats can be a good distraction to redirect your dog’s focus when needed (such as when there’s a squirrel or another dog causing him to react).
If your dog tends to be hyperactive or anxious during walks, try Pet Honesty’s Premium Hemp Calming Chews. Made from natural ingredients, these chews work to temporarily calm a dog’s demeanor, and can also be used as a training tool to improve focus.
Stick to a Schedule
Dogs are creatures of habit. From walks, meals, and naps, to quality time with you, dogs love being able to predict what’s happening next in their day. Plus, a predictable routine can often help to alleviate dog anxiety.
Try to keep walks to as consistent of a routine as possible, depending on what works best for your schedule: two short walks in the morning and evening, one long walk after dinner, or a walk around the block during your lunch break, for example. If your schedule is unpredictable, it may be beneficial to hire a professional dog walker to take your dog for his daily strolls on a consistent basis.
While the schedule should be relatively consistent, it’s not a bad idea to switch up your dog walking route every so often. Exposure to new sights, smells, sounds, textures, and even other dogs or people is important when it comes to socializing your dog and helping him feel comfortable in various settings.
Use the Right Leash
Some dog owners like to let their dog lead the way on their walks, while others prefer to keep their dog at their side, or even behind them in order to establish a sense of leadership. However you choose to walk your dog, you’ll want to have an appropriate leash (be sure to dedicate some time to leash training, too).
If your dog tends to pull on the leash during walks, try using a front clip harness. In fact, harnesses that clip on the back tend to encourage more pulling from your pooch.
Avoid retractable leashes during walks. While they’re fine for bathroom breaks or letting your dog roam, they’re not ideal for walks. In addition to rewarding your dog with more freedom anytime he pulls, retractable leashes are also a safety hazard. A traditional 4 to 6-foot leash is generally sufficient, as you want to keep your dog close to you for the duration of the walk.
Keep the leash loose by stopping anytime your dog walks too far ahead of you, and only continuing to walk when the leash is loose enough to make a “J” shape. This will remove any pressure on your dog’s neck, discourage pulling, and teach your pup that you’re the one in control—not him.
Allow Sniffing Stops
Your dog’s daily walk isn’t just about physical exercise. It’s also his chance for some important mental stimulation by sniffing his surroundings. Dogs use smell to understand the world around them and even communicate with other dogs by smelling urine “messages” from other neighborhood canines.
That being said, you should still be the one in control of dog walks. Teach your dog commands such as “go sniff” and “time to walk” so he knows when he’s free to explore, and when it’s time to keep moving.
Dogs also love to greet each other through sniffing. If you come across another dog, be sure to ask the owner for permission before approaching. Pay close attention to the dogs’ body language, and be ready to remove your dog from the situation if things become tense.
Don’t Rush Bathroom Breaks
Along with giving your dog plenty of time to sniff and explore his surroundings, you’ll also want to give him enough time to choose his bathroom location(s). When your dog relieves himself during a walk, it’s not just about a bathroom break—it’s his chance to mark his territory and announce his presence in the neighborhood by leaving his own urine messages for other dogs to “read.”
Choosing when and where to relieve himself is a big decision for your dog which requires a lot of concentration. If you prefer to keep your walks brief, teach your dog cues and commands to indicate that he needs to hurry up.
Be Weather Wise
Whether it’s summer, winter, or anything in between, you’ll want to consider the weather before venturing out with your dog.
Beat the heat by walking your dog in the mornings and evenings to avoid the hottest hours of the day. If the pavement is too hot for your hand or bare feet, it’s too hot for your dog. On hot days, try walking on grass or in shaded areas instead.
After spending time outdoors—especially in grassy, wooded areas—be sure to check for ticks or other pests.
In the colder months, schedule your walks for the warmer times of day when the sun is shining. Limit time outdoors; you may even want to invest in a canine coat to provide some extra warmth for your pup.