Safe Dog Walking
There are 4 main reasons why we walk our dogs:
Dogs love to be outdoors, not only for exercise but also to enjoy the environment around them, to sniff at everything they encounter and to socialise with other dogs and people outside of their home.
It’s hard to believe that not so many years ago it was quite common to see stray dogs wandering around suburban streets and housing estates. Not lost dogs you understand – these well cared for animals all with a collar and ID tag. They were just out by themselves. They even had special people to call on. A discreet woof at the back door and then some tasty treats would usually be offered in welcome.
It rarely happens now though as dog owners have become more responsible. Clearly it is NOT a good idea to let your dog take itself for a walk – it’s just not safe for the dog, or for unsuspecting people who might come across the animal. The best answer then is obviously to go out with your dog and keep him close by at all times. There are still things you should do to minimise the chances of anything going wrong though.
Regular Exercise is a necessity
Many breeds of dog are natural athletes. In order to be a healthy, balanced animal, he needs some form of physical exercise regardless of his age, gender, breed or size. I would recommend a daily exercise routine to prevent muscle wasting, to maintain toned muscles and to elevate the heart rate of your dog for short periods. Walking your pet at least several times during the week, and offering different types of walk to stimulate him both physically and mentally, will help your pet to live a balanced, happy and healthy canine life.
Good Lead Manners
Firstly there is no standard dog collar and lead. You have to get them to fit your dog, depending on how big and strong they are. A chunky chain type arrangement will be completely wrong on a Yorkshire Terrier! The collar needs to fit comfortably with some play between it and the neck but snug enough so he can’t slip his head through the hole. Leads are important and you have to make a judgement on your own dog’s behaviour.
If you are using the extendable type of lead it is not a good idea to let it out while on the pavement of a busy road. You have no chance of preventing the dog from running out and it is obvious how dangerous that might be, not to mention the potential costs involved. A motorist could sue you for damage if the dog causes an accident and, of course, your dog can easily be seriously injured or killed. Common sense is very much required here.
At the park or some open ground, it might be safe without a lead but a well-trained dog will certainly make your life easier. You need him to come to you when called, sit and stay when told to and to only get in and out of the car when you say so. Tiny treats in your pocket are a handy bribing tool – it’s amazing how well your dog will behave! You can even use treats to protect you and your dog from potential aggression – if you see a threatening-looking animal heading your way you could just throw a handful of treats in his direction to give you time to make a hasty retreat.
Above all be attentive and conscious of your environment. You need to be aware of approaching danger just as much as you need to make sure you are in a safe and welcoming environment while out for a walk Dogs need the exercise, the chance to explore and the fresh air. Make sure you stay vigilant, be prepared and keep your dog’s wellbeing and safety in mind.
When out dog walking it is important to remember that dogs don’t hold grudges! They may have had a scuffle yesterday but could be best friends when they meet today. The trouble is that a human will remember the fracas for a long while, and will go out of their way to avoid any further confrontation with the same dog.
Here are some things to avoid when walking your dog:
Don’t always expect the worst
Worrying that something bad is going to happen on your walk, as soon as you set foot out of the house, will set the scene for a bad experience. As you leave for your walk, change your expectations to a pleasing walk with your dog beside you.
Don’t avoid other dog walkers
When you see another dog approaching along the street, don’t drag your dog across to the other side of the road in a panic. After doing this just a few times, your dog will associate danger with other dogs.
If you come across another dog on your walk – stay calm. Your dog will sense that you are relaxed and unruffled and will walk past each other, or maybe give each other a friendly sniff. If by chance the other dog becomes aggressive or over-excited, your pet will sense your assertive and calm energy and will not worry at all.
It’s all too easy when your dog becomes aggressive or over excited on your walk, to shout at him. This only aggravates the situation, and your dog will only copy your energy state, and excited manner. Stay calm yourself, and your dog will calm down too.
Don’t jerk the leash if your dog begins to bark at another dog. He will only lunge and pull harder as a reaction to this sudden tension – For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
You should always be on the lookout for signs of fear in your dog. Some smaller dogs will romp quite happily with bigger ones, yapping away and leading them a merry dance. Others though will be frightened by the size and demeanour of a larger dog. As with everything else it is a judgement call. You will soon know when it’s safe to let yours socialise with someone else’s.
There are times, unfortunately, when play turns to fighting and having some useful phone numbers to hand is a good idea – your vet, dog warden services, pet insurance company are examples. It’s best to avoid potential conflict but sometimes it comes up unexpectedly and good training can go a long way to avoiding trouble. Your dog has to understand that YOU are in charge at all times. There are lots of ways of making the dog know that he is second in the pecking order – they are usually intelligent enough to pick up the signs that you give them (eventually).
One final point – taking other people’s dogs out for walks. Get to know them a little first. Find out what they like and don’t like; what scares them; where they like to go most of all. Armed with such useful information should ensure that both you and the dog have an enjoyable experience. Isn’t that what taking a dog for exercise is all about?