Are You Walking Your Dog Wrong? 8 Common Dog-Walking Mistakes
Did you know that January is Walk Your Dog Month?
Since we’ve already brewed up some ambitious New Year’s resolutions for your dog to tackle this year, why not resolve to be the best dog walker you can be in 2021?
If you’re ready to take your dog walking experience to the next level, here are some pitfalls to watch for. Every dog owner has committed at least one of these dog-walking faux pas at one time or another, so I think it’s safe to say we all have room for improvement.
Here are 8 common dog walking mistakes—and how to fix them.
Dog Walking Mistake # 1: walking too much—or too little
Do you know how much exercise your dog needs? Every dog is unique, and the number of walks he requires will depend on a number of factors including his age, his breed, and his physical condition. A Collie or a Dalmatian, for instance, is going to need more exercise than, say, a lowkey English bulldog who can get away with fewer daily steps.
To nail down your dog’s ideal walking time, PetMD offers the following solution: first, walk your dog as you normally would, monitoring his energy level the entire time. If your dog’s pace steadily decreases after about 25-30 minutes of walking, he’s probably getting maxed out. At this point, you should head back home, again checking your dog’s pace the whole way. If your dog slows down even more during your walk back home, you’ve walked too far.
Continue monitoring your dog once you’ve returned home. Does your dog head straight to the water bowl upon arrival? Does he take an hours-long nap after a long walk? Does he limp during or after a walk? All of these signs can indicate that your dog has pushed himself too far, and you need to dial back his walking time.
That said, your dog’s stamina can certainly increase over time, as long as he’s healthy. By gradually building up his tolerance to exercise, eventually your dog should be able to enjoy longer without injuring himself.
Dog Walking Mistake # 2: using the wrong leash
Image via Pixabay
Choosing the right leash can mean the difference between a positive walking experience and a negative one, so it’s one thing you want to get right.
But with such a vast array of leash options on the market these days, choosing the right one can be a complicated affair. Dog leashes come in a variety of lengths, materials, and styles, so it’s no wonder selecting the right one can be so confusing.
A few considerations for you to mull over when leash shopping:
- Shorter leashes are great for city-walking, but for leisurely walks through the park, a longer leash is a good bet. They allow your dog to explore and perform some nosework while still keeping him safe.
- Got an enthusiastic puller? Anti-pull tech has come a long way from the days of nasty choke collars. No-pull harnesses discourage Fido from yanking on his leash, and contribute to a more pleasant walking experience for both parties.
- Odor-resistant leashes are ideal for messier dogs.
- For added visibility, a reflective leash is a good idea.
- Leash thickness and strength should be based on your dog’s size and weight. A wiry Chihuahua, for example, won’t need a leash as thick as a burly Newfoundland.
- Avoid retractable leashes. Not only do they teach dogs that pulling is ok, but they also fail to offer enough control over your dog.
Dog Walking Mistake # 3: letting your dog take the lead
Despite how Fido feels about it, you are the pack leader. It’s critical that he understands this hierarchy during your walks.
How do you make your alpha status undeniably clear? For starters, your body language says a lot. As pack leader, you must exude confidence and control—so keep your head up and make your dog walk beside you, instead of in front of you.
To keep the momentum going, reward your dog with treats and praise whenever he walks steadily by your side and at your established pace.
Dog Walking Mistake # 4: keeping your dog from sniffing
Our dogs are expert sniffers. In fact, the canine sense of smell is 10,000 times more powerful than our own. This remarkable talent is how our dogs experience the world around them. And yet we’ll be the first to admit, overzealous dog sniffing can be a downright nuisance when you’re trying to get in some extra steps.
But even though you may want to halt your dog’s desire to sniff his surroundings, it’s not a bad idea to let him sniff as he pleases. In fact, letting your dog sniff during his walk can be an enriching activity. It works his brain and helps to wear him out during his walk.
So the next time you’re out and about, let Fido stop and smell the roses from time to time.
Dog Walking Mistake # 5: taking the same route. Every. Single. Time.
We’ve all heard that variety is the spice of life. This adage certainly applies to your dog’s daily stroll. Giving your dog a change of scenery periodically offers your pup the chance to experience new smells, sights, and sounds, keeping him engaged and mentally stimulated.
If you find yourself in a dog-walking rut, it’s time to get creative. This can be as simple as strolling down a street parallel to your usual route, or exploring a new nature park with your pooch.
Dog Walking Mistake # 6: Leaving essential items at home
You’ve got your leash and your walking shoes. What more could you need for a 30-minute jaunt around the neighborhood?
A few things, it turns out. Number one on our list is the indispensable poop bag. Always, always, ALWAYS pick up after your dog, or you could be facing a hefty fine. Plus, it’s just common courtesy.
Hydration is key, so it’s worth picking up a portable dog water bottle for your walks. And don’t forget the treats! They’ll come in handy when you want to reward your dog for good behavior.
Dog Walking Mistake # 7: Zoning out
A leisurely stroll may seem like an opportune time to make a phone call or recenter yourself with some silent meditation. But walking your dog with your head in the clouds is a recipe for disaster. If you’ve checked out mentally, you may miss dangerous threats along the way.
Practicing dog safety is much easier when your head’s in the game. By staying engaged during your walk, you can keep Fido safe from:
- Fellow dog walkers
- Sidewalk trash and debris
When you’re paying attention, you’re more likely to react quickly to a dangerous threat. Besides, a walk is the perfect time to bond with your dog. Don’t waste it.
Dog Walking Mistake # 8: yanking at the leash
Pulling aggressively on your dog’s leash is a big no-no as it can injure his neck and trachea. Not to mention it’s majorly frustrating for your curious pup who just wants to explore. Instead of jerking your dog’s leash to correct bad walking habits, outfit him in an anti-pull harness and practice leash lessons regularly.
To curb leash-pulling, the American Kennel Club suggests walking with the leash loose between you and stopping to change directions any time your dog walks ahead of you. When your dog catches up, reward him with a treat, and then keep walking. Sooner or later, he’ll catch on, and you’ll see vast improvements with his walking.
When it comes to your dog’s health, walking is where it’s at. With a little bit of practice and some motivation, you can get the most out of your daily stroll. Do you have any additional tips to make dog walking a breeze? We’d love to hear them in the comments!