Studies have shown that 30-60% of dog owners don't walk their pups on a regular basis. This is despite the fact that walks provide several benefits to both you and your pup. Dogs need regular walks for physical exercise, mental stimulation and socialization. Here are dog walking tips to make the most of your walks.
1. Create A Routine
Creating a routine can be helpful for you and your dog. This means going on walks around the same time each day. Not only will this help your dog develop expectations that help him or her learn how to behave, but it makes it easier for you to stick to the task.
2. Make Sure Your Dog Has Tags
One of the most important things for your dog to have on walks is a collar with identification tags. This is vital for those potential and scary situations where you two get separated, so you have a way to reunite. Make sure the tags are up-to-date and have at least your dog's name and your phone number. To be extra safe, have your dog microchipped so the information will be there even if the tags fall off.
3. Pay Attention To The Weather
The hot and cold months both come with some hazards for your dog. But that doesn't mean you can't go on walks, it just means you have to be safe about it. When it's too hot, your dog is at risk of dehydration, heat stroke, burns to the paws and more. For these days, make sure to bring lots of water and test the pavement with your hand before heading out - if it's too hot for you, it's too hot for your pup. On the flip side, your dog is at risk for hypothermia, frostbite, chemical or freezer burns to the paws, and more when it's too cold. To combat the cold, you can use dog sweaters, jackets, booties and other winter clothing.
4. Figure Out The Right Duration
Not all dogs can walk the same distance or length of time. The age and type of dog you have will help you determine how much exercise for your dog. Certain breeds and mixes will need longer walks, while others will need shorter ones. Some dogs may still need to go somewhere they can run around and expel extra energy, even when they're older. But puppies can't go on extended walks, despite being bundles of energy. This is the case no matter the size or breed of your puppy. A good rule of thumb is five minutes of exercise per month of age up to twice a day, until fully grown. So a three month old can handle around 15 minutes of exercise twice a day, while a four month old can go up to 20 minutes, etc.
5. Let Your Dog Sniff Around
Depending on the breed, dogs have up to 300 million scent receptors in their noses. In addition, their brains have a bigger area devoted to the sense of smell and they have an organ that helps detect normally undetectable odors. So it's not surprising that a dog's sense of smell is 10,000 times better than a human’s. And sniffing on a walk is your dog's way of gaining information about their surroundings. So letting your dog sniff allows them to explore and experience the world, and provides them with enrichment and mental stimulation. In fact, sniffing throughout a walk can be more tiring to your dog than a brisk 15 minute one without sniff breaks.
Pro Tip: Some dogs only want to sniff and may need some training to help them refocus during walks. That way you can find a balance between enough sniffing without disrupting the flow of your walk.
6. Don't Rush Bathroom Breaks
When dogs go to the bathroom, it's not only to relieve themselves but also to communicate with the world. Your dog uses his or her urine and feces to mark their presence and in turn, smells another dog's business to get information about what's going on around them. They can even tell the age, gender and health of another dog. Dogs may also kick or scratch the ground to leave their scent through glands on their feet. Allowing your dog to leave his or her scent will help them feel like they've made the most of their walk.
7. Ask Before Approaching Other Dogs
Your dog may be friendly, but that doesn't mean all other dogs you encounter on walks will be. Remember, all dogs need to be walked, no matter how socialized they are. And even if a dog is well socialized, he or she may have trouble with leash greetings. To be safe, it's best to ask permission before you let your pup approach other dogs.
8. Use A Front Clip Harness
One of the main reasons owners skip walks is because they have trouble handling their dog, with pulling as one of the most common dog walking issues. But what a lot of people don't know is that clipping the leash to your dog's back can actually promote pulling. Fortunately, there are harnesses to help with this. Try using a front clip harness, which pulls your dog from the front and reduces his or her resistance. Another option you can try is a gentle leader, which sits around your dog's snout.
Pro Tip: It's a good idea to also train your dog not to pull as using a front clip harness or gentle leader likely won't completely resolve the issue.
9. Avoid Retractable Leashes
Retractable leashes aren't suited for most dogs as they can cause a handful of issues. The extra freedom means you have less control over your dog and can exacerbate bad leash manners, like pulling. The thin cord can cause injury to you or your dog and break, especially with wear-and-tear. And the bulky handles can be difficult to grip, increasing the chances of dropping the leash after a strong pull from your dog .
10. Wear Reflective Gear In The Dark
Sometimes we have to walk our dogs in the dark - perhaps it's winter and the sun sets early or you had a long day at work that postponed the walk. No matter the reason, walking in the dark is fine but it's a good idea to wear reflective gear (especially if you don't have sidewalks in your neighborhood) for you and your pup's safety. Your pup can also wear reflective gear, as there are several options for collars and leashes with reflective material.
11. Use Walks To Train Your Dog
Walks provide an excellent opportunity for training. You can work on a wide variety of behaviors, from pulling on the leash to improving manners around dogs and people (like reducing jumping to greet others). Bring along treats or kibble to use as positive reinforcement to get your pup on the right track.
12. Get A Dog Walker
If you don't always have the time to walk your dog, it's a good idea to hire a professional dog walker or ask a close friend or family member to help out. This will allow your pup to get the necessary physical activity and mental stimulation, even when you can't give that to them. If you opt for a professional, they'll likely be able to train your dog on the walks as well.