Six Tips for Safer, Happier Dog Walking
This Guest Post was written by Jessica Dolce, an animal welfare advocate. She’s spent the past ten years walking dogs and working with shelter dogs in Philadelphia and Maine. Jessica blogs at notesfromadogwalker.com and can be found cheering people on over at the DINOS: Dogs in Need of Space Facebook page.
As a professional dog walker, I can’t say enough good things about walking your dog. It strengthens your bond, allows your dog’s world to expand (so much to sniff and pee on!) and provides both of you with exercise and fresh air. In honor of National Walk Your Dog Week, here are a few pointers that will help you have happier, safer walks with your best friend:
Use a standard 4-6 foot flat leash. Regular length leashes allow you to have the most control over your dog, especially if they are leash pullers. If you prefer to use a retractable leash, please remember to shorten and lock it when walking near other dogs and people. This goes double if you’re in an enclosed space (like a pet store or the vet’s office)!
Poop bags, treats, house keys. “Poop bags, treats, house keys. Poop bags, treats, house keys.” That’s what’s going through my head as I leash up my dogs. I never leave home without those three things. Know what’s on your short list, them have them stored in an easy to reach spot by the front door.
Obey leash laws. Unless you’re visiting a designated off-leash area, such as a dog park, please obey leash laws in your community. Leash laws are there to keep everyone safe. From small children and senior citizens who are enjoying a walk, to keeping your dog safe from traffic and other dogs, using a leash and having your dog under your control, allows everyone to have equal and safe access to public spaces. No matter how friendly your dog is, others have a right to their personal boundaries. Respect them by leashing up and not allowing your dogs to pull you over to anything and everyone in sight.
Give your full attention. Put down your phone. Pay attention to your dog and the world around you. Not only does talking and texting distract you from all the wonderful, tiny details that your dog is sure to point out to you, but it’s safer too. It’ll keep your hands free to hold the leash, your ears open to the sound of oncoming cars, bikes, joggers, and dogs, and your eyes up so you don’t walk into a wall!
Ask permission before you approach dogs. If you see a new canine friend you’d like to meet, always ask permission before you approach them (on or off leash). This is an important precaution to take to prevent dog bites. Not all dogs are comfortable meeting new dogs, even friendly ones. In fact, many dogs need space to stay healthy and safe. I call these dogs DINOS (Dogs in Need of Space). DINOS are good dogs, they just need some space for various reasons, such as: illness, injury, old age, learning manners, working or training to be a Service Dog, recovering from surgery, or they’re fearful of strangers. Whatever the reason, these dogs are enjoying a walk on leash with their people and aren’t always able to say “hi!”. So please, before you allow your dog to approach a dog you don’t know, ask first and wait for a response. If it’s “no”, don’t take it personally. Respect their wish to have some one-on-one time with their dogs and try to have compassion for them. One day, your dog may need space too!
Have fun! Dogs live life in the moment. They’re happy to be out and about, with you, the center of their world, by their side. Enjoy this time with your best buddy. If you’re struggling with leash manners and it’s ruining your good time, invest in some help from a professional dog trainer. It’s worth it, because when you’re having fun, so are the dogs!
Wishing all of you happy, safe walking!
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