6 Tips for Keeping Your Dog Safe During Dog Walks
National Walk Your Dog Week, the first week of October, was founded by Celebrity Pet Lifestyle Expert and Animal Behaviorist Colleen Paige to bring awareness to the ever-increasing problem of canine behavior issues and canine obesity in America. National Dog Week aims to improve the health and well-being of America’s dogs and sends the message to unchain your dogs!
But, depending on where you live, it may not always be so easy to get Buster our for an off-leash hike in nature. Whether you are in a city or the country, here are some safety tips to keep in mind while walking your best furry friend.
1. Train First
Before you just take off for a big off-leash hike in the woods, make sure you have a reliable recall. Dogs love to run and explore, and it’s good for them mentally as well as physically. But, if Buster doesn’t come when called (the first time) in your backyard, he’s definitely not going to respond to your voice in a highly distracting environment where exploring and sniffing is his reward. Build up the distractions gradually. And, even when you think he’s ready for an off-leash walk in a new area, let him explore first on a long lead. You can still practice your recalls in the new environment first by letting him get to the end of the long lead and then calling him. And then it’s praise time when he comes running right to you when called!
2. Body Block
If your dog is on-leash and starts to pull towards another dog, have him sit. Put your body between him and the approaching dog, with you facing your dog and your back to the approaching dog. Reward and praise him for a calm sit stay. Let the other dog pass by before releasing your dog.
3. Off-Leash meets On-Leash
This is never a good scenario. If my dogs are off-leash and a dog approaching is on-leash, I don’t allow them to greet. I either put my dogs on leash or I have them patiently sit, body block the dogs on leash and reward my dogs for sitting patiently in a highly distracting environment. If they are on-leash and an off-leash dog is approaching, I still body block the dog to avoid a nose-to-nose interaction, even if the other dog’s person is shouting out, “It’s ok, he’s friendly.”
4. Quick Release
If you are walking Buster on a leash, ALWAYS make sure you can do a quick release of your leash. This rule applies whether your dog is wearing a collar or a halter, and weighs 9 or 90 pounds. Never wrap a leash around your wrist or hand unless you want to end up in ER. If pulled, not only will you not be safe, but Buster might take off without you.
5. Throw Out Your Retractable Leash
Personally, my dogs are either on-leash, or they’re off-leash. A retractable leash is a hybrid between the two and they aren’t safe for you or your pooch. If you need a leash to have control over your dog, a retractable leash is too unpredictable. It’s impossible to have any control over your dog if a dog on leash approaches, and it’s so easy for you to trip over the extended wire. Unlike a long lead, you never quite know where it’s extending.
6. Combining Playtime with Walks
I frequently walk Gina on leash for awhile, and then switch to playtime in a safe area. She’s crazy happy retrieving a ball. I avoid throwing it up high for her to jump and catch. Instead, I roll it or throw it out far for her to chase and then practice her recalls so she comes right back to me with the ball. A friend’s dog recently broke his leg jumping up for a ball. Playtime suddenly no longer was fun time.
No matter what kind of walks you are taking with your dog this week, enjoy and allow some time for both of you to stop and smell the roses.