Sometimes, taking your dog for a walk in the park isn’t exactly… a walk in the park. If you find yourself dreading walks because of the constant pulling, distracted wandering, and barking, it’s time for change! Dog walks provide endless benefits including exercise, blood circulation, mental stimulation and more, but most importantly, they should be a fun way for you and your pet to bond. Luckily, it’s never too late to start training your dog good habits. Grab your leash because we’re walking you through the basics of teaching your dog how to behave better the next time you two go on a stroll.
1. Set a time to walk your dog
Like humans, dogs need routine in their lives because it provides stability and security. By allotting a specific time every day to walking your dog, he or she knows what to look forward to and when to expect it. This can actually help your dog deal with stress and anxiety if and when your family faces any changes because it will be one constant your dog can depend on. Setting aside a time for dog walks also helps you get in the routine of doing it every day! We know it can be easy to put off, but those 30 minutes are important for your dog’s mental and physical health.
2. Get the right leash
Not every leash is made the same. There are unique leashes and harnesses for every dog’s needs. Here are just a few:
- Regular leash: Typical dog leashes are made of cotton or nylon and they measure around 6 feet long. This may be a good leash to start off with if you’re not sure where to begin.
- Retractable leash: We’ve reached a consensus in the dog walking community: these retractable leashes aren’t the best choice, especially if you’re just starting out walking your pet. Retractable leashes can be confusing for dogs. Often, they will naturally resist when their leash is pulled and with a retractable leash, there’s always tension. On top of that, there’s the risk that the retractable leash will snap and break, which could hurt you and your dog.
- Chain leash: If your dog is a gnawer and goes through leashes like biscuits, a chain leash might be a good idea. However, it is also harmful for a dog’s teeth if he or she continues to try chewing through metal, so make sure to switch out leashes should the problem persist.
- Martingale leash: These leashes are paired with a Martingale collar. The collar sits loosely around the dog’s neck unless the dog pulls, then it tightens without choking the dog. These leashes are good for discouraging pulling during walks, but they’re still quite gentle.
- Front clip harness: Bigger dogs with a tendency to pull or get distracted on walks may need a front clip harness. These provide the walker with more control over the dog without pulling as much on its neck.
- Back clip harness: These harnesses may be better for well-trained dogs since they allow more freedom
- Head halter: These can be useful for dogs that are large and difficult to control with just a regular collar and leash. However, head halters should be used with caution because they are right on the dog’s head and they can cause pain to the dog if they’re fitted and used improperly.
Of course, there are many more options to explore. Every dog has unique needs, so consult a trainer or veterinarian if you’re unsure which is the best choice. Also, owners should take into consideration the material, collar, identification tag, and clip that comes with the leash. It might take some time to figure what’s right for you, but it’s worth it to be prepared! The right equipment can make walks much easier and more fun for both of you.
3. Be the leader
Every walk you take is also an opportunity to train your dog’s behavior. Make sure to reinforce good habits and reprimand bad ones, starting right from your home. Ask your dog to sit calmly before you head out for a walk – this helps enforce obedience from the start. Remember, you’re walking your dog; your dog is not supposed to walk you! Be aware if your dog moves ahead of you and change directions or stops, so you can stay in the lead. You can also bring treats to reward your dog for following your commands and stop the walk if he or she disobeys.
4. Be prepared
Check the temperature. Is it hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk? Then you’ll probably want to reschedule that walk for later. Be conscientious of your environment and don’t put you and your pet in a dangerous situation that could result in a heat stroke or hailstorm.
If you can, try to figure out a safe route for you and your dog where you won’t get lost. For example, if you’re just starting out walking your puppy, it might be a good idea to avoid the scary pit bull around the corner or steer clear of the raucous elementary school two blocks away. Of course, it’s impossible to predict exactly what will happen when you go on a walk like coming across a stray animal or rowdy kids. Regardless of the situation, stay calm and think of a reasonable solution that will keep your dog and yourself safe. If you panic, your pet will pick up on your anxiety and may act erratically.
Prepare yourself with the tools for success. That may include bringing water, snacks, and bags to pick up after your dog. If you’re walking at night, get reflective gear for you and your dog. It can be dangerous to walk around at night, especially in an urban areas where there are many cars. Drivers can easily miss your dog and hurt them without appropriate attire. It’s better to be safe than sorry, so make sure to invest in a reflective leash or collar if you plan on walking at night.
Last but not least, practice makes perfect. Take the time to get your pup adjusted to the leash indoors and practice walking around in a controlled environment like your backyard or even living room. Even if your dog seems like they’ll never get the hang of it, don’t be discouraged! Plenty of dog owners are going through the exact same thing. Going on walks can be incredibly exciting for dogs, so they might not always remember to stay on their best behavior. Training your dog will take time and if yours is being especially difficult, just remember, patience is a virtue. The short-term struggle of teaching your dog how to go on walks now will result in some awesome dog walking adventures for you two in the long run.
Now that you’re a pro at dog walking, at least theoretically, unleash your inner dog whisperer and head outside for some exercise and fresh air! Depending on your dog’s size and breed, you may need to go more than once a day. Ask your veterinarian how much exercise your furry friend needs to stay in shape. If you find yourself struggling to fit it in your schedule, don’t be alarmed – there are tons of experienced dog walkers in Orange County who can help.
If you have other questions about your dog, Brookhurst Animal is a veterinary clinic located in Anaheim, CA. We understand your pets are an important part of your family and treat them as such. Feel free to reach out if you need advice or would like to schedule an appointment