January is full of New Year’s resolutions, and for some, that means getting more exercise. One popular option for more exercise is adding more dog walks, especially since January is Walk Your Dog Month. But if taking your pooch for a stroll looks more like your dog walking you, read these tips before you grab the leash.
1. Use the Right Leash and Harness for Your Dog
A good walk starts with excellent supplies. A harness provides a more secure and comfortable walking experience for your dog. If your pup tends to pull on the leash a lot, using a front-clip harness is a good choice. Likewise, avoid pulling on your dog’s leash, which only makes them pull more.
A strong, durable leash is essential. There are plenty of options out there, but we like a reflective leash that's between 4 and 6 feet long to add visibility on evening walks. If your dog is new to the world of walks, introduce them to their new leash and harness gradually. Let them sniff and investigate the items before they wear them, giving them lots of tasty treats to create positive associations.
2. Don’t Forget Poop Bags and Water
A leash and harness aren’t the only things you need for a successful dog walk. Bring Neater Bags along to clean up after your pup. It’s also a good idea to carry a bottle of water and a collapsible dog bowl to keep your dog hydrated.
3. Plan Your Route and Stick to It
Dogs thrive on routine, so maintaining a walk schedule is a great way to keep things going smoothly. Walk your dog at the same time each day, only veering from the schedule if necessary. If you have a crazy work week or other reasons that might alter your routine, consider hiring a dog walker.
In addition to walking at the same time, also stick to the same route. When your dog is familiar with where you’re going, they’ll be calmer. You can try out some new spots as your pup gets used to the walks.
4. Keep Up with Basic Training (and Bring Lots of Treats)
Teaching your dog basic behavioral skills is necessary, no matter where you plan to take them. Your dog should understand how you expect them to behave in different situations and know simple commands like sit, stay, and come.
A walk is a great time to continue your pup's training and reinforce these valuable skills. To make the most of your training efforts, don’t leave home without a bunch of tasty training treats. When your dog performs the desired behavior or reacts to a situation appropriately, reward them with praise and a snack.
5. Keep Calm and Walk On
Yep, it’s true — your dog can sense your stress. If you get anxious about walking your dog in public, your pup likely feels it too. So if you tense up as another dog approaches, your dog will pick up on it. They’ll become anxious, assuming there’s a potential threat.
6. Determine the Right Amount of Exercise for Your Dog
Not all dogs need the same amount of exercise, meaning every dog doesn’t need to walk miles daily. Active breeds can certainly benefit from several long walks. But a small Shih Tzu would be content with a few pleasant strolls down the street.
Talk to your vet if you’re unsure about your dog’s specific exercise needs. Your vet can recommend a walk schedule tailored to your pooch based on your pup’s age, health, and breed. You can also use a daily exercise calculator for dogs, but check it against your vet before starting a new routine.
7. Check the Weather
Sticking to a schedule is important, but make sure the weather is on board with your plans. If it’s storming, you’ll have to adjust your walking routine. Or, you might need to find some indoor activities to do with your dog.
If it’s scorching, you might shorten the duration of your walk, plan to take extra breaks in the shade, and bring extra water. When it’s extra cold, your dog might need a winter coat or jacket to help protect them against the elements.
8. Microchip Your Pet
An ID tag is necessary for your pet, but a collar and tag can fall off, snag on a fence, etc. A registered microchip adds an extra layer of assurance in case your dog wanders off. Microchips provide a backup method of identifying your furry friend and getting them home safely.
9. Let Your Dog Enjoy Some Sniff Breaks
Don’t rush your dog during your walks. When your dog stops to sniff the grass, flowers, dirt, and pretty much anything else, they’re checking out their surroundings. Taking a scent walk provides valuable mental stimulation and information for your dog. They’re also trying to find the perfect pee spot so they can send a message to future dogs that pass that spot.
Let your dog be a dog and enjoy their walk. If you’re in a time crunch or need to speed things up, teach your dog commands like “leave it” or “let’s go.” These commands can help signal to your dog when it’s time to get back to business.
10. Be Able to Get Your Dog’s Attention
Getting your dog to look at you on command is vital when you’re on a walk. It’s a way to have your dog focus on you and distract them from various things that could lead to problems.
How Do You Get a Dog to Look at You While Walking?
You can teach your dog a cue like “watch me” with treats, positive praise, and consistency.
- Hold a treat in front of your dog’s nose and slowly bring it up to your face. Your dog’s gaze should follow.
- As soon as your dog is looking at you, mark the behavior with positive praise and give them the treat.
- After your dog gets the idea, repeat the process, but give your pup a treat with your other hand.
- Next, use an empty hand to give the same signal. Once your dog is looking at you, reward them with a treat. Start adding in the verbal command.
- Once your dog consistently performs the desired behavior, reinforce that they should look at you. Move your hand with a treat to the side of your body. Your dog will look at it, but eventually, they’ll likely look at you to figure out what’s happening. When they do, mark the behavior and give them a treat.
With patience and consistency, your dog will understand that you want them to look at you when you give the “watch me” cue.
How to Walk a Dog That Is Stronger Than You
The key to successfully walking a dog stronger than you is excellent training. No matter your dog's size, they need to understand basic commands, follow them consistently, and listen to you. They also need to be able to respond to you despite any distractions.
Therefore, take the time to train your dog properly, teach them to look at you on command, and follow these dog-walking tips.
Now You're Ready to Walk
Daily walks with your dog are a great time to bond and spend time with your canine companion. But they should be a relaxing, fun experience, not a stress-induced nightmare. So make sure to follow these dog walking tips, so your daily strolls are something you both look forward to.
You can find many valuable tips on improving quality time with your dog on the Neater Pets blog.