Walking your dog every day is one of the best ways to share some “You and your Buddy” time. Depending on the age, health and breed of your dog the length of time may vary. Generally speaking, I recommend at least two 30 minute walks a day. However, did you know studies have shown that 15-20% of us don’t walk our dogs every day?
Walking our best friends is not only good for them but can be fantastic for our physical and mental health as well.
Here are my top 5 tips to help make walking your dog a more pleasurable experience for you both.
1. Invest In A Well-Fitted Harness
If you have a dog that continually pulls on the leash, one of my favorite tools (used in conjunction with training) is a front clip harness. Traditional back clip styles are the most efficient design to allow a dog to pull in comfort. (think sled dogs) Unfortunately, back clip versions are the most common type of harness found in pet stores. Avoid those if you do not want to continue to be dragged about by your dog. There are many reasons I find the front attachment style superior for polite walking. When the leash is attached from the front and the dog lunges forward, he/she is immediately turned sideways which isn’t as fun for most dogs. With some training, this is an incredible tool to use to have your buddy walking nicely in no time. Finally, there is less stress put on the pups body due to this design. The bonus is that it also allows fewer stress hormones to flood their body reducing reactive barking, lunging and inability to listen. My favorite brands of the front clip design are Freedom Harness, Easy Walk and Sensation Harness all found on Amazon. Depending on the shape of your dog’s chest, one of these should fit perfectly.
2. Avoid Using A Retractable Leash
An important reason to avoid using a retractable leash is that it trains a dog to pull! Every time your dog strains to get to something we let out the leash. Each time we do this teaches the dog that pulling is very rewarding. Basically, we are training our dog to continue tugging us around. Another reason I recommend to avoid a retractable style is that they are known for causing both injuries to dogs and humans. They can easily tangle around legs and it’s nearly impossible to control a dog that is at the end of one. I have seen these break, unpredictably lock and disengage. The most important reason, in my opinion, to not use a retractable leash is that there is a complete disconnect between you and the dog. Many dogs have little motive to engage with you if they are many feet ahead exploring the sights and smells around them.
3. Play A Game Of Fetch
If you have a very high energy dog that wants to drag you out the door every time you go for a walk, playing a retrieving game like fetch is a great way to get some of that initial energy out. You might only need to play 2-5 minutes depending on your dog. I recommend utilizing a hallway if you live in an apartment or do not have access to a yard. Any space that you can get your pup running and panting before the walk helps to take the edge off.
4. Allow Your Dog To Sniff And Explore
Did you know that a dogs sense of smell is 10,000 times better than a human? I always recommend the best thing we can do for our dog is take some time to let them smell around. The next time your dog appears to be standing still, look at their nose. I bet you will see it fluttering taking in all the incredible scents we can’t detect. Their brains are working on all that information they gather through their sense of smell. Mental stimulation is such a vital part of the health of your pup. You might be nicely surprised at how a short break with lots of “smell stops” can tucker your dog out more than a run around the block!
5. Talk To And Pet Your Dog More
Your relationship with your dog is essential to everything that you do together. The more you engage with your dog, talk to your dog, touch and handle your dog, the better your relationship will be. Never underestimate how much your little fur friend watches and listens to everything you do. Let them know they are your best friend. The better your bond is, the more cooperative your dog will be to learn to walk politely on the leash.
What are your favorite things to do to create a less stressful fun walk with your dog?