Walking the Dog–It MUST Be Something  Your Dog Enjoys, If NOT, Don’t Do It!

Walking the Dog–It MUST Be Something Your Dog Enjoys, If NOT, Don’t Do It!

Walking the dog. Wikipedia describes dog walking as “…the act of a person walking with a dog, typically from the dog's residence and then returning.” Sadly, the definition suggests nothing about the walk being enjoyable or, better yet, fun for the dog. Many people with dogs still view walking the dog as an obligation to ensure their dogs get physical exercise, which entails walking around the block or some other regular course at an unvarying pace with the dog in a perfect heel position. That’s not the type of walk where your dog will thrive.
People will call me and say, “The dog is making my walk miserable. I like to go as fast as possible, without stopping, while listening to my favorite music, an audible book, or chatting with a friend.” That’s when I tell them you must take two walks: one for yourself and one for the dog.
Walking in lockstep with another living being is NOT normal canine behavior. As our pet's life partner, one of our responsibilities is to ensure it has ample opportunity to exhibit normal behaviors for its species. The ideal walk for a dog is a meandering journey where it follows its nose, often stops to sniff, enjoys the moment, and then chooses where it will go next. Our dog's mental health benefits considerably when we can give it choices, just like we do best when we have a choice. Please! Give your dog choices! Allow it to stop and sniff. It’s what makes its walk joyful.
Remember, when we take our dogs for a walk, we are responsible for keeping them and the public safe. The following are my safety recommendations.

•    Walk one dog at a time.
•    Walk on your own two feet and do NOT ride a bicycle, scooter, skateboard, or roller skates, all of which offer less control and put your dog, you, and others at greater risk
•    Make sure your dog wears an appropriately fitted front-connect harness or regular collar. Shock, prong, and choke collars must never be used.
•    Attach a leash to your dog's harness or collar.  If you are walking among people, I recommend a 6-foot leash. If you are walking somewhere where you can give your dog the freedom to explore and sniff, a 10-to 20-foot leash may be appropriate. Never use a retractable leash, as they are easy to drop and have been known to cause severe injuries to dogs and people.
•    Always remain focused on your dog and the surrounding environment. Do not allow yourself to get distracted by listening to music or interacting with your phones.
•    Ensure you are familiar with canine body language and constantly monitor your dogs for signs of stress and discomfort. If a dog sits and no longer moves or jumps on you and bites at the leash, it may be trying to tell you it is done and wants to go home.
•    Be aware of the signs of heat exhaustion, heatstroke, and hypothermia, and be prepared to stop walking immediately if you see them.
•    Be prepared to carry your dog back home or at least to your car or someplace you can shelter if it cannot go on due to illness or injury.
•    Always carry water with you for you and your dog. Avoid allowing your dog to drink from public water bowls or waterways, as they may cause illness.
•    If you allow your dog to be off leash, ensure you are in an area where you are legally permitted to do so and understand you may be putting your dog's life at risk.
•    Be conscious of how the environment may affect your dog’s enjoyment of the walk.
•    Is the asphalt too hot? If it’s too hot for the palm of your hand, it’s too hot for your dog's feet!
•    Is the snow and slush too cold or icy? Can you hold your hand on the ice for a minute? Are you wearing grippers? If yes, it may not be a good day to walk your dog.

If my recommendations seem overly stringent, it’s because I do not want you or your dog, or any other living thing, injured or killed because you were not prepared or did not have your dog under control. When it comes to the law, you are the one responsible.
When done correctly, walking with your dog can be an excellent time for bonding and enjoying one another's company. However, understand that your dog does not need a walk every day for physical exercise, provided you can give them ample time to run and explore in a fenced-in yard under your supervision.
Please make sure every walk with your dog is fun and enjoyable for both of you. If you’re not quite there, work with a credentialed, positive-reinforcement professional dog trainer.

Don Hanson lives in Bangor, Maine, where he is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop (greenacreskennel.com) and the founder of ForceFreePets.com, an online educational resource for people with dogs and cats. He is a Professional Canine Behavior Consultant (PCBC-A) accredited by the Pet Professional Accreditation Board (PPAB)and a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP). Don is a member of thePet Professional Guild (PPG), where he serves on the Board of Directors and Steering Committee and chairs the Advocacy Committee. He is also a founding director of Pet Advocacy International (PIAI). In addition, Don produces and co-hosts The Woof Meow Showpodcast,available at http://bit.ly/WfMwPodcasts/,the Apple Podcast app, and Don's blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com.The opinions in this post are those of Don Hanson.
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