Few phrases make dogs more excited than “Wanna go for a walk?” And for good reasons! Walking is super exercise with tons of benefits, not limited to the obvious release of pent-up energy. Walking your dog is a great relationship builder and a low-impact way to get rid of extra pounds, and it has mental benefits as your dog gets to explore sights and sounds beyond his own backyard!
But before you grab your leash, you should be aware; there are some rules to having a successful walk beyond the obvious (pack a roll of poop bags!). So mind these manners while you’re out on a stroll:
Check your area’s leash laws: Most cities and counties have leash laws that can be found on the municipalities’ websites or posted in local parks and heavily visited areas. While most will state that your dog must be on-leash at all times in busy areas, the technicalities for each place can be different. Some locations allow off-leash dogs to be “under voice control” in quiet areas, while others are very strict that nobody is allowed off-leash at any time. Research the rules of the area you’re walking in and stick to them! Remember that these rules are put in place for the safety of you, your dog and members of the public.
If your dog is allowed off-leash, make sure he has some training: By all means, if your dog is permitted to be off-leash, please don’t take this as a free-for-all. Be sure that your dog has had some basic training and has been proofed through distractions so you can call him away from a jogger who doesn’t want to say hi to him. Or worse, so you aren’t chasing him all over trying to get him back after a random squirrel sighting!
Don’t let your dog say hi to everyone: Our two dogs are in our Christmas cards, go on vacation with us and they have more collars than my husband has shoes! But here’s a word of advice that can be a tough pill for pet people like us to swallow…not everyone wants to meet your dog! No matter how friendly your Fido is, there will be people out there with allergies to dogs, phobias of dogs and people who just generally don’t want to be bothered with a slobbery welcome. So teach your dog to keep to himself while walking. If your dog is the friendly sort, and someone asks to pet him, by all means go for it! But if the person hasn’t specifically asked to interact with your dog, just move along.
Be especially careful around other walking dogs: There are many dogs out there who are working through behavior issues, recovering from illness or injury or who can’t meet another dog on-leash for any number of reasons. If you see someone working hard to keep their dogs under control or practicing training exercises, or if someone seems uncomfortable with your approach, keep it moving! Also, if you see a yellow ribbon on the dog’s leash or collar, this is a clear signal that the dog needs space. Please do not approach! Remember, just because your dog’s friendly doesn’t make the other dog friendly. If a person tells you that your dogs can’t meet, for the safety of your dog and theirs, please do not force the interaction.
Watch your dog for signs of fatigue: Your dog will be one of your most enthusiastic exercise partners! And if he’s young and healthy, he can probably run circles around you for the entire walk and still have energy for a rousing game of ball afterward. But if your dog is aging, coming off of an injury or a little extra “fluffy” right now, watch for signs of fatigue on walks. Signs of fatigue include lagging behind on walks, attempting to stop or lay down and labored breathing. If you see any of these signs, take a break in the shade while your pup cools down and proceed home at a slower pace.
Do you have other "rules" for walking your dog? Share them with other pet parents in the comments below!