Dogs are great walking companions, great personal trainers, and great nags. Once you begin walking with your dog, you may soon find your dog is in control of your walking program. Your dog is ready to walk when you are (unlike friends and family), and will let you know when it is time to lace up your sneakers.
1. Dog Training
Opt for formal classes if they are available and affordable. Start while the dog is a puppy, and continue until the dog can be trusted off leash.
Leash Training for Puppies
Your dog can earn the AKC Canine Good Citizen certificate, which indicates a level of obedience and training attained.
If attending classes is not possible, you may want to try training books, such as Carol Lea Benjamin's Mother Knows Best, Surviving Your Dog's Adolescence , or Dog Training in 10 Minutes . The end result of good training is a dog that is a pleasure to walk with -- one that will sit, down and heel on command, as necessary. You really don't want to be towed into the sunset at about 60 MPH!
Dog Training 101
2. Walking Your Dog on a Leash
If your dog is on a leash, it can't get away and cause problems. If your dog is always pulling on the leash, consider using a pinch collar to increase your control and comfort. Some walkers use a harness, and others find retractable leashes to be the best way to give the dog a little more slack, then reel them in as needed.
Leash Training for Dogs
3. Are Dogs Allowed Where You Plan to Walk?
Check with the organizers of walking events you plan to attend. If walking in a park, call ahead or check the web site to see if there are any restrictions. Note that dogs are sometimes allowed on trails, but not in shuttle buses or visitors' centers.
4. Carry a Pooper Scooper
If you don't have (or want to purchase) the actual tool, try a disposable plastic bag. When the bag is placed over the hand, you can pick up what you have to, turn the bag inside out, and tie the end closed. Dispose of it properly. Zip-closure sandwich bags are another secure option.
Carry water for both you and your pet. You can use your hand as a water dish if nothing else is available. Some walkers suggest using collapsible cups, inflatable water dishes, and zip-closure bags, as well.
6. Taking Time for Rest
Find a shady spot and take ten. Play with the dog, talk to other walkers, and cool down a bit. Dogs can't sweat. They keep cool by panting, finding shady spots, walking in water, and drinking lots of water. If you are walking near water in the summer, find a safe place (not public beaches) and let your dog go swimming. If you drove to your walking spot, be sure not to leave your dog in a vehicle unattended if it's warm out and you're making stops on your way home.
Every dog should have a couple of forms of identification. Name tags and collars can get lost. Tattoos and embedded micro-chips will back up the name tag. You should carry a clear photo of the dog or have one stored on your mobile phone, which can aid in recovery if your dog strays. Also, some places require you to carry your dog's rabies certificate with you.
8. Is Your Dog Ready?
Before taking a dog on a long walk, consider if the dog is healthy enough, has the desire, and is trained enough to walk that distance at your side. You should get an OK from your veterinarian if your pooch has any sort of medical problem, is overweight, etc. Work up to the longer distances with him by doing the shorter distances first.
Dog walkers often prefer country walks and trails that have sidewalks, or paths that are well off the road.
While you may want to let your dog roam at will on a long leash or even off-leash, this has risks. You won't be able to control your dog if you encounter an aggressive dog. You won't be able to prevent your dog from chasing other animals (skunks!) or approaching people. One of the biggest dangers is that your dog may run out into traffic. Proper dog training and walking on a leash with good control are the best ways of keeping your dog safe.
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