Many people ask us if we have any extra tips for how to properly walk their dog(s). While this truly differs from dog to dog, and situation to situation, there are some common approaches that work well in most cases.
- When possible, always use a standard, non-retractable leash. A head halter or front harness is often a good bet, but make sure to check with your veterinarian to see if they feel a harness is appropriate for your pup. These tools generally provide more control over your dog and your walk, as well as more comfort for your dog.
- Dogs are pack animals, so make sure to approach your walk with that in mind. You should always be the “leader” of your pack – before, after and during your walk. This means being the first to walk out the door, and the first to enter, as well as walking ahead of your dog (or beside your dog) when out on your walk. In a situation where an older dog has not been trained to walk behind or beside you and tends to pull ahead, one trick is to hold your leash with the hand NOT on the same side as your dog during the walk, and have the leash wrap behind your lower buttocks/upper thighs. This does two things: 1) It shortens the leash and requires your dog to walk at your side, and 2) it results in a “sideways pull”, rather than a “backwards pull”. When dogs feel a standard “backwards” pull on their neck they are often innately inclined to pull forward. A “sideways pull” does not generally produce this same response.
*Be extra careful when using this method, as a quick tug from your dog may cause your arm to be yanked in an uncomfortable direction.
- As best you can, avoid situations that may cause distraction in your dog. This could mean stepping to the side while other dogs pass, walking around areas with trash or other “exciting” (but inappropriate) things to investigate, avoiding roads with heavy traffic, or any other potentially distracting situations. This is obviously not always possible, but it is always helpful to be mindful of things that may steal your dog’s focus.
- Another trick you can use to teach your dog is the “walking backwards” technique. This is generally best used when initially training a dog, before they’ve acquired a firm idea of what walking means to them. In this technique, the moment your dog starts to pull you, simply stop walking. If they continue to pull, slowly walk backwards. Your dog will wonder why pulling has brought them back, rather than moved them forward, and will likely look back/turn back to see what’s going on. Once your dog allows some slack in their leash, you can praise them and move forward. Repeating this process teaches your dog that pulling does not produce the result they are hoping for – that is, pulling makes you stop, while not pulling/providing slack in the leash, continues the walk forward.
- Stay calm. Taking the time needed for your walk allows you to walk at a pace that doesn’t excite your dog, or encourage them to pull forward to “race through” the walk. This means keeping your pace moderate, as well as keeping your mind relaxed. Dogs can sense our anxieties, and if you’re rushing because you’re late for work, your dog will realize this and react by rushing, too.
- Reward your dog for positive walking techniques. This could mean providing a small treat when your dog does something good while on your walk, or when you return home. When possible, it is also a good idea to have feeding time after a walk. Your dog will see this as a reward for a job well done.
- Walk your dog frequently. The more your dog walks, the more likely they are to master the techniques mentioned in this post, and to enjoy their experience. If work or other situations prevent you from providing multiple daily walks for your pup, please check out our dog walking packages, and we’ll be more than happy to help!
Again, every dog is different, and every situation is unique, but these basic tips are great ways to help most dogs learn the proper way to go for a quality walk. Training your dog to walk properly produces a better experience for you, and for your dog.