Dogs need daily exercise for many reasons. A brisk walking session every day keeps their weight down, promotes cardiovascular and digestive functions, maintains joint health and reduces the impact of arthritis. Walking also promotes mental health and agility and brings opportunities for your pet to socialize with other dogs and humans.
Just how much walking a dog needs depends on several factors, such as breed, health condition and age. Active breeds ideally need a minimum of 30 minutes of hard aerobic exercise every day. Small breeds such as pugs that are prone to obesity need a lot more exercise than, say, a chihuahua. The goal here is to get your pet `happily tired’ after a walk, and as handler, you can usually tell when your pet has had enough and is ready to go home.
For dog-owners who live in apartment buildings or don’t possess a fenced-in yard, walking is the only way their pets can perform bodily functions. But this activity should also be used to keep the animal fit and maintain good pack obedience habits. Here are 9 effective dog-walking tips that will ensure that both you and your pet are getting the most advantage out of your daily dog-walking sessions.
# 1: LEAD FROM THE FRONT
Whenever you are outside walking your dog, be sure to walk ahead of your pet. As pack animals, dogs know two clearly-defined roles: pack leader and pack member. The leader always walks in front, and if you allow your pet to lead you instead, he may well get ideas of staging a coup to overthrow you and usurp your position. By always staying ahead, you’re setting down some inviolable ground rules that will help your dog be obedient at home as well.
# 2: USE A SHORT LEASH
A short leash will give you a lot more control over the animal. Attach the leash to the top of the neck, because that way the dog will easily feel the small corrections as you communicate with him by maneuvering the short leash.
# 3: AVOID RETRACTABLE LEASHES
In theory, retractable leashes seem like a fun way to give your dog more freedom while walking because the handler can retract the leash as and when needed. But in reality, that is not always true. When the leash is pulled out of the spool, you have very little control over the animal, especially in high-traffic or congested areas. Then, the rewinding action sometimes jams up or does not work as quickly as you need it to. This poses all sorts of dangers for both you and your pet. In a state of panic, you may grab onto the leash itself and cause severe burns on your fingers. Or the animal can run and max out the leash with a sudden jerk that can push you off balance.
# 4: USE A FRONT-CLIP HARNESS FOR `PULLERS’
If your dog pulls constantly at his leash, one way to control him is to use a front-clip harness instead of the usual back-clip one. You’ll find that you’re a lot more in control when the clip is on the chest area instead of the back.
# 5: LET THEM RUN
Walking is not sufficient exercise for some dogs and they may want to run instead. It is a good idea to help them do that by running or biking alongside them. You want them to drain out all that excess energy! If running is not feasible, then pick up the pace of the walk instead. Introduce short spells of jogging in between the walk, as the change of pace is good exercise as well. We have described a procedure called “interval walking” that is excellent workout therapy for both you and your pet. (Read the article by clicking here.)
# 6: KEEP THEM SHIELDED FROM TRAFFIC
The common rule of thumb is to have a dog walk on your left side (click here to know why), but if you’re on a busy road, err in favor of safety and keep yourself between your pet and traffic.
# 7: IF THEY WANT TO STOP AND SNIFF…
Some dogs enjoy stopping every few steps to sniff at a bush, a lamppost or the pavement instead of concentrating on the walk, and this can be quite frustrating when you’re trying to exercise him. The short leash comes in very handy when your pet is a congenital sniffer because you can keep his head up and force him to stay focused on the road. Grabbing the leash close to the collar when he has found an interesting object on the road to sniff will also help to deter him from investigating further.
Training your dog with the “leave it” command is another method of discouraging constant sniffing. When you’re at home, let him sniff at a treat and then cover it with your hand and say “leave it”. With practice, he will learn that the treat is not his, never will be his, and therefore he may as well back off. (Of course, do not end the practice by giving the treat as reward to him!) Afterwards, when you’re walking on the road and you use the “leave it” command, he will know that he has to leave his `discoveries’ alone and move on.
However, do give him a break to enjoy some sniffing when he is sufficiently exercised. You don’t want to take a sad and disappointed dog back home!
# 8: BE CAREFUL WHEN SOCIALIZING
Your dog maybe a playful, friendly one but it is still wise to exercise extreme control when passing other dogs during your walk. The owner of the other dog may declare that his or her pet is friendly too and you let them sniff at each other. But often something goes wrong in a moment of communication and one dog unexpectedly snaps or bites at the other. Maybe, it’s your own friendly dog who found the other one too `nosy’ and reacted aggressively. It is always a good idea to step aside, increase pressure on the leash and not let the two dogs interact if your gut is advising you not to.
# 9: BE CONSCIOUS OF WEATHER CONDITIONS
If it is too hot or too cold outside, don’t insist on a long, energetic walk. Your pet can get dehydrated, damage paws and be quite uncomfortable if the weather is inclement. Plan indoor activities during these times to make up for the exercise he would have gotten outside instead.