Dogs aren’t born knowing how to respond to a collar and leash. They must be taught. Don’t immediately clip your dog’s leash on and take him outside where distractions will interfere with his training. Instead, begin teaching him leash commands in your house where it’s quiet, then gradually move to your yard. When you’re confident that he’s paying attention to you in the yard where there are just a few distractions, then take him on a short walk.
The First Excursion
Most dogs get very excited when you take them out for a walk. Without the proper training, a dog is likely to bounce around while you’re trying to get the leash on him. If this sounds like your dog, calm him down before you take him for the walk to establish control. To do this, attach the leash in the house, then let your dog bounce around.
After a few minutes, your dog will most likely realize that he’s not going anywhere and he’ll calm down. If and when he does, praise him because he’s almost ready to walk. When you do start walking, don’t walk in the intended direction just yet. Walk your dog around the house to keep him calm, and to see whether your dog will be pulling you around when you do go for the walk. Once you feel he won’t be doing that, you’re ready to set out.
Safety Rules for Dog Walking
No matter where you’re walking your dog, follow basic safety rules. This protects you, your dog and any other person or animal you encounter while outside.
- Make sure his collar is the right size. If it’s too big, he may slip out of it. If it’s too tight, he’ll choke.
- Keep your dog on a leash while outside.
- Keep a firm grip on the leash by placing your hand through the loop and holding tightly to the lead.
- If it’s hot out, don’t take your dog on a very long walk.
- Remain in control of your dog at all times. Don’t let him lead you; pick the pace, the direction, and when to stop.
- If you normally walk Spot at night or at dusk, consider putting a reflective collar on your dog or wearing reflective strips. If your training occurs during periods of low visibility, some type of reflective vest makes a lot of sense (for you, and, if he’ll tolerate it, your dog too).
- Stay away from areas that may have been sprayed with pesticides or insecticides.
- If the streets and sidewalks in your neighborhood are salted during the winter, wash your dog’s feet after you bring him inside. Road salt irritates the animal’s paw pads and contains toxins the dog might ingest.
Walking your dog can be an enjoyable experience for both of you if you follow these guidelines. In addition, respect local bylaws concerning dogs: many cities prohibit walking dogs in parks, or insist that the dog be on a leash. If your dog needs space to run without a leash, “dog parks” are appearing across the country. Your dog should be well trained before using a dog park, however, as he or she will be interacting with other dogs.
One aspect of training applies to you rather than your dog. No one has yet figured out how to get a dog to clean up her own mess, so invest in a good “poop scoop,” and carry a plastic bag when you’re out walking.