Medical studies have shown that dog owners, on average, live longer than people who don’t own dogs. Whether this is a correlation or causation thing (or both) isn’t completely clear yet, but what we do know is that dog owners tend to spend more time outside, which is beneficial to their mental, emotional, and physical health.
Undoubtedly, spending time outdoors also makes dogs happier and more fulfilled — making their owners happier, in turn, and perpetuating a positive cycle.
One of the most popular outdoor pastimes for dogs and their owners is going out for walks. Although many people and dogs enjoy going for walks and science has shown the many benefits of this activity, it doesn’t come without its own set of challenges.
The good news is that there are many things you can do to make walking your canine companion a much easier, more enjoyable experience for both of you. Here are some tips to make walking your dog a proverbial “walk in the park.” Also if you plan on driving your pet to places to go for a walk here are some tips on how to keep your pet safe in the car during your trip.
1. Know Your Dog’s Specific Needs
No two dogs are alike, and you should figure out your dog’s specific needs when it comes to physical activity. Their needs may vary based on factors like their breed, size, age, and overall health. For example, while some dogs might require ample space to get lots of vigorous exercise every day, others will be perfectly fine with a simple stroll around the block once or twice a day.
30 minutes of physical activity every day is a good benchmark for an average healthy dog. Nevertheless, different dog types require different amounts of walking. Here’s a guide you can follow to ensure your dog is getting the right amount of physical activity:
- Small (or toy) breeds — Small dogs, in general, don’t need a ton of physical activity to remain healthy. Because of their higher heart rates and their tendency to get more muscle activity, light exercise, like a little stroll down the street a few times a day, should be more than enough. The goal is to not over-exert them, but you should also monitor their health alongside your vet to watch for signs of issues like obesity or joint degeneration.
- Shortnose breeds (e.g. pugs, boxers) — Brachycephalic (short-nose) breeds require varying amounts of activity, depending on their size and musculature. However, there is always the concern that too much activity could cause them to overheat or go into respiratory distress. Give your shortnose dog the appropriate amount of exercise for their size and energy levels, but keep exercise periods short and low-to-moderate impact with time to cool down and monitor them in between sessions.
- Hunting, herding, or working dogs — This category includes retrievers, hounds, collies, and shepherds. Because these dogs have been bred to work, it should come as no surprise that they mentally expect (and often medically require) more physical activity than most breeds. To maintain their health, they need a minimum of 30 minutes of vigorous exercise in addition to an hour or two of moderate activity, like walking.
2. Use a Proper Leash
The best leash is sturdy and has a moderate length. For most dogs, four feet is generally considered a good length. It gives you enough control of the leash while also allowing the dog to move about freely enough and explore its immediate surroundings.
Leashes that are three to six feet in length might also work, depending on factors such as your dog’s size and level of training. For example, you might want a three-foot-long leash when you’re teaching your new dog to stay by your side. As the dog becomes better trained, you can increase the leash length by a couple of inches.
The leash should be attached to a collar or harness that has no danger of slipping off. If your dog has an issue with pulling, consider switching to a harness or a “head halter” leader-type collar.
Until your dog is well-trained on walks, avoid using a retractable leash. This type of leash allows your dog to easily wander off and put itself in harm’s way. Even with locks, retractable leashes can be ineffective because the locks can disengage if the dog pulls the leash hard enough.
Plus, retractable leashes can cause injury to both you and your dog. Holding on to the leash itself can result in severe burns to your hand. And the sudden jerk that can result when your dog reaches the end of the retractable leash can seriously injure your dog, as well as make you fall over.
3. Bring Ample Amounts of Water for Your Dog
If you’re walking your dog for more than 30 minutes or in hot weather, bring plenty of water. You want to make sure to keep your pets safe in the heat, because dogs, in general, have more body heat than humans and can’t as easily regulate their body temperature, it doesn’t take much for them to overheat.
Dogs also “sweat” through their mouths when they pant. When they exercise, they can easily become dehydrated, especially in warmer weather.
Collapsible water bottles, which you can buy in pet stores, or water bottles with lids are easy to carry and easy for dogs to drink out of. And, if you have extra things you want to bring along, such as treats, you might also want to invest in a dog backpack.
4. Reward Your Dog During and After the Walk
Speaking of treats, you can make “walk time” more enjoyable for your canine friend by reinforcing its desirable behaviors. According to the Ontario SPCA and Human Society, rewarding your dog improves the human-dog relationship in addition to encouraging positive behaviors, such as “loose leash walking” (walking without pulling).
For example, if you’re training your dog to look at you and move towards you as soon as you call its name, reward it with a treat. Behaviors like this will be quite handy when you’re walking your dog and a squirrel suddenly grabs your dog’s attention.
After-walk rewards and treats are also important. If they behaved well throughout the activity, a treat will encourage them to repeat their behavior for future recognition.
And it doesn’t always have to be treats. You can also caress them or give them verbal recognition as positive reinforcement.
5. Ask Before Letting Your Dog Approach Other Dogs
Dogs may be social creatures, but that doesn’t mean your dog will get along with all other dogs. And no matter how friendly and approachable your dog appears to be, you can’t expect every dog-to-dog interaction to be pleasant.
To avoid putting anybody, including dogs and humans, in unnecessary danger, always ask before allowing your dog to approach another dog.
Another thing to bear in mind is that many dog owners and trainers are staunchly against on-leash greetings. Many believe this type of interaction can lead to fights, reinforce negative behaviors, and damage the human-dog bond (for a variety of reasons).
Besides, having your dog approach another dog without permission can be seen as plain rude, disrespectful, or even threatening. It’s much like interacting with humans: it’s generally never acceptable to just approach another person’s child if you don’t know them, even if the parent is nearby. The same thing very similarly applies to dogs.
Keep Your Dog Active by Enrolling Them in Leash Training or Doggie Daycare
As you can see, walking your dog can be incredibly fun and rewarding for both of you. If you feel you’re struggling to leash train your dog, you can always rely on the help of professional dog trainers at Greenlin Pet Resorts. We work closely with you and your dog to determine your needs, set goals, and seek to create positive behavior changes together. Also, if you are interested in having your dog in swimming pools or other bodies of water we offer swimming lessons for them as well.
Dogs seeking more exercise can also stay active, stimulated, and engaged with our dog daycare at Greenlin. In addition to receiving plenty of mental and physical stimulation with fun activities, your dog will also get to socialize with other dogs (and humans!).
Whether you’re looking for pet boarding, dog/puppy training, or dog daycare services, you can rest assured that Greenlin, which has five locations in central Pennsylvania, has everything to suit the needs of you and your canine companion.
To make life better for you and your dog, give us a call or fill out our contact form and we’ll get in touch with you shortly to talk about your next visit to our award-winning facilities.