There’s no feeling like taking our dog out to discover the world – new friends, different smells, some challenges, and lots of adventures.
But there’s so much more to going on walks. Besides being essential for our dog’s hygiene and well-being, walks are great to strengthen the bond of friendship. Walks help build trust and respect between dogs and their pet parents. A shared experience, with more than proven benefits for both, as long as they are safe and happy!
For some pet parents, good experiences on walks are guaranteed by learning and previous experiences. However, others may see dog walking as a real puzzle.
If that’s your case, don’t worry. Follow our tips on how to pleasantly walk your dog on leash. Just make sure you make plenty of time for the most important thing – enjoying each other’s company.
1. Safety first
Before venturing outside with your dog, be sure the microchip, vaccines and parasite prevention (both internal and external) are up to date .
We want your dog to make as many friends as possible during walks, but viruses, bacteria and parasites do not fall into this category. Not only do they put your dog’s health at risk, but also that of your entire family.
So let’s keep our dogs well protected at all times!
2. Choose the right accessories for walking your dog
There are so many models, sizes and shapes of collars, leashes and harnesses, that it’s easy to be overwhelmed. To begin with, the best options will be the simplest, as long as they are safe and well adapted to your dog’s size.
In general, harnesses are a great choice to begin with. They spread out over a larger area of the dog’s body, allowing better force distribution and ensuring more support. In addition, as the force is not applied on the tracheal area, they tend to be more comfortable, especially for brachycephalic breeds (such as Pugs or French Bulldogs).
As for leashes, as attractive as extendable ones may seem, short or non-retractable leashes are preferable. At least in the beginning, while you are both getting used to dog walking, it is good to keep your dog nearby, within a smaller, easily controlled area. This way, your dog won’t “get wrapped up” where or with whom he shouldn’t!
3. Get your dog used to the leash
If your dog is already used to being on a leash, it will be easier to feel safe and confident when going out for a walk. So, begin the learning process at home, where there are less distractions and start as soon as you can.
First, make sure your dog is comfortable with the collar or harness. Do this gradually, putting the collar or harness on for short periods of time, until you notice that it makes no difference when it’s on. Reward your dog for accepting the collar or harness with ease. This may be done with food, treats, a favorite toy or expressions of joy and encouragement.
Then, try putting the leash on still at home, so that your dog can get used to it. Start walking at home, wherever you can – in the hallway, between rooms, in a backyard or even in your garden, if you have access to one. Again, keep the walking exercises short at first and extend them gradually, always rewarding good behavior.
Keep in mind that the most important thing is that your dog associates the use of dog walking accessories with a positive experience, feeling increasingly relaxed and comfortable with them.
4. Practice walking outside on a leash
Once you feel your dog is well adjusted to the leash and collar (or harness) with the exercises at home, it’s time to go outside! Gradual is better, at least in the early beginning. Short walks for short periods, just until you both get the hang of it.
Start by walking your dog close to home, in places that are quiet, with a clean and smooth surface, and for shorter periods of time.
Even though things seemed fine at home, remember it was in a controlled environment. And on the street, there will be many things that can excite, distract or even frighten your dog.
Therefore, these first walks are crucial to get your dog used to a whole lot of things that are new to him – other animals and people, new smells and noises, different types of terrain (grass, dirt, sand, sidewalk, …) and much more. Fears may occur and they may seem silly to you, but just take your time! Let your dog adapt to everything, at his own pace, and don’t forget to reward whenever he behaves as desired.
As your dog feels more secure and confident, and more comfortable with the new elements outside, increase the walking time and vary the places and proximity to home.
5. Let your dog sniff around
Dogs experience the world through their sense of smell. So it’s only natural that they sniff everything around them.
If we limit this form of exploring the world, we’ll be preventing them from properly understanding the environment outside. Plus, you’ll be reducing the mental enrichment the walk should provide.
After the first outdoor walks on leash, that should be shorter and close to home, there is no reason to hold your dog back. Once that first “getting used to new things” phase is over, it’s time to go out and have fun.
Choose quiet routes and allow your dog time to sniff, freely and safely. You’ll be contributing to a bette rlife for your dog and preventing frustration and anxiety.
Also, whenever you can, mix and match the routes you take, preferably going through areas with plenty of trees and a bunch of new smells for your dog to explore!
6. Be prepared for your dog’s reactions
Outdoor elements will be inevitable and, in most cases, very welcome! They will enrich your walks and make them memorable. But in the beginning they can be a source of extreme reactions by your dog, so you should know how to control them from an early age.
Such as other animals or people approaching, unfamiliar noises, the presence of new objects or sudden movements may cause your dog to react. So, don’t be surprised if new situations for your dog may lead to pulling on the leash, to want to run after or away from something, or to bark insistently and loudly. It’s a process.
Whatever the situation, stay calm! Be consistent in your actions, and try to pass assertive messages. For example, if your dog starts pulling in another direction, remain quiet until he comes back to you. And if your dog wants to go after something while walking, be proactive. Try redirecting his attention, through your posture and voice, or with a toy or treat. The same applies in situations where your dog starts barking. Divert your dog’s attention to you, and keep him focused.
Over time, the challenges will gradually be reduced, as will the rewards. But it’s a good idea to bring high value treats, so that you can reinforce good behavior as needed.
Last but not least, never forget good dog walking social rules – always have poop bags ready and never leave your dog’s unwanted presents behind.
7. Have Fun!
Walking your dog on a leash should be a positive experience for you both. Experiences that will go a long way in strengthening the bonds of your relationship, building fantastic adventures and memories.
So take your time. Relax and make the most of it. Patience to letg your dog learn on his own terms initially is key. And then with affection, dedication and patience, your dog will truly be a faithful companion for great moments outside.
Happy dog walks everyone!
If you want to remember unforgettable walks or register the date of something that happened during a walk, you can use the “photo/note” function on the Petable App. Petable allows you to keep all your pet’s important life events organized in a simple timeline. And it’s free, for iOS and Android: