9 Expert Tips for Walking Your Own Dogs

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1. No. Headphones. Ever. A walker’s attention should always be on the dog and the surroundings.

how to walk a dog

2. No talking on cell phones except in an emergency.

3. Practice makes perfect. Ask for (and reinforce) your dog for loose-leash walking, and polite sits at street corners and when you stop to talk to someone.

4. Use good equipment that is appropriate for your dog (for example, if not well trained, giant dogs probably need more than a flat collar – and retractable leashes are not considered safe, ever). Inspect the fit and condition of all your equipment frequently. Ensure that your dog wears a tag with current information.

5. Pay attention to your dog’s body language. Chances are she will alert you about anything amiss on the street or trail long before you become aware of it. Whether that’s another dog walker approaching, a mountain biker flying down the trail toward you, or a mountain lion trailing you, an early warning can help you manage the situation – but if only you are paying attention.

6. Carry really good treats. Professionally trained walkers know that good training is built with top-shelf reinforcements.

7. Make sure your dog is healthy before starting any exercise program.

8. Do not let your dog run off-leash unless he has a reliable recall. (The only exception would be in a fenced dog park, during off-peak hours, so you could work on your dog’s recall!)

9. Manage your dog’s behavior! Don’t assume that it is okay for your dog to interact with every dog and every human you come across. Not only is it rude, but it can also trigger unexpected, and maybe unwanted, reactions.

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Barbara Dobbins has been writing for WDJ since 2011 with a focus on veterinary and canine health topics. Her lifelong fascination with dogs has led her in many directions. As a youngster she would round up her dogs and horse for a day of adventure exploring and searching for buried treasure in the California hills. Inspired by Margaret Mead with a nod to Indiana Jones, she went on to study anthropology, archaeology, and museum studies and obtained a masters degree in art history. Then two new puppies bounced into her life, and Barbara launched into studying animal behavior and training and spent hundreds of hours volunteering in the behavior department at her local shelter. When her beloved Border Collie Daisy was diagnosed with a rare cancer, she dug deep to research all she could about the disease, and has written extensively about all sorts of canine cancer for Whole Dog Journal. Liaising between pet owners and veterinary practice, science, and research, she synthesizes these complex and data-driven subjects into accessible information. She continues to take inspiration from her two research assistants, mixed-breed Tico and Border Collie Parker.

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