By Kim Rain
Published: 01/14/2021, edited: 10/26/2022
It’s January, the start of a new year, and for many of us the start of new, healthy habits. But while we are setting resolutions and deciding how to chart a course for our year, let’s not furget our favorite furry pals. January is also Walk Your Dog Month, which highlights the benefits of dog walks and encourages us to get moving with our pooches!
Whether you live in a land of sunshine, or are experiencing a cold winter, taking walks with your dog can be a bonding experience that gets both of you exercising your bodies and minds, and beating the winter blues! We’ve gathered together the top tips to really walk your dog right, so let’s grab the leash and get moving!
Harnesses are safer than collars for walks, and will give you more control over your dog. Instead of pressing against a dog’s neck, a harness fits around their chest and shoulders, meaning any pull won’t cause harm to their windpipe. Harnesses also come with options such as front or back clips, and even handles. The right leash can also elevate your walks, such as a waist leash for handsfree walking, leashes for walking multiple dogs, and adjustable leashes. And for walks in low light conditions, a reflective leash can make sure your dog is always seen.
If it’s blisteringly hot outside, or snowing like a blizzard, you should wait until the conditions are right to take a walk. In hot areas, this may mean early morning or late evening walks to avoid the hottest part of the day, while in places that experience snow and ice, you’ll need to wait until the winter storms have passed. You should also be aware of how much exercise is right for your dog, based on their breed, temperament, age and energy level. Consult with your veterinarian if you are unsure how often and how long to walk your pup.
Talking walks is just as much about stimulating your dog’s mind as their muscles, so changing the path gives them more to see and sniff. Often, destructive behavior is a result of boredom. Giving your dog new places to explore can engage their senses while reducing anxiety and excess energy, which means they are more likely to relax and behave at home. And if walks become routine, your dog will always have something to look forward to.
For those of you who don’t often walk your dog because of pulling, zig-zagging, and other bad behavior, we have good news for you! With a little patience and time, you can train your dog to stop pulling, to calmly walk beside you, or even to ignore distractions like squirrels! Pay attention to your dog’s triggers, and use each one to help train your dog to focus back on you. By using positive reinforcement, staying consistent with commands, and having the right gear, you can use each walk to work on your dog’s behavior until walks are effortless and fun again!
While you want your dog to behave, don’t forget how exciting it is for them to be outside! If you prevent your dog from stopping to sniff once in a while, they are missing the best part of the walk. Each time they stop to investigate, dogs take in more sensory information than we can ever imagine! And when they take so long to choose where to relieve themselves, they are really participating in a complex animal messaging system that lets them communicate with other dogs in the area. Let them explore, then give them the “Leave it” command when you want to get back to the walk for a truly happy pooch.
Whether you are trekking through the snow, or live in a warm climate, be sure to have everything you need on hand for a safe walk. Always have clean-up bags with you to make sure nothing gets left behind. Water and a bowl are a necessity to keep your dog hydrated. Extra items may be needed for winter weather walks, such as coats and booties. A backpack or bag is pawfect to store all your items, and don’t forget the treats!
You’ll also want to protect your dog from any unseen invaders, so be sure they are up to date on their vaccinations and are taking anti-parasitic treatments. And always be sure they are licensed where you live, and are wearing their ID tag.
With these furbulous tips, you and your pup can enjoy walks and good health together! But if you just don’t have enough time to really get your pup moving, hire a dog walker to help make sure your dog enjoys dog walking month to the fullest!
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