Keys to Walking Your Dogby Pam Goldberg Smith
It looks so easy when others do it, but disappointment can soon follow if you do not have a basic knowledge of how to walk your dog. There is much more to the practice than simply hooking a leash on a collar and letting your pup drag you outside. Understanding the keys to walking your dog will be useful in his overall training.
Who's the Alpha?
The leader of the pack decides when to move and where to go. You must assert yourself as the alpha and not let your dog pull on the leash. Assert control from the very beginning by having your pup come to you to go out walking. He should remain calm, with all four paws on the floor when you put on the leash, and wait patiently for you to remove your coat or shoes when coming home.
Things to Bring
It cannot be said enough that plastic bags are necessary when walking your dog. Leaving his eliminations on the neighbor's lawn, in the park or other public property is not only rude but unsanitary. Bring along treats while training to use in conjunction with praise as positive reinforcement for good behavior. In warm weather, keep a bottle of clean, fresh water on hand, and purchase a doggie coat in winter for short-hair or single-coated dogs; never go out in extreme weather conditions. Above all, give your dog a collar with ID tags to be worn at all times. You should be able to fit two fingers in between the collar and your dog's neck.
Though retractable leashes are used for their convenience in allowing a dog to explore, it takes all control out of your hands. These types are best reserved for fully trained dogs in low-traffic park areas. When first training or visiting high-traffic areas, opt for a short leash with a no-pull harness or head halter if needed. Nylon leashes come in a wide assortment of colors and designs, and hold up well under exposure to the elements. However, a dog who pulls forward unexpectedly can cause rope burn with nylon and so leather leashes are a suitable alternative. Metal chain leashes are another option to deter your dog from chewing on the leash material as these are less tasty to the pooch. Just be sure it is not too heavy for the dog.
About the Walk
Always start slow with a young or new dog, keeping walks to 10 or 15 minutes a few times each day. Walking in a brisk pace helps prevent distractions, though a quick tug and continued walking will regain his attention. Provided everything goes well, gradually increase to 30 to 60 minutes twice a day. Stick to a similar schedule each day depending on your dog's needs. Allow time for your doggie to exercise but never rush him and especially don't force him to walk if he stops due to a limping or breathing trouble. An energetic dog may need additional walks and a bored dog will love experiencing new places.
Another important aspect of maintaining control over your dog is to keep him protected from lawns that are potentially treated with toxic chemicals and plants which can cause stomach problems if eaten. You must also protect other people or animals from your dog. Training with treats rewards your dog for good behavior such as sitting patiently and going about business as usual rather than jumping on strangers or chasing squirrels. Apply flea and tick medication as directed but keep an eye out for bugs on your dog, especially when walking in wooded areas. Never spray insect repellant on him as it is toxic, but instead ask your veterinarian for alternatives. Salt and ice melt, often used on wintry roads and sidewalks, are toxic if ingested and need to be wiped from doggie's paws to prevent damage.
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