Keys to Walking Your Dog

Retractable leashes are nice, but they're usually not safe.
i Photo of not purebred dog on walk. image by Rey Kamensky from

To your dog, walks are the best thing since that belly rub he begged you for earlier. After all, walks mean dogs to bark at, places to yank you toward and flowers to eat. Letting your dog know those behaviors aren't acceptable makes for a much more enjoyable stroll.

Aggressive and Fearful Dogs

When you and your pup go for a walk, you're likely to encounter different people, objects and scenarios, some of which can spook your little guy or enrage him. Although there is plenty of advice for training fearful and aggressive dogs to react differently, you must be ready for that training and a casual walk is not the time. Steering clear of anything that makes your dog react negatively makes the walk safer for you and your pup. For example, if your canine friend is dog-aggressive, turn around or walk the other way when you see a dog in the distance. If he's scared of shadows, don't walk under trees or next to large objects.


Pulling is the bane of many dog owners. In your dog's mind, he has places to go, things to see and holes to dig, so there's little time to wait on slow humans. However, keeping him by your side teaches him that you're the boss, you control the walk and it significantly cuts down on him encountering something that makes him aggressive or fearful. The best strategy to make your dog stop pulling is to stop dead in your tracks or turn around and walk the opposite way the second he starts pulling. Whenever you start walking normally again, feed him a treat or two while he stays by your side. When he pulls again, stop or walk the opposite way. Eventually your pup will learn that pulling literally gets him nowhere, and walking by your side gets him treats.

Standard Leashes

Retractable leashes might be attractive because of the freedom they give your dog when you're strolling through an empty park, but there are two primary problems with retractable leashes. They make it difficult to train your little guy to walk by your side and stop pulling, and they're unsafe, especially with aggressive dogs, even if you're constantly alert. You can't always hear a jogger coming up from behind you, but your big-eared pup certainly can. By the time you try to reel in your dog and click his leash in place, he might reach his target.

Water and Health

Bringing water with you on your walk means your dog won't suffer from dehydration. Standard water bottles don't work too well, but pet stores carry dog water bottles that fit inside a reservoir-like container. Most bottles come with a strap for easy carrying. Ration the water so that there's plenty for the entire walk. Unfortunately, water doesn't prevent other health scares. If you see your pup limping, or if he appears injured, stop the walk. Also, remember to bring plastic bags so you can pick up after your dog.


Parks and fields make for the best walking areas, because they are plenty of space and areas for your dog to exercise his legs. Sidewalks near roadways aren't a good idea unless you have nowhere else to walk your pup. Cars can spook some dogs, and you're more likely to encounter glass and other sharp objects near roads. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals advises keeping your pup off of people's lawns in case they use harmful chemicals, and to watch your dog doesn't chomp down on flowers or plants in fields and parks. Avoid pavement in summer and treated sidewalks in winter, both of which can harm your dog's paws. If you walk at night, the Michigan Humane Society suggests dressing in bright colors, and outfitting both you and your pup in reflective items or clothing.

Harness or Head Collar

Harnesses and head collars are great for walks, because they cut down on pulling, and they prevent accidental choking from the leash pulling on your pup's collar. Head collars are useful especially if you have an overly eager dog that likes to lunge at people or other dogs. As soon as he lunges, his head will be redirected back the opposite way, but gently so he doesn't get injured.

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