The best part of my dog's day is when we take a walk. Honey, a lab-husky mix, jumps and turns in circles, then races for the door as soon as I pick up her leash. Though we have a big back yard for her to run around in, it can't replace all the benefits we both get from our daily walk.
The most important benefit is the exercise. During the work week, we stick to the same safe route through our neighborhood, but on the weekends we mix it up by going to nearby parks and hiking paths. We get a physical workout as well as a mental lift. After we added walking to our morning routine, Honey stopped chewing on shoes and I had a lot more energy for the day. The time together also creates a strong bond – she easily follows commands and I can trust her off leash at appropriate times.
During our years of walks together, I've learned a few valuable lessons that keep us – and others – safe and healthy. Read on for tips for walking your own canine companions.
- Get the right leash. Don't be afraid to use a harness or head collar to train your dog to stop pulling on the leash.
- Use treats. Practice commands while you're walking and use treats as rewards.
- Try reflective gear. Use a reflective leash or wear a jacket with reflective stripes so drivers can see you. This is especially important if you walk in the dark or near-dark hours. An alternative is to carry a flashlight or wear a headlamp.
- Stay on sidewalks. Do your best to avoid cars by sticking to sidewalks or using other paths away from streets.
- Avoid joggers and bicycles. In addition to avoiding cars, you also want to keep your dog safe from joggers and bicyclists who could get tangled with the leash.
- Take care in extreme weather. If it's snowy or icy, keep walks short or get your dog to wear booties. In very hot weather, keep walks on pavement short or try to find a dirt or grass path instead.
- Keep hydrated. If you're taking a longer walk or it's hot out, make sure to take water for you and your dog. A collapsible bowl is easy to carry.
- Carry several dog bags. Recycle plastic grocery bags or newspaper sleeves. Otherwise, use small, thin bags to reduce the amount of waste going into the landfill.
- Clean paws. Keep a rag by the door to wipe off paws as soon as you come inside. This saves your carpet from dirt strains and keeps your dog's paws clear of debris that could irritate the skin between toes.