Whether in Alaska with a Malamute or in Texas with a Chiweenie, walking your dog is a crucial skill!Walking our dogs is healthy for us and for our pets. Naturally, we dog owners will spend a ton of time walking our dogs, but is there a more effective way to do it?

Here’s our guide to getting the most out of walking with your dog.

Effective Dog Walking Starts With Picking The Right Leash

Before you worry about anything else, you need to have a good leash. Without an appropriate leash, your dog might:

  • Injure themselves
  • Give you rope burn
  • Escape their leash

We’ve previously discussed how to pick the proper leash, but we’ll briefly list which characteristics you want in your leash.

First, retractable leashes are dangerous for you and your dog, not convenient. These leashes put you and your dog at risk in multiple ways.

While nylon and cotton leashes are acceptable, they have drawbacks. They’re difficult to hold, and they can easily burn your hand if your dog pulls too hard.

The ideal leash is a six-foot leather leash. These leashes are durable, long-lasting, and they give your dog the perfect amount of space to safely explore. If you are against using leather, nylon is a good second choice.

Be careful and make sure that leashes don't catch on your puppy's first trial runs!If your dog isn’t used to wearing a leash, you can train them to become accustomed to it. Begin by attaching the leash to their collar and letting them wander around the house. Make sure you supervise them, otherwise the leash may:

  • Catch on furniture
  • Yank their neck
  • Strain their shoulders

You can cut the leash handle to avoid it hooking onto something. We recommend using a cheap nylon or cotton leash during this training period since it will be essentially disposable.

This training leash is also handy for moving dogs without physically contacting them. If they jump onto a couch or tabletop, you can remove them without acknowledging or reinforcing their behavior by simply grabbing the leash and gently walking away from the furniture.

Start Small When You Begin Walking Together

Many dogs are anxious about walking. Taking your dog to the park for their first walking experience might be a sensory overload for them. You need to take it slowly and build their confidence first.

Start with a place that has as few distractions as possible. A quiet neighborhood street should be perfect. You need your dog to be able to focus on your signals.

Don’t let your dog pull on the leash. Allowing that behavior to continue teaches dogs that they can get what they want if they pull. As soon as your dog begins to pull, come to a full stop. Eventually, they’ll want to continue the walk and let you lead. This means that while you’re training, it takes a long time to get from point A to point B.

If your dog continues to pull, try changing your direction.You’re telling them that even though they want to lead, you’re in charge of where they’re going. After doing this a few times, they should give up trying to direct you and wait for your cues.

As always, when your dog is in the correct position, you should reward them. Positive reinforcement is the key to getting your dog to repeat wanted behaviors. Beneficial times to reward them include:

  • When the leash is slack
  • As they walk beside you
  • When they ignore distractions

If you reinforce these over time, your dog will learn the correct way to walk.

Keep Your Dog’s Breed And Personality In Mind When Preparing For Walks

Make sure you plan for keeping your dog safe while walking, even if they're having fun, safety first!Every dog is different. Some will naturally want to lead, and others will feel more comfortable following. If you’re aware of your dog’s nature and their breed’s tendencies, you can plan for an effective walk.

Draft breeds and Arctic sled breeds were both bred to pull heavy loads. It’s completely normal for them to think: “Oh something is around my neck?? Pull!!” This includes breeds such as:

  • Siberian Huskies
  • Saint Bernards
  • Alaskan Malamutes

These dogs will want to pull, and they’ll pull hard. It’s critical to teach them that this behavior won’t get them where they want to go, and to be ready for some resistance. This is where a simple harness (that attaches in FRONT) can make a world of difference. Harnesses that attach on the dog’s back only make them stronger!

On the other hand, smaller dogs and less athletic breeds can have trouble keeping up with you. Small dogs take four times as many steps as you and get tired fast. Short-nosed dogs also overheat quickly. These breeds include:

  • Pugs
  • Boxers
  • Bull Dogs

If you’re looking for an athletic companion to go on long runs with, look for breeds that have tons of endurance like the herding group or sporting group dogs.

You should also consider that dogs perceive the world through their nose. This means they will want to stop and sniff often, which might not gel with your jogging rhythm.

Luckily, you can train your dog to save the sniffing for later. Just like when you begin walking, start out slowly. Jog a few yards, then reward. Steadily increase the distance until you’re both comfortable.

A Certified Trainer Can Teach You Technique And How To Handle Leash Reactivity

We’ve mentioned this before, but it’s worth repeating. Anyone who tries to put an aversive tool on your dog to teach them how to walk is not the right trainer for you. If they attempt to use a:

You need to get you and your dog out of there. They don’t have your dog’s welfare in mind, only their compliance. Aversive collars don’t really teach good behavior, they just teach fear.

Unfortunately, trainers resort to aversive methods because pain is a powerful motivator. Leash reactivity can be a persistent and frustrating problem, and to many people it’s just easier to hurt a dog into obedience.

However, any good reward based trainer can help you with leash reactivity. Here is where using a certified force free trainer really makes an impact. Positive reinforcement is the most powerful tool in dog training. It just takes a little patience and a gentle hand.

Never Take Your Dog’s Leash Off During A Walk

Be careful when greeting other dogs while walking, they can be anxious or reactive and it's better to stay leashed around them.Even dogs that are calm need to be leashed while they’re outside. Even if you have a strong recall, your dog can get into major trouble off-leash. They can run into dogs that are:

  • Shy
  • Anxious
  • Reactive
  • Aggressive

This can lead to an altercation that may result in injury to either dog or owner.

To you, it may look like your dog is just running up to say hello. But, other dogs might see this as a threat and can react adversely. It’s better to play it safe and keep them on the leash. Also, not every human wants to meet your dog. Many people are afraid of dogs, or know that their dog doesn’t like others and really wish you would just stay away!

If you want your dog to enjoy the off-leash experience at a park, be cautious and respect other owners. When you see another dog nearby, call your dog over and leash them. It’s a good compromise that keeps everyone safe and happy.

If you need help teaching your dog to walk, or just have more questions, contact us today. We’d love to help get your dog on the right path to an effective walk.

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Happy Dog by Scott Feldstein

Alaskan Malamute by brando.n

Dogs by Kristine Paulus

Labrador Leash by smerikal