You know how a nice stroll on a nice day makes you feel good? Well, it works the same for our dogs. Regular, appropriate exercise is so important to your dog's longevity and overall health and happiness. When the conditions are right, getting outside with your pups for a walk can be lots of fun! Where I live, the conditions have been far from "right" recently. We are in upstate NY where the deep freeze has us tightly in its grip. We are anxiously awaiting "walking weather" to return! When it does, we're ready! Here are a few things to help you get ready.
There are endless choices when it comes to a dog leash. You, of course, must find what works for you and your dog, but I do have a few suggestions.
First, please don't use retractable leashes when out walking. These are best suited for times when you might be in a field and you want to be able to allow your pet to roam and explore a bit without going totally off leash. In neighborhoods, retractable leashes can be a real danger. I have heard far too many tales of dogs darting into the street and the pet parent either couldn't reel them back in time or the leash jammed. Sadly this often can result in pups getting hit before your very eyes. My mother ended up breaking her wrist when her retractable leash locked up as her typically slow moving St Bernard took off after a cat, pulling my mom to the ground. Retractable leashes also allow too much wiggle room for your dog to roam into spaces he doesn't belong, like into the path of another dog walker or into gardens and lawns of your neighbors.
Leather leashes generally get great reviews by their users. They often report they are comfortable on the hands and don't cause leash burn if your dog tugs at all.
I have been using the Lupine brand leashes and have been very pleased. Not only do they have the most adorable colors and patterns, but they have a great guarantee. They state that they will take back and exchange any leash or collar of theirs that gets chewed, FOR LIFE! No receipt is needed, and they send your replacement out immediately. Now how can you beat that?!
I only have one last suggestion regarding leashes. Please put thought into what kind of collar you choose to accompany your leash. While I am not a fan of either choke or prong collars, I would take a prong over a choke any day. I have found a prong collar will stop most all pulling while a choke does just that...choke! I much prefer training your dog how to properly leash walk, perhaps using the "heel" technique (see below), and then choosing a combo collar (prevents slipping out) or better yet, a harness, over using a collar for your control. I became a huge fan of step in harnesses when Murray's started having throat issues that were aggravated by the combo collar.
The heel position is fairly easy to teach. The concept is that your dog will walk calmly to the side of your leg and not pull or sneak ahead of your pace. Our golden, Piper, does this oh so well. We can say the word "heel" on a walk with Piper and he will drop back to the nearest leg he sees! In the beginning however, it helped to teach Piper this concept by abruptly turning and walking in the opposite direction if he started to pull ahead. It caught him off guard and he suddenly found himself behind me, having to catch up. Believe me when I tell you, a dog that knows how to heel makes what would be a miserable tug of war become an enjoyable stroll.
How Often and How Long
I believe dogs need walking most every day. Again, as long as the conditions are suitable. Our pups do well with a 20-30 minute walk, supplemented with play time here at home. Piper is now 10 and still handles this amount quite well. He seems tired by the end of his walk but that good kind of tired, not the "dropping from exhaustion" kind of tired.
Retractable leashes aside, there can still be dangers on your walk. Toxins can be everywhere! It's crucial to keep yours eyes open for anything you dog might quickly pick up (ie. litter) or lick while out and about. Lawns and gardens can pose a hazard as well. The chemicals, fertilizers and types of plants people have on their properties are all potential toxins for your fur kid. It's best to not even allow your dog to walk on lawns. These chemicals can come home on their paws with them and be licked off later. Your best bet is to stick strictly to sidewalks and walking paths while keeping a close eye out if you have a wandering sniffer on your hands.
Yellow Dog Project
This plan is fairly new. Most dog parents I speak to haven't even heard of this initiative yet, but it already has my stamp of approval. The idea is to help protect owners, dogs and random people from creating a potentially dangerous situation. How this works is if you have a dog that you would like to take on walks, but he is still working on his walking skills or maybe he's not the most social guy when out and about, placing a yellow ribbon on your leash signals to all others to keep at a distance for your comfort and safety, your bouncy dog's comfort and safety as well as strangers on the street. Win, win, win!
Scoopin the Poo!
Now we all MUST partake in scooping our dog's poo! It's non-negotiable. Not only is it expected, it gives pet parents a bad reputation when we leave the doody behind. Scooping on our walks just got a bit more pleasant in our family. We, of course, have the poop bag holder attached to our leashes, but now, we also have the most awesome FIFTH PAW! Now our guys can carry their own poo home! That's just how it should be, I think! How can we get them to scoop it too? The Fifth Paw even carries up to three poops in their separate bags, although that does start to weigh down your leash (or maybe our dogs just take big poops!). This little gadget is such a great little addition to our lives.