As dedicated pet parents, we love spending time with our dogs. And for many, at least one dog walk is a guaranteed part of their daily schedule. It’s an important job and keeps our pets happy and healthy, but it doesn’t have to be a chore. Preventing accidents and injuries from happening is one way to make them less stressful.
For example, reducing dog-to-dog contact, particularly with strange animals, will minimize the chances that your dog will ever be in a fight.
Let's review some mistakes you may be making that accidentaly put your dog at risk and ways you can minimize the chance of your dog getting injured on walks, while increasing their overall enjoyment.
You don't vary your route
Just like people, dogs can get bored. If they traverse the same scenery every day, twice a day, they will want something novel. Normally, this is a simple problem to fix. All you need to do is vary the route you take. But what do you do beforehand when your dog begins acting out of boredom?
According to Dr. Britannie England-Rendón (DVM) from Marvelous Dogs, “it is in everybody’s best interest to make walks as enjoyable as possible.”
You may notice that a bored dog is a mischievious dog. They will start disobeying your commands and getting into things they shouldn’t, simply because they are looking for entertainment. They may pull more than usual or become destructive.
Switching up your route, or having a few different routes you take before your dog exhibits these maladaptive behaviors is a proactive way to combat this problem before it ever becomes an issue.
You forget to check the weather
People often forget that their dogs need weather protection when the elements are in full force. Thick-coated dogs like Newfoundlands can easily overheat without water and shade before, after, or even during a walk. Tiny Chihuahuas may begin shivering the second they step outside if it is too cold for them. Checking the weather before you leave the comfort of your home will help you anticipate the type of weather protection your dog needs.
Some tips for weather protection include:
Scheduling walks to avoid the hottest/coldest part of the day
Checking that the concrete isn’t too hot for your animal to stand on. To test this, place the back of your hand on the pavement for more than 5 seconds. If this is painful, then the concrete is too hot for your dog's paws
Bring extra water if you are going on a longer walk
Get booties and coats for your dog to wear in the winter
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You allow your dog to approach unfamiliar animals
As friendly as your dog may be, you should never let your dog approach an unfamiliar animal. Regardless of how your pet acts with new pups, the other dog involved may have a problem with the intrusion. In the interest of keeping your dog safe, the best option is always to consult with the other pet's owner first.
Whenever possible, you should also try to keep other dogs from your dog if they are off their leash. This way, no accidents happen.
Other animals, like squirrels or rabbits, should also be avoided whenever possible. These animals could carry diseases that they may pass on to your dog if they are caught. They can also lead your dog into dangerous territory, like a busy street, if their prey drive kicks in.
If your dog does not have perfect recall, regardless of circumstances, it is best to just keep them on a leash when in places where they may run into other animals. Better safe than sorry!
You repeat yourself
Dogs can get confused by the instructions that are given to them. And who can blame them - English isn't their first language! A command that has to be repeated to be followed is often called a poisoned command. Poisoned commands can make training your pup very difficult.
An excellent example of a poisoned command is seen often in recall training. Owners want their dog to come to them, so they tell them to come. When the dog does not come, they repeat the command, maybe even increasing in volume, until the dog finally listens to them.
In a lot of cases, all the dog has learned is that they will eventually have to listen when you give a command. Their obedience is filled with hesitation, and that isn’t a sustainable training method in practice.
Slowly introducing the dog to a term is the best way to prevent a command from becoming poisoned. Make sure the animal fully understands the command in a controlled environment with positive reinforcement before moving on.
Your dog will learn the command better, and will consistently listen.
Taking your dog on a walk is not only necessary, but it can be really fun and help cultivate a bond between you and your pet. However, this activity is much more enjoyable if there is no power struggle between owner and dog, and if all participants are safe and comfortable.
A dog who can consistently and quickly follow your instructions is a dog that will have more fun, as they have more freedom and lower their risk of becoming injured. An obedient dog also makes walks more enjoyable for you, as you aren’t trying to wrestle them just to get down the street.
Lizz Caputo is a Content Strategist at Figo, animal enthusiast, and owner of a rescued senior American Bully. Her hobbies include checking out new restaurants in her area, boxing, and petting dogs of all shapes and sizes.