Dog Walking Basics

dog walking basics

Guide to Dog Walking Basics

While the first Stay at Home order left us needing to brush up on our social skills, it may have left some pups needing a brush up on walking skills, as well. Below are some of our best dog walking basics and links to our favorite dog walking equipment.

Equipment:

As part of our COVID safety protocol, we’ve equipped our dog walkers with their own Weiss Walkies. We chose these leashes specifically because they double as harnesses when attached to a dog’s collar. When the dog pulls, the Walkie applies pressure around the dog’s middle, as opposed to its neck, thus gently correcting them.

Harnesses:

For bigger dogs who pull harder than average while walking, we recommend the Easy Walk (with leash attached to the chest) or Freedom No-Pull with the double connecting leash.

Leashes:

Any leash is fine with one notable exception: retractable leashes. They are the worst. We cannot stress how much we hate them. In a city, you need to have full control over your dog. When we train our walkers, we show them proper leash handling, which includes keeping the dog by your side, and wrapping the leash around your wrist for multiple points of contact. This is not possible with a retractable leash.

Poop bags:

We don’t splurge on these. We order Amazon basics for our dog walkers.

Biodegradable poop bags sound like a good idea, but it’s not that simple. Several manufactures have taken heat for false marketing claims, since their biodegradable bags aren’t really, well, biodegradable. Whoops. Same goes for “compostable.”.

Jackets and Sweaters:

For pits, pit mixes and otherwise barrel-chested pups, we like Tooth & Honey and Pittie Clothing Company. The clothes are made specifically for their hard-to-fit frames.

For slighthounds and deeper-chested dogs, Redhound for Dogs makes tailored fleeces, jackets and snoods.

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UT pup Spooky Fox Mulder in his Redhound for Dogs fleece

For the Chicago cold, Voyagers K9 Apparel makes great winter coats, as does Hurtta.

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UT pup Spooky Fox Mulder modeling a Voyager jacket

Booties:

I (Erik) like the tried and true Pawz balloon boots for snow and salt. However, this is a controversial opinion among the other UT managers. Some people find them difficult to put on. 

Another (arguably easier) option is Walkee Paws. They’re basically leggings/stirrups. They look ridiculous, but they’re easy to put on and keep slush off your dog’s legs and belly.

SaltSox, or something similar, is another good option if you struggle with the balloon boots.

Water dish:

Water is a must on hot days or long walks. We bring collapsible dog bowls along with our water bottles on our adventure walks. They’re collapsible and clip right to your leash or backpack. They’re cheap and can be purchased from Amazon.

We also like the dog bowl/water bottle combos such as Highwave AutoDogMug or Vivaglory Dog Water Bottle.

Training Basics:

Teaching your dog basics such as “sit”, “heel”, “wait”, and “down” will help immensely with walking. Dogs love to learn and enjoy having “jobs,” so your walks will be better for everyone if you’re leading your dog through commands.

Walking is important! Going on walks provides basic mental and physical foundations for dogs. It’s not fun being cooped up in the house all day. If you have a yard, that’s great for easy potty breaks, but walks are still necessary. Going on walks introduces your dog to tons of new stimuli, which keeps them mentally sharp and happy.

Let them sniff. Dogs follow their noses while out on walks. It’s important to allow them time to sniff and enjoy their walks instead of just pulling them along. It might not look like they’re doing much, but to dogs, sniffing is everything. It’s how they experience the world. When I’m out walking, I tell the dog it’s his walk. If he wants to sniff, we sniff. If he wants to walk fast, we walk fast. This ensures the walk is both mentally stimulating as well as physical.

Take it easy with puppies. Puppies shouldn’t (and likely won’t) walk too far to start. A 20-min walk is more than enough for a dog under three months. You can gradually build up as they grow.

If you’re having a hard time getting your puppy to walk far enough to go potty, try carrying them away from home. Puppies are more likely to walk the farther they are from home. That’s why we’ll sometimes carry them down the block or to a new area, and then have them walk home.

Start with a routine. If your dog is new to you or walking, start with a routine. Try to walk them around the same time each day and follow the same routes while you get comfortable with each other. This will help reinforce good behaviors and will set expectations on how your dog should act when you take them to new areas.

Bring treats! Take small treats with you on walks to reward good behavior and redirect attention away from other dogs/bad situations. Also, use treats to work on training while outside. Training inside and training while outside are very different. There are so many more distractions outside, so when you train your dog outside, he’s basically leveling up.

Do not give treats if your dog is showing unwanted behaviors. Make sure you correct the behavior before giving treats.

Sit. Stay. Repeat. Make your pup sit before continuing on. Make your dog sit at the door before heading outside. Make your dog sit at intersections before crossing the street. Make your dog sit before saying hi to other dogs or people/kids. This ensures your pup understands that you are the boss and in control of the walk.

Unwanted Behaviors:

Pulling. Using a harness such as Weiss Walkie, Easy Walk, or Freedom No-Pull will put pressure on your dog’s chest area to keep them from pulling. If your dog pulls:

  • DO NOT PULL BACK ON LEASH. Dogs have an opposition reflex. It means they will pull if they feel a force pulling them in the opposite direction. Pulling back on a leash will only cause more pulling from your dog.
  • STOP. If your dog is pulling, come to a complete stop and start walking in the opposite direction. This will help your pup learn to follow you. It will take time, but if done consistently, your pet will learn that pulling is an unwanted behavior.
  • SIT. Make them sit and look at you. Use command “watch” to reinforce them paying attention to you before continuing.

Scavenging. All dogs are scavengers, but some are far worse than others. If your pup is a bonafide garbage eater, try these tips:

  • LEAVE IT. Teach the “leave it” command. Work on this at home and while out on walks. Put a treat in the palm of your hand and tell your dog to “leave it” until you say “okay”. Close your hand if your dog tries to grab the treat before you say it’s okay. Tell them “leave it” every time they attempt to grab treat until you finally have told them it’s okay to grab treat. Then use this command when they attempt to pick things up off the ground.
  • KEEP AN EYE OUT. Put your phone down and enjoy your walk with your pet. Keep an eye on the surroundings and steer clear of things that your dog might be interested in picking up.
  • LEARN YOUR DOG’S CUES. Each dog has a certain cue when they’re on the hunt for a special snack off the ground. Learning what your dog does before and during this time will help you in the future.
  • GO FOR WALKS AFTER FEEDING. A dog will a full belly will be less likely to scavenge on the walk.
  • CONTROLLED SCAVENGING SESSIONS. Some dogs just need to scavenge! It’s in their DNA. Setting up scavenger hunts with treats in your home or yard will help your dog.
  • PRACTICE RECALL. Keep a close eye on your pet and give a quick tug of the leash while saying “No!” if your pet is about to pick something off the ground.

Leash Aggression. We see this a lot. A dog can be a perfect angel, great with dogs at daycare, but then act like Cujo while on leash.

  • HOW BAD IS IT? If your dog is screaming bloody murder and hard to control, then it’s probably time to call in an expert. (Anything is Pawzible, Call of the Wild, and Barker Behavior are our favorite experts)
  • USE TREATS TO REDIRECT. Distract your pup, make them sit, and give them a treat when a dog passes nearby.
  • AVOIDANCE. Cross the street and stay away from situations that cause your pup anxiety/stress.
  • STAY CALM. Your dog senses your tension, so it’s important you remain calm. If you’re walking by a barking dog, ignore it and pretend it isn’t there. Stay as calm as you can and try not to add tension to the leash.
  • DESENSITIZE. Training your dog to not react aggressively on leash may take a while, depending on your dog. Start by keeping a safe distance from other dogs and letting your dog watch. Use treats or a favorite toy to keep him calm. Move closer if they’re doing well. If they react, turn around and walk away. Do not tug on the leash. If your dog acts negatively, you’ve gotten too close too quickly. Move further back, and then move closer slowly but surely. This is easier to do if you can recruit a friend and their dog.
  • GREETING. This might take a while, but if your dog doesn’t react while walking past another dog, then a greeting is in order. It’s best to have your dog sit close to the other dog and then go for a short walk together. Dogs are pack animals who enjoy social walks with other dogs. However, DO NOT DO A FACE TO FACE GREETING UNTIL YOUR DOG IS COMFORTABLE. Start with short walks before allowing your dog to sniff/say hi to the other dog.

A Quick Note About Separation Anxiety:

While this isn’t a walking tip, we’ve heard from quite a few of our clients that their pups are exhibiting signs of separation anxiety, given the strange times. If your dog is, too, check out our post on Curbing Separation Anxiety Before Returning to Work.