C'mon Baby, I'll Show You How to Walk the Dog
Your furry friend needs exercise just as much as you.
The Humane Society of the United States estimates that there are 83.3 million dogs in American households as of 2012. Millions of those dogs get some exercise and a little "doody time" while accompanying their owners on daily walks through the neighborhood. Millions of their neighbors walk out the front door to get the newspaper the next morning, only to find a nasty "surprise" on the grass. You wouldn't want to find that in your own front lawn, right? So here are some thoughts about how to be a good neighbor while exercising Rover.
What You'll Need While on Your Stroll
- A collar or harness
- A six-foot nylon or leather leash
- Plastic bag(s)
- Rewards for good behavior
- A small flashlight (after dark)
- A muzzle (optional)
- Water and a bowl for hot days
Collar and Leash
Your dog should be controlled on a six-foot fabric or leather leash.
Start responsible dog walking by tossing that retractable leash in the trash. Retractable leashes are really only good for one thing: letting your dog wander deep enough into the neighbors' yards to water their flower beds. Do what the pros do: use a sturdy leather or nylon leash that's no more than six feet long (your city leash law may even mandate that six-foot maximum). A short, stout leash gives you better control over Fido when he meets kids or other dogs or wants to visit a hydrant to check his p-mail.
Hook that leash to a quality collar. The collar should be sturdy and tight enough that it won't slip over the dog's head (a dog like a greyhound with a narrow head may require a martingale). The collar should also have Spot's tags and license on the off chance he gets loose. Some dogs, especially larger, more boisterous breeds, are easier to handle with a harness instead of a collar. If Barky likes to nip, a muzzle might be in order
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Tuck some plastic bags in your pocket to clean up after Bowser. Grocery produce bags are a good choice, as are the sleeves in which newspapers are delivered. There are also rechargeable bag dispensers that clip onto a leash; you can buy a roll of bags for the dispenser for a dollar or so. Any bag that's large enough that your hand fits in will work. If you're walking after dark, carry a small flashlight in a pocket. The light warns approaching drivers that you're there, and also comes in handy for hunting for Blackie's "output" in the tall grass. Poochie can carry her own light as well, choosing from among a wide variety of lights that clip on a collar.
On long walks, especially it the weather is hot, be sure to carry a water bowl and bottle of water for Lady and Tramp. Your local pet supply store can point you to a variety of collapsible bowls that will tuck into a pack or pocket or can be clipped onto your belt.
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Grab your bags, light(s), treats and other supplies with you and head out the door. While you and Tuffy are out for your walk, DO
- Keep Roxie on your left at "Heel" when the trail or sidewalk gets busy. Hold her leash with both hands to take up the slack.
- Walk facing traffic, on the lefthand side of the street or trail. You should stay between Poppy and any approaching people, cars or animals.
- Talk to Buddy to calm him if he starts acting nervous or excited. He'll start licking his lips when he's agitated.
- Reward Bella with a treat for good behavior.
- Obey all local ordinances and posted signage.
- Pick up what Lucky leaves behind, using one of your plastic bags. Dispose of it in the garbage, not the gutter.
On the other hand, DON'T
- Let Tucker pee in flowerbeds, even if they're planted around the mailbox (a favorite for boy dogs)
- Let small children approach Rosie without asking permission of both you and their parents
- Crowd other people walking dogs. Their dog may not be as well-behaved and socialized as your Duke.
- Let Bailey run loose, no matter how well-trained. It's like being a defensive driver: always expect the other person, dog, or driver to make a mistake; that will keep you safer.
When you get home, check Winston's paws for debris and cuts and give fresh water and food, if it's time. Dispose of any plastic bags you've filled on your walk in the garbage: your neighbors will silently thank you. With any luck, being a responsible pet owner will rub off on the neighbors, and you'll be spared future unpleasant surprises in your own front yard.
Enjoy your walk!