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Dog Walking 101

Longtime readers know that Lilly and I often take little trips off the mountain for Mommy & Lil dates. We run errands. We take walks in town on busy paths. We share patio lunches at our favorite local restaurants that allow pups to dine outside. Now that the weather is warmer, we try to get out at least once a week. Even with spring barely underway here in the Rocky Mountains, we see more and more people and dogs out during our adventures — much more so than in the winter. Recently, a couple of things have really started to BUG me. So, I developed these 10 tips for walking dogs.


But, first my mini-rant. Two things that bug me!

1. People who ignore their dogs on walks.

Now, I understand that my fellow rural types enjoy leisurely outings, where it’s enough to just walk through our valleys, up our mountains, across our creeks. I’m not talking about that nearly meditative experience of togetherness. I’m not (for once) talking about people who have NO IDEA what’s on the end of the leash and thereby allow their dogs to be rude or menacing.

I’m talking about people who are either on the phone, chatting with someone else, or just plodding along with no regard for the dog’s presence.

Maybe I’m too “me,” but walks serve many purposes for us. Sure, it’s absolutely exercise for both of us. Many times, it’s just the joy of being together. But, often, I keep Lilly working during our walks. In part, I strive to keep her from being bored, but … especially when we are in town, which is much noisier and scarier to Lilly … I keep her focused to control her fear better. Even if I just ask WATCH ME as we pass people or dogs, it helps Lilly cope.

So, perhaps to others, I look like the crazy chattering lady who talks a LOT to her dog and hands food over like a human PEZ dispenser, but I see them, and I think … Geez! Give that dog a little social interaction. Merely being connected by a leash isn’t enough.

2. People who use harsh methods with any dog, but especially puppies.

I watched two young women (late teens, early 20s) jerk a small, young pup up and down the path on Saturday. I have no idea on breed mix, but I’m guessing based on coloring and a docked tail, it might have had some Rottie. The poor little sweetie looked about 10 weeks old, tops. And, she was wearing a choke collar.

This was a doh-dee-doh kind of puppy. Not unruly at all. Probably too young to be very unruly anyway. Nonetheless, it required a choke collar apparently for “control.”

Anytime, this sweet pup showed any interest at all at anything, even just sniffing along the trail, it received a sharp jerk on the collar. It made me so sad.

I fought the urge to say something


Dog Walking 101: Ten Tips

  1. Flexible leashes suck. Use a nice leather or cotton one instead.
  2. If strength/control is an issue, try a head collar or harness… instead of some horrible choking or pinching collar.
  3. Bring lots of high-value treats to reward your dog for being good.
  4. Break out all the praise words you can think of to let your dog know this is a fun time.
  5. Throw in a few cues now and then (sit, wait, whatever) to keep things interesting.
  6. Let your dog sniff around (as is safe) along the trail. Dogs need to use their nose. It’s good for their brains.
  7. Don’t let your dog greet any other dog without permission. It is not polite.
  8. Rather than bomb through when the trail is busy, ask your dog to sit nicely “off trail” until the coast is clear.
  9. Take a few breaks to sit down and cuddle.
  10. Scoop the poop.

Roxanne Hawn

Trained as a traditional journalist and based in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, USA, I'm a full-time freelance writer for magazines, websites, and private clients. My areas of specialty include everything in the lifestyles arena, including health and home, personal finance and other consumer interests, relationships and trends, people and business profiles ... and, of course, all things pet related. I don't just love dogs. I need them in my life. Seriously.

Yoga Clothes - April 7, 2009

Thanks for this tips. I am going to give this to my brother.

Rox - March 31, 2009

Don’t you worry about my feelings, KB. The trick with scenarios like yours is how to know an area is ripe with off-leash dogs as a norm. I know it’s a pretty easy assumption in your neck of the woods, but it can be hard to know in other spots.

Typically, we ONLY go to places where we know leashes are required — even though, clearly, people break the rules all the time.

KB - March 31, 2009

I like your tips – basically people need to be considerate of others by paying attention to their dog’s behavior and they also need to interact reasonably with their dog.

I have one to add – with some trepidation – because I’m afraid that you won’t like it. If there’s a place where off-leash dogs are the absolute norm, a dog who is aggressive or fearful of other dogs shouldn’t go there.

Here’s the background for my opinion – there’s a network of national forest trails behind my house that’s accessible only to people who own land bordering it. Our small community of trail users coexist fairly happily – and everyone, and I truly mean everyone – has their dogs off-leash. Occasionally, an outsider trespasses to access the trails with an aggressive dog in tow. They may or may not have the dog on leash. Basically, it’s a disaster, regardless of whether they can corral their aggressive dog because some other trail users don’t even carry leashes. (I realize that in an ideal world all dog owners would always be ready to successfully recall their dogs and leash them – but our little trail network isn’t an ideal world).

It’s a unique situation – but not completely unique because there are other places where off-leash dogs are the norm.

Fortunately, there are lots of places where keeping your dog under control is required – which gives fearful and aggressive dogs places to visit!

Greg S - March 31, 2009

Great list! Now if you could only get all those offenders to read and follow it… hmm.
We dont do much leash walking, except at trials or training class – there isn’t much call for it since we are on 40 acres.
I cant stand when people have their dogs on leash at a trial but are oblivious to what the dog is doing. My dog doesn’t like other dogs in his face and I’m therefore very aware, but just because you have a happy-go-lucky pup, don’t assume everyone else does!

Heather - March 31, 2009

Love this! Remind me to tell you about the couple I saw at the cone on Sunday with their 2 dogs who were OFF LEASH. The “treat to distract” method worked great with Hannah….

Nancy - March 31, 2009

These are great dog-walking tips–thanks! Our Dinah (airedale, 70 pounds)is strong and headstrong but she has a very delicate throat and tugging against a collar attached to the leash makes her cough and retch. A harness to which the leash fastens at the center of her chest (we got one for the somewhat more compliant Crispin, too) works great for us (on, as you said, a non-retractable leash). If she gets too far ahead of us she has to turn back around, and she actually enjoys walks with us again.

Our favorite walk treat is a small jar of meat baby food, which I hold close to my side,uncapping it and offering just a lick or two now and then to reward nice heeling-Crispin now he just naturally walks at my side–even in the house.

Enjoy those spring walks!

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