Before we owned a dog, I assumed ‘walkies’ would be an easy breezy task. Just pop the lead on, skip out of the door and everyone would have a jolly good time. However it soon became apparent that it’s not quite that simple and that learning how to make walks a fun, safe and stimulating time for your dog takes time and training for both the human and the animal! Your dog will need walks and play time every single day, come rain or shine, and sometimes this might not be possible for you to provide. On these occasions why not try a dog-walking service like Rover?
My dog absolutely hated being on a lead, he would sit down and refuse to move. We didn’t force anything on him, but we let him wander around the house with the lead on and nobody holding him, and we had plenty of treats and cuddles of encouragement when we attempted to leave the house with him. I don’t honestly know if this was the right thing to do, but after a few weeks he became less timid of the lead and understood it meant getting outside and seeing the world. It took a few more months before we were happy to let him off the lead outside, in the interim we would run with him whilst on the lead or use a long or extendable lead to give him some sense of freedom. This wasn’t an attempt to punish him, but to keep him safe. As we were getting to know each other and how he behaved around other dogs we knew when we could let him off the lead and where the safe places were.
Even now, when we’ve had Ralphie for three years, we would never immediately let him off the lead in a brand new environment. It’s so exciting for him, with new smells and dogs and places to explore but we can’t be sure of restrictions on dogs (many beaches for example total dog bans for six months of the year, and ask for dogs to be on the lead when on the promenades) and also that he won’t be distracted and accidentally end up in the path of danger. We keep Ralphie on his lead, letting him sniff around and understand where he is until he seems to relax into the new location. As a puppy this would take him quite a while as he was a ball of energy just itching to run off into the sunset, but now as a slightly more mature dog he calms down quickly and we can trust him off the lead within a few minutes of arriving.
If you’re not sure about dog restrictions you can check online or ask someone locally if they know. Often there will be an area or a stretch of beach that is open to dogs all year, and is normally somewhere slightly more secluded and away from the roads, ice cream trucks and beach BBQs. As much as you love your dog, the last thing you want is for them to be a nuisance to families enjoying a picnic or with young children who may be nervous of animals. Being aware is the most important thing when taking your doggy out and about!
Greeting people and other dogs is inevitable when you’re out on a walk. It’s up to you to know whether your dog enjoys this socialisation or not, and to check with the owners of other dogs before encouraging interaction. The last thing you want is for either dog to feel cornered and spooked by the situation. Finally, I’m sure it doesn’t need to be said, but always make sure you have a collection of poop bags ready and waiting because your dog will pick the most awkward moments to squat on the floor. We have a little container attached to Ralphie’s lead that gives us easy access at a moment’s notice!
It’s all common sense, a lot of love and a lot of patience. If you’re a new dog owner, or you’re looking after someone else’s dog for a while just err on the side of caution, be aware of your surroundings and try to get to know when the dog is calm and happy or nervous.