Having a great walk with your dog seems like such a simple thing. Grab a leash and go! But anyone who has been dragged down the road by an energetic pup knows better than that: sometimes, you need a little help. The array of tools at your disposal can be dizzying. How do you choose? Which is best? Here are 6 essentials to having a great walk with your dog.
#1 Poo bags. This one’s not complicated. Poop happens. Be a decent human being and pick up after your dog. A few grocery bags stuffed in your pocket will do the trick, but if your dog is the cheeky type who always somehow knows how many bags you’ve got and poops once more than that, invest in a few store-bought rolls.
#2 Lights and reflective apparel. If you regularly walk in the evenings or early mornings, you want your pet to be visible! Many collars and leashes come with reflective threads woven into them, but if your road is especially perilous, try a light-up collar or tag for extra visibility.
#3 Martingales. Martingale collars are regular dog collars with a fabric loop that allows the collar to tighten a limited amount. Sometimes called “no-slip” collars, these are ideal for dogs who try to back out of regular collars or who just need a little bit of feedback when they pull. Because they can only tighten a little, they won’t choke or strangle your pet and can be worn as their regular everyday collar. For dogs who are very motivated and tend to pull very hard on walks, martingales won’t be a magical solution, but they’re ideal for a generally well-mannered dog who just needs a reminder.
#4 No-pull harnesses. The pros? These seem to be fairly comfortable on dogs. Once they’re on, dogs are generally happy to go about their business without being too fussed about the harness. The cons? They can be confusing to put on at first (if I had a penny for every time someone put my dog’s on wrong…) and, while they help a lot for some dogs, a determined dog can still pull pretty hard.
#5 Head collars. These come in two types: the “gentle leader” type and the “halti” type. These consist of a loop that goes around the dog’s muzzle and a second loop that goes around the dog’s head. The leash attaches under the dog’s chin.
On the “Gentle Leader” type, it’s just those two loops. Both should be pretty tight, although the dog should still be able to open their mouth if it’s properly fitted. The advantage of this type over the “Halti” type is that there’s less bulk overall. For some dogs who dislike having something on their face, lighter is better.
On the “Halti” type, there are extra straps on the cheeks. This allows both loops to be looser on the dog’s head and still effective, but it does create more bulk.
If your goal is to stop your dog from pulling pretty much entirely, a head collar is the way to go. The cons, though? It takes some training to get the dog to accept the collar and to learn to walk on it. It’s not ideal for dogs who are nervous about their faces being touched. It may not work well on short-nosed breeds. And many dogs seem to find it fairly uncomfortable.
#6 Training. While these tools can have great instant results, as soon as you try to use a regular collar, they’ll be back to their old shenanigans. The best way to instill good leash manners in your dog? Train them!
The technique I’ve found most effective for dogs who simply want to charge forward at full-speed is “surprise walks.” While walking your dog, stop, start, walk backwards, or change direction abruptly and without warning. Your dog will quickly learn that if they want to know which way they’re going, they’d better pay attention to you. Once they’re starting to get the hang of it, just stop short any time they start pulling and stare straight ahead. The dog will learn that in order for the thing they want (attention and walks) to continue, they have to mind their manners.
The important thing, as always, is to remember that all dogs are individuals and no one thing will work for all people, all dogs, or all situations. Some lucky dog parents will find that their pooch walks like an angel with no training at all, while others will have to exhaust every tool at their disposal in order to get through to their total knucklehead of a dog. The important thing is not that the dog is walked perfectly every time. It takes steps to get there. The most important thing is that your dog gets walked for exercise and mental stimulation.
Need help? Call us! Whether it’s for exercise, adventure, or just a mid-day potty break, our talented team of dog walkers is there to help you make sure your best pal gets the leash time they deserve. Reserve a spot HERE
Janie founded 4-Legged Kids, Inc in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1997 and provides education through her PetBizHIVE podcast and her PetBizMBA membership and courses. She is a Certified Professional Animal Care Operator, Fear Free certified and a Certified Professional Pet Sitter. Learn more about the Founder, Janie Budnick.