8 Tips for a Better Walk with your Dog

Dr. Gary L. Ailes

Taking your pooch for a walk can be a struggle. He pulls your arm out of its socket and then abruptly stops to smell and sprinkle every bush and tree as you trip over him.

In my 31 years of veterinary practice and as a dog owner, I have found that using a little dog psychology and some practical techniques will help you during your next walk around the block.

Always use a leash, or you may discover your pooch following the glorious world of smell from one interesting place to another, and by the time he raises his head to check his bearings, he is clueless.

Use ID tags with your current phone number on your dog’s collar and/or a high-tech chip ID that is implanted under the skin. That’s without a doubt the quickest way to get your buddy back if he gets off the leash and makes a run for it. The implanted chip is backup in case the collar slips off.

Try to remember that dogs are like kids. If they get off the leash and run for it and you chase them, they’ll think it’s a game. So don’t chase. He is likely to return on his own. If he doesn’t, act like you have his favorite treat or toy. Use any trick you can think of to get him to return short of “the chase.” Once he has returned and you’ve praised him for returning, try this: Tie a 15-foot nylon line to your dog’s collar. Securely fasten the other end to yourself or something nearby that will not give. Just before your pup reaches the end of the line, say “Whoa” or “Stop.” Be consistent using one or the other. Never switch back and forth as that will confuse him. When the line brings him to an abrupt stop, tell him to sit and praise him for being such a good dog.

Using whistles, voice patterns, intonations and body language are much better than specific words. If you want to train your dog to respond reliably, be consistent and firm in how you command him, and never be abusive.

Carry “poop bags.” Cleaning up after your dog will ensure you don’t step in it on your next trip around the block and your neighbors will appreciate your common courtesy. Those bags the paper boy uses to cover your paper in bad weather make great cleanup bags. Considering the content of most of the papers, you might leave the paper in the bag with the newly acquired fertilizer.

Know that your dog is territorial, and every tree, bush and post needs a sprinkle.

” When I go out, I just have to see
If another dog has been at my tree
I sniff it up and I sniff it down
Gotta get a read on the dogs around “

Brush or bathe your dog before coming back into the house to get the pollen out of his coat if you have allergies.

Barking at a passerby can be handled by only allowing two or three barks, and then say “Quiet.” Immediately interrupt his barking by surprising him. You can shake a can of pennies or use a squirt bottle or squirt gun filled with [water or] Listerine and squirt it at his mouth. Then, while he’s quiet, say “good quiet” and pop a tasty treat into his mouth.

Your dog is not human, which means he really does want to please you. Your job is to figure out what his actions mean, to understand that his behavior is just typical of dogs, and offer gentle but firm guidance toward good behavior.

Now get going. Grab a leash and enjoy the benefits of exercise and the pleasure of your pooch’s companionship.

Dr. Gary L. Ailes,


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