Sunday, January 10, 2016

Start your new year on the right foot by walking your dog!

If you were like me, you did too much sitting, too much eating and not enough moving around this past holiday season.  But, it just so happens that January is National Walk Your Dog Month.  What a perfect time for both you and Fido to get off the sofa and get some overdue exercise, the benefits of which for the both of you are wonderful.  Not only will you have a reason to get out and enjoy some fresh air and maybe lose some of those extra holiday pounds, but you will also have a faithful companion to do it with.  What a perfect way to reinforce the bond between the two of you.

Healthy dogs are energetic and, unless they have constructive outlets for that pent-up energy, bad behaviors can ensue.  If the animal is bored and has nothing else to do, be prepared for the possibility of destructive chewing, barking for no reason, or him being uncontrollable and uncooperative.  Taking Fido for a walk helps to give him something positive to do instead.  Just as we need physical and mental stimulation to function well, so do our dogs.  Exploring the world with him by your side helps to provide it.  In addition, you will have a multitude of opportunities to teach him new things.  He could learn to “sit” before crossing a road, to “lie down” quietly while you rest, and to “drop it” when he gets into something he shouldn’t.  The more you share time with your dog, the stronger your relationship becomes.

Socialization is equally important, especially in the early stages, for a well-behaved, confident animal.  Walking provides exposure to a wide variety of situations, such as loud noises, other animals, unfamiliar people, and noxious smells.  Dogs without varied exposure can become fearful or, worse, territorially aggressive.  When puppies learn how to interact and communicate with people, other canines, and other species they will become less likely to show aggressive behavior when they reach adulthood. 

While walking is the perfect opportunity to do some training, there is no reason it cannot be fun and pleasurable for you both.  Before heading out be sure to prepare adequately for your jaunt.  Always carry disposable bags for picking up your dog’s feces.  Leaving dog waste is not only a health hazard, but also extremely inconsiderate to others who may be enjoying a relaxing stroll.  If you would not like to step in a pile of dog dung, why would you then consider that anyone else would like it?  Be sure to carry water for yourself and your dog to hydrate, especially in warm weather.  There are easy to carry, collapsible water bowls available, or you can always have the animal lap the water from your cupped hands.  You will also need to have some of the dog’s favorite bite-sized treats, easily eaten, for rewards as you train good behavior.

According to Tehama County Animal regulations, anytime you and your dog leave your property, the dog must be restrained by a leash and under your physical control.  It is important to be aware that, if the dog is loose and does any damage, you as the owner can be held liable for any costs incurred.  There are many types of leashes available to meet the need, so pick one that is comfortable to hold.  However, I would recommend that you avoid using a retractable lead, especially if the dog has not been properly trained to walk on a regular leash. 

It is also important to remember that, until your dog learns to walk politely on loose leash, all walks the both of you take are training walks, because good leash skills are mandatory for both you and your dog’s safety.  Even a small dog can cause injury to you and himself if he pulls too hard, wanders back and forth in front of you, or jerks you around.  When properly trained, your dog should walk steadily beside you with the leash slack (loose leash).  Initially, especially with puppies, it is also advisable to keep walks frequent, short in duration, and positive for your dog.  Until he has mastered leash walking, you may have to find additional means to exercise the dog since the training sessions might be too short to provide the necessary exercise.  

So celebrate National Walk Your Dog Month, by grabbing a leash and walking with your furry friend.  Fido will not be the only one benefiting from the exercise.  You can be sure you will, too! 


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