How to enjoy Walk Your Dog month

Published date25 January 2023
Publication titleWest Coast Messenger, The
With a little planning, some training (especially for new pet parents) and a good idea of what to expect, the daily walk with your dog can be a special time you'll both look forward to

"Humans caring for dogs has an astonishingly long history, with big benefits for both sides. There are good reasons why we say dogs are a person's best friend," says Michelle Le Long, COO of pet insurance specialist PD Insurance.

"A key part of dog parenting is ensuring their daily exercise, which many see as motivation for regularly stretching their own legs too. But it isn't always as simple as setting off around the block; particular pointers make for a predictably successful outing every time."

Canine behaviour and training expert Maria Alomajan, who heads Canine by Nature, says the heart of a successful dog walk is making yourself the centre of your dog's attention.

"When you're out with your dog, you're competing with a whole world of distractions. Make it easy to choose you. Be interesting and reinforcing."

She also advises using a 'high-value reinforcer' - a treat.

"My puppy loves salmon. He only gets salmon for recall. Whenever we go out, I take a separate stash of dried salmon."

· Training your dog

Before venturing out, basic training for your pup is highly advisable, particularly for new pet parents. Your dog should be familiar with wearing a collar, comfortable with being on a leash, and preferably capable of understanding basic commands like 'sit', 'stay', and 'heel'.

Attending dog training classes beforehand is worthwhile too, where they will also socialise with other dogs and people, becoming more familiar with the encounters likely when you are out and about.

"Practice, practice, practice," is Alomajan's advice, and not just when on walkies.

"Start training at home, use recall games - Google will help you here - and then slowly move into the outside world. Set realistic timelines for teaching your dog how amazing you are."

Do not be too hard on yourself, or your pooch, either. "If you're frustrated, it's likely your dog is too and it's time to head home," says Alomajan.

· Equip yourself (and your dog!)

On the topic of 'know before you go', Alomajan points to the Department of Conservation (DOC) 'Lead the Way' campaign, which helps dog owners equip themselves with the knowledge...

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