Store Locator

How to Walk Your Dog Properly

From reducing pulling to introducing your pet to another dog, here’s how to ensure every walk is a good one

A man with dark hair wearing black pants and shoes and an orange coat with white headphones around his neck is standing on a path looking in one direction. He is holding onto a black leash that is attached to a medium-sized dog.

One of the perks of dog ownership is a ready excuse to get outside, but it’s not as simple as snapping a leash onto your pet’s collar. To ensure your dog gets the most of your stroll together, here are five things to consider.

Check your municipal requirements

In general, municipalities require pets to be licenced and to wear a tag, which will have your contact information so that your pet can be returned to you in the event they are lost.

Dogs should always be on a leash when outside on public property. The only exception is at an off-leash park. But check with your municipality for specific bylaws and regulations.

Get the right gear

Attach your dog’s identification and registration tags to a collar. “When introducing a collar, it’s important to have the right fit,” says Sheila Kerr, owner of Sheila’s Dog Services in Stittsville, Ont., and a professional dog walker with seven years of experience. This means it should be snug enough so it won’t slip off. Kerr recommends a martingale collar, which won’t slip over the dog’s head if they pull back.

Hannah Sotropa, assistant manager of communications at the Toronto Humane Society, recommends walking dogs on a leash that is no longer than six feet long. Avoid using retractable leashes, which are sometimes referred to as extendable or flexi leashes, as they can become tangled, trip people or other pets. They also provide your dog with an opportunity to wander too far away from you.

If you opt to use a harness, make sure it fits your pet properly. VCA Canada, which represents animal hospitals and veterinarians across the country, suggests finding a harness that is easy to put on and take off, allows your dog’s shoulder joints to move freely and won’t cause chafing.

What to bring with you

Carry a few poop bags with you, whether in your pocket or in a dispenser affixed to your pup’s leash. For long walks—and on particularly hot days—bring water for you and your pet and a collapsible dog bowl.

Having some treats to reward good behaviour is also helpful. “You can even incorporate periodic training games during your walk where you can cue your dog to practice a behaviour he’s learned and reinforce that behaviour with a treat,” Sotropa says.

What to do when encountering other people and dogs

When approaching an unfamiliar dog on leash, don’t let the dogs meet face to face, Kerr says. “When a dog is on leash, they are restricted in their movement, which may cause them to become tense. The safe approach is to walk side-by-side with enough distance so the dogs are not touching.” This helps establish a pack mentality, making the animals more comfortable, Kerr says.

If you are going out for a walk with a friend and their dog, meet up outside at a neutral spot, Sotropa says. Keep about six feet away from each other and walk in the same direction.

“Reward dogs for calm behaviour and eventually, assuming the dogs are not showing signs of nervousness, you can allow the dogs to wander closer together,” Sotropa says. But be prepared to call your dog away if they look like they are stiffening up or acting pensive.

Unfamiliar people may also make dogs nervous. “Approach them cautiously and pay attention to the dog’s body language,” Kerr says.

What to do if your dog pulls on his or her leash during the walk

There are many reasons that dogs pull on a leash, including fear, excitement or to give chase. According to VCA Canada, dogs strain forward when they feel pressure on their collars. If you’re having problems with pulling, you’re not alone. Most dogs require several months of walking on a leash before they master it, meaning owners should be persistent and patient.

“We strongly recommend that owners enroll their dogs in training classes led by certified animal trainers to teach essential skills such as leash walking so that your walks with your pup are relaxing and enjoyable for both of you,” Sotropa says.

Image credit: chabybucko/iStock

More from CAA

If you’re looking for a leash, a harness or other supplies for your dog, visit Ren’s Pets. CAA Members save 10 percent on select items in-store and online. And be sure to protect your four-legged family member with CAA Pet Insurance.