Taking daily walks with your best four-legged friend is not only good exercise for both of you but is also a great time to bond with your pet, enjoy the great outdoors and unwind from the stress of everyday problems. But are you aware of the dangers that may be lurking ahead?
Recently while walking a friend’s dog I stopped for a moment to talk to a neighbour who was asking about the breed of the dog. In that very short moment, the pup suddenly bolted and had a large piece of a chocolate bar in his mouth. The pup had never been taught the command “drop it” or “leave it” and I was forced to wrestle with the pup to get the candy bar out of his mouth before he devoured it. Luckily, I was able to get most of the chocolate and the pup was fine but, had I not been paying attention, the outcome could have been very different and harmful for the pup.
While we are out enjoying walks with our furry friend, we should never let our guard down. We should always be aware of food that has been tossed away, the remains of a bird or rodent at the side of the road, or broken glass, any one of which could seriously harm your pup. If you frequent parks and your dog has more freedom, you need to watch closely for bits and pieces of picnic lunches and dinners which can be tossed on the ground or taken out of trash cans by wildlife. Quite often you will find discarded chicken bones and rib bones which your pup could take a liking to.
The majority of pet owners are responsible for their pets and pick up after them. However, there are a few who will think that if it’s in the park or a forested area it doesn’t matter and sometimes on a dark blustery or rainy day they may be in a rush and leave the poop. Most pups and some older dogs are drawn to the smell of other dogs’ feces and will try to eat it. For us this is disgusting, but for your dog it may seem like a treat so always steer your dog clear of any feces you may come across on your walk.
Another thing we should consider, especially when walking your dog early in the morning or later in the evening or if you are walking in an area where there are no sidewalks, is to have a reflective collar or leash on your pup. A flashing light on his collar so that he is highly visible to motorists is also a good idea. This is especially important for dark coloured dogs and small toy breeds which may not be seen by a car driver. You should bring a flashlight along for yourself as well.
In keeping with staying safe while out on a stroll with your pooch, you always need to protect him from extreme cold weather, or alternatively hot weather. When the north winds blow and the temperature plummets you should limit your time outside and, for small dogs and those with short fine fur, you should invest in a coat or sweater to help protect your pup from the cold. When the sun shines and the temperature rises check the pavement. If it’s too hot to hold your hand on the sidewalk for 5 seconds, it’s too hot for your pup’s paws. This is when you should try to go to a park and stay on the grass or any other well shaded area. Be it cold or hot, if your pup starts to shiver or pant excessively, take him back home.
During very hot sunny days, if your pet has “pink” skin and short fine fur, you should apply pet sun screen to your furry friend. Certain breeds of dogs are prone to sun burn and, without proper protection, can suffer severe sun burns.
Also, when going for our daily walks, it is wise to bring along fresh water, so your dog doesn’t become dehydrated or get overheated. Offering your pet fresh water will also discourage him from taking a drink from a pond or puddle which could be contaminated with parasites or chemicals which have been applied to the grass. This is even more important if you run or jog with your pup, or if you take him to a secure area to let him run off leash. In any event don’t let your dog overdo it. You would also be smart to have a few tasty treats with you to encourage your pup to return to you when it’s time to go home or have a rest.
Safety should always be your top priority when out walking with your best friend, so ensure that when you start out you have the proper leash attached to your pooch’s collar. As a regular routine be sure that you use a leash that is in good condition, free of knots, tears and is not fraying which could cause it to break suddenly. The size and length should be appropriate for the strength and size of your dog. Also, make sure that your pet is always wearing a tag with your name and phone number just in case he breaks away and gets lost.
I cannot stress enough the importance of training your pup to properly heel at your side rather than pull you down the street. For those of you who use a retractable leash for your convenience and ease, remember that retractable leashes, especially the cheap ones, can snap after prolonged use, excessive pulling and the locks on them are often not reliable. The best safety advice is to work with your pup so he can walk nicely with you and use a good quality nylon or leather leash that is six feet or no more than eight feet in length. This length will give your pup more than enough room to go off to the boulevard to sniff or do his business.
So, take those beneficial daily walks with your pup but be careful and stay safe at the same time.