Walking your dog is one of the most rewarding aspects of dog ownership. Getting outside, breathing fresh air, letting your thoughts wander and chuckling as your dog thoroughly enjoys the experience just as much as you do!

It is no wonder that pet ownership has been proven to improve your health. In fact, the Human-Animal Bond Research Institute directly correlates pet ownership with a reduction in anxiety, loneliness and depression as pets enhance social support and general well-being.

At the Georgian Triangle Humane Society when adopting a dog, we cannot emphasize the importance of the dog walk enough. Not only does this activity strengthen your bond with your new companion but the regular, routine of the dog walk promotes good behaviour, reduces stress and results in a calmer canine.

The art of walking your dog can take practice, patience and perseverance. These few tips can make a big impact!
  • 4 Exercising your dog before taking them out on leash will greatly improve the walking experience. High impact exercise such as fetch, recall games, or a dog to dog play ses- sion are great activities for you to engage in with your dog before taking them for a nice relaxing walk. In this case, the walk actually acts as a ‘cool down’ activity which is good practice for your dog’s physical health.
  • 4 Be a leader! A key point to remember during your walk is that YOU are the leader, not your dog. This does not mean that your dog has to walk behind you, rather, as the leader you will be creating the rules of the walk. For example, while you are walking, you expect that your dog maintains a loose leash. One way to encourage a loose leash is to STOP in your tracks without any verbal cues, each time your dog pulls. If you are consistent with this rule your dog will learn quite quickly that pressure on the leash (pulling) results in the walk stopping.
  • Accommodate for your dog’s energy level. A common misconception about leashed dog walks is that they are meant to be the primary source of exercise for your dog. Walks provide exposure to new stimuli and environments making them a crucial part of keeping your dogs mentally prepared, satisfied, and HAPPY! If your dog is ready to go out and explore with you when their energy level is very high, then it can be difficult for them to walk nicely on their leash. This can lead to a very frustrating walk for you and your dog as well as some sore shoulders!
  • stop to sniff or have a bathroom break. You can choose to allow your dog to sniff at every tree, however following the rule above, your dog cannot pull you to where they would like to go, so you must in- dicate. Giving your dog a cue such as “OKAY”, “do your business” or “BREAK”, is a clear indication to your dog that THIS is the time they can ‘break’ their walking position. Cuing them with a “LET’S GO” or “FINISHED”, when they are finished, or when you would like to move on, also helps your dog learn ‘rules’ to the walk.

These rules should always be applied to encourage good walking manners whether your dog is interested in investigating a sniff spot, a dog, person, or an object.

Working towards a pleasant walking experience for both yourself and your dog can take time and patience, but the work is worth it! Resources such as training classes can help both human and dog to practice their routine in a distracting environment (nothing like other dogs to test your skills!).

77% of pet owners say that pets and humans benefit equally from their bond and we couldn’t agree more. Daily we hear stories of hope, friendship and love from our adopters and they all centre around of the human-animal bond. Spring is here, and we encour- age you to get out and enjoy the sunshine with your canine compan- ion. Your body, mind and soul will thank you for it! |E|

Courtney Hancock is Canine Behaviour Coordinator for the Georgian Triangle Humane Society.