Dog Walking Tips

 by Sue Freeman

Wind, rain, snow, hail, sun … most dogs don’t care. They love to go for a walk. It’s good exercise for both of you. So, take your dog for a walk - just do it responsibly. Whether walking around your neighborhood or on a public trail, it’s important to practice responsible ownership so your dog stays safe and doesn’t disturb others.

A critical step in dog walking is choosing where to go. Your immediate neighborhood may be the most convenient option, but isn’t always the most pleasant. In winter, sidewalks, if they exist at all, may not get regularly plowed, and walking in the narrowed streets may pose a danger. A community trail may be a much more pleasant option. If you’ve never walked a trail in winter, you’re in for a treat. Bare tree branches form intricate artwork against the snow and you can see the sculpture of the terrain that‘s obscured by leaves the rest of the year.

You’d be surprised at how many area trails allow dog walking. Local guidebooks from Footprint Press (, 1-800-431-1579) such as “Snow Trails,” “Take A Hike,” “Take Your Bike,” “Take A Paddle,” and “200 Waterfalls” each describe where dogs are, and more importantly, are not welcome, so you can choose where to walk your dog responsibly. They also describe for each trail, if dogs are required to be on leash or can run free.

Regardless, when dog walking, always carry a leash, so you can quickly clip your dog in when encountering these scenarios:
-if your dog gets out of control and becomes vicious or otherwise dangerous
-while passing through any “must-be-on-leash” marked areas
-at the start or end of a walk, through parked cars or at access points
-when crossing a road
-when passing through picnic, playground, or other populated areas
-upon a reasonable request from another person
-if your dog is prone to chasing wildlife

If your dog likes to follow smells, it’s tempting to go from one smell to another and by the time he raises his head to see where he is, he’s clueless. In this case, it's safer to keep your dog clipped in. Also, remember that not all people are familiar or comfortable with dogs. It’s often polite to clip your dog in when passing others. Keep your dog on the leash if he or she isn’t under voice or other signal control. Dogs understand whistles, voice patterns, intonations and body language better than specific words. Be consistent and firm in your commands, but not abusive. As insurance against loosing your pet, have your dog wear an ID tag with your current phone number.

Carry a “poop bag” and always clean up after your pet. Others, be they neighbors or trail users, will appreciate this courtesy. Dogs are territorial so it’s common for them to squirt trees, bushes and posts as they pass. Try to steer them away from others’ personal property.

Bundle up and head outside for a walk with your dog. You’ll both be better off for the experience.

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