4 Things You Didn't Know About Walking the Dog


Walking is beneficial for you and for your dog. It's great exercise for both species, helping to control weight gain and blood pressure, and improve muscle tone and joint function. It's a fantastic outlet for the pent up energy that many dogs bank while waiting for their owners to return from work. You may think you know how to walk the dog, but read on to learn the finer points of this wonderful human-canine bonding opportunity.

Unchain my heart

Even though other canines at the dog park may be green with envy over your dog's Tory Burch collar, it's probably not the best accessory for walking. Collars compress the trachea (windpipe) when the opposite force of you pulling on the leash is exerted on them. Some dogs – typically small breeds – have a condition known as collapsing trachea, and the slightest pressure on the trachea causes coughing. The disease can worsen over time, to the point that the trachea snaps shut spontaneously, causing extreme respiratory distress and even collapse.

Collapsing trachea isn't the only disease that should make you avoid a collar. If your dog has sustained neck injuries in the past, or has disk disease in that region of the spine, you should definitely avoid collars. A harness or a Gentle Leader are better choices for walking, as they allow you to control your dog adequately but don't put pressure on the neck. The Gentle Leader is a newer style of harness, designed to discourage pulling.

Pick up after your dog

You'd think most of us would have this one down by now, but perhaps some people still need a reminder to pick up your dog's poop on a walk. If you're not disgusted by finding poop on the sidewalk, approach it from this angle: dogs can transmit parasites to other dogs, and to people, through their feces.

Take the common canine intestinal parasite roundworms. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 13.9% of Americans have antibodies to the most common species of this parasite. That suggests that millions of Americans have been exposed to roundworms, and although not all of them became infected, many do. In people, roundworm infestation can cause blindness or serious organ dysfunction. So pick up after your dog.

Get the proper footwear

I'm not suggesting that your dog needs fancy running shoes or hiking boots to go for a walk. But if you live in an area that gets lots of snow in the winter, consider dog booties when there is ice and snow on the road. Small dogs especially appreciate the extra warmth and dryness, and even though they take some getting used to, most dogs will tolerate them.

If your dog doesn't mind the cold or won't wear booties, you can cut down on the amount of ice that collects in the fur between the toes by applying a thin layer of Vaseline in that area before a walk. There's also a product called "Musher's Secret" that's specifically made for this. Be sure and wipe away any residue on the paws after winter walks, as deicing products can cause stomach upset if ingested.

Special considerations for puppies

By 16 weeks of age, your puppy should be fully vaccinated, and protected against all of the infectious canine diseases lurking out there in the big world. This is a great time to start teaching him leash skills, and most of them love exploring the world around them.

If your puppy isn't fully vaccinated, you can certainly practice leash walking in the backyard, but don't take him out into areas where you are unsure of the vaccination status and health of dogs you may encounter. And with diseases like canine parvovirus, remember – your dog doesn't even have to have direct contact with an infected dog to become sick. Parvo lives in the soil for a year or more, so it's very easy for dogs to become infected just by getting the soil in their mouths.

Written by PetCoach Editorial September 12, 2018