A Comprehensive Dog Walking Safety Guide
Walking is vital to keeping your dog entertained, content, and happy. The daily exercise allows your pet to get outside and explore the surrounding world.
A daily walk is an excellent way to release your pet's pent-up energy, and it's also an opportunity for your dog to socialize with other canines, human beings, and animals within the community. Young puppies need about an hour of exercise daily to expend their energy. Some breeds need more exercise; some breeds need less.
But, however long your pooch needs outside, it's vitally important that you take every precaution to ensure a safe walk. After the recent electrocutions of dogs in the Boston area, it's clear that your pet's life depends on it.Here's our comprehensive dog walking safety guide to make sure every walk is a happy one.
Walking Preparation Checklist
1. Get a quality leash, dog collar (or harness).
Buy leashes that are appropriate for your dog's size and physical strength. The leash should be one you can safely handle and should measure 4 to 6 feet in length. The right one will prevent your puppy from breaking free and running into traffic.
Avoiding using retractable leashes unless they lock. Since they allow dogs to run long distances from their owners, you can easily lose control. Retractable leashes also reward dogs for bad behavior, like pulling away.
Regularly inspect equipment. Replace faulty collars and leashes if they're rusty or damaged.
2. Collar vs. harness.
Selecting a collar versus a harness depends on your pet's personality and physique.
A collar is a piece of material that fastens to a canine's neck to help control your dog during walks. The standard type is the flat collar, made with a buckle or quick-release plastic buckle closure. Use a snug collar, however, it should not be too tight as this can choke them. A good rule to make sure the collar fits properly is that you should be able to get two fingers underneath it.
Harnesses wrap around your pet's upper body and chest, and feature a ring to clip the leash to. They are usually more comfortable for dogs to wear, and they also protect a canine's sensitive neck area. Use a harness if you own a smaller-breed dog. Small dog breeds risk tracheal collapse, and collars may put too much pressure on this sensitive area. Additionally, your dog should wear a harness if it has a respiratory illness.
Avoid back-clip harnesses if your pet has behavioral or aggression issues. They offer little control. Instead, opt for a front-clip one.
3. Make sure your dog wears identification.
Always ensure that your dog's tags are up-to-date. Your tags should have your current contact information and your pet should wear ID at all times. Additionally, your pet should wear a microchip in case it loses its collar. Register the microchip with the company with up-to-date contact information.
Does your pet need an RFID tag? Schedule an easy microchip procedure with us!
4. Pack poop bags before heading out.
Have a small disposal bag ready to pick up anything your dog may leave as waste also contains harmful pathogens such as roundworms, giardia, E. coli, and salmonella. This can infect humans, animals, and your local groundwater.
Buy poop bags and a scooper at your local pet supply store. Always carry several before heading out on your walk.
5. Bring water and high-value treats for your pet.
You'll always want to carry a water bottle for your pet in case it gets too warm or it becomes exhausted. The liquid will also keep your pet hydrated.
Also, carry high-value treats for your pets. The snacks will help refocus its attention away from harmful distractions.
6. Schedule a wellness check.
Get your pet evaluated before starting any exercise program. Schedule a wellness check with us and we'll check for any underlying issues that could impact your pet's health.
We'll also vaccinate your dog to protect them from common illnesses.
Essential Dog Walking Safety Tips
1. Start off slow.
Start with 10-15 minute walks. Gradually increase the exercise time, especially if your dog is out of shape.
2. Your dog should always remain on a leash.
Keep your dog on a leash at all times. Local laws require dogs wear them.
Leashes will help you maintain control of your pet, even if they're meeting their good friends. They also prevent it from running away or entering a dangerous situation.
3. Stay on sidewalks when walking your dog.
Use a sidewalk whenever it's available. Walking on them can prevent your pet from being hit by fast-moving vehicles.
4. Wear reflective clothing in dim lighting.
Drivers have the most difficulty seeing during dusk and dawn. The light is dimmer, and they don't always see pedestrians walking. Keep your pet safe by wearing reflective clothing.
At night, your dog should wear a reflective leash and collar.
5. Bring a flashlight and carry a clip-on blinking light for nighttime walking.
Nighttime is not the ideal time to walk your pet, but sometimes a busy life or the seasons make daytime walks impossible. Wildlife emerges after dark, especially coyotes and raccoons, and more traffic accidents occur. Always carry a flashlight to see your surroundings and wear clip-on blinking lights that will be visible to oncoming traffic.
6. Pay attention to the weather.
Always check the weather forecast and plan for inclement weather conditions to protect your dog. Never walk your dog during a thunderstorm or snowstorm.
If it's too cold or warm, limit your walking times. Dress your dog in sweaters to protect it from cold temperatures. Check the pavement to see if it's too warm for your dog to walk on in hot weather. If the heat burns your palm, it's too hot for your dog's paws.
Stop walking if your dog show signs of distress. Symptoms include:
- Excessive panting
If symptoms persist, a trip to the vet is in quick order.
7. Don't approach other dogs without asking first.
Your pet may want to greet another dog, but not every meeting is safe. Even the friendliest canine can bite. Other dogs aren't comfortable making new friends.
Always ask a dog's owner if it's alright to approach them. Practicing this rule can keep your dog safe.
8. Walk on the left side of the street, facing traffic.
You'll be able to see any oncoming traffic and avoid obstacles.
Dogs should stay on your left side to protect them from oncoming traffic. People are taller than canines. They are easier to see than small animals. Keep your pet safe by having them walk away from the street.
9. Protect your dog away from high-voltage areas.
In Boston, animals have been electrocuted after coming into contact high voltage areas. You can find stray voltage areas near lamp posts and grates. Metal wells next to these areas are electrified.
And it's essential to avoid electrical hazard areas and downed power lines, which can commonly be seen after bad storms.
Call 911 to get help if your pet is electrocuted. Make sure the surrounding area is dry before approaching your pet. If you can, break the circuit by using a non-metal or wooden object. Be extremely careful. Do not approach your dog if they're lying in a puddle. Consider your safety first. Water can conduct electricity and harm you.
- Mouth pain
- Foul smell
- Twitching, muscular spasms, and convulsions
- Loss of consciousness
- Heart arrhythmia
"Dogs in Boston are being accidentally electrocuted. To keep your #pet safe, always avoid high voltage areas, downed power lines, and stray voltage near lamp posts and grates." TWEET THIS
10. Avoid objects that can hurt your dog's paws.
Your dog's paws can be injured by sharp objects like glass, rocks, and other items. Watch out for debris that can hurt its feet. You can also protect its paws with specially made shoes.
If you have any other safety questions or want to start an exercise program for your pet, contact our office to schedule an appointment today.
About Dr. Natalie Waggener
Dr. Natalie Waggener has 17 years of experience in emergency work and general practice in Rhode Island, Florida and Massachusetts. She has a special interest in dentistry, wellness care and rehabilitation therapy. She is currently licensed in both Massachusetts and Rhode Island.