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Some winter days, dog walks can feel like more of a chore than a good time. That’s kind of the point behind January’s designation as Walk Your Dog Month. During these coldest and shortest days of the year, we all need an excuse to jazz up the daily stroll with the pup and get outside regularly with our pets (and it’s a great New Year’s resolution, too).
We’ve got some ideas to help reinvigorate your routines and focus on good dog-walking behaviors, along with some great gear to make your walks healthy, fun, and safe. And when you need them, don’t forget Rover’s team of professional dog walkers too.
Dog Walking Tips for Walk Your Dog Month
Be the pack leader. Be in charge when you walk your dog. This month while walking your dog, remember to use confident body language—head up, shoulders back—and don’t let your dog walk in front of you. Your dog should walk beside you or slightly behind. If your dog does pull ahead, shouting won’t get them to return to your side. Instead, reinforce good behavior by rewarding your doggo with a treat when they’re walking by your side to keep them in stride with you—and consider a sturdy, no-pull harness to help discourage pulling.
Choose the right leash. Many of us live in cities and neighborhoods where leashes are an absolute must. Choose the right one for you and your dog and your specific circumstances to set you up right for positive walking experiences. There are many types of leashes (think multi-dog leashes, hands-free leashes, and good old-fashioned heavy-duty nylon styles)—the one that’s best for you is the one you feel most comfortable holding.
Practice leash lessons. Whichever type of leash you use, keep it short, but not too tight. Your dog will be discouraged from bolting, dawdling, or wandering, and you can maintain close communication and control. Have a serial puller? There are lots of safe products on the market to help you train your dog not to pull. Until your dog knows how to walk without pulling, view walks as training sessions, and keep them short, frequent, and low stress. Again, reward your dog with treats when they stay by your side.
Bring the necessities. Make the walk pleasant for you and your dog, this month and any month. Always carry bags for cleaning up and disposing of doggie poop—leaving dog waste is not only a health hazard, but in many cities, it’s a code violation (plus, it’s just plain rude). Don’t forget to hydrate by carrying water for yourself and your dog, especially in warmer weather, and be sure to pack your dog’s favorite bite-size treats for rewarding good behavior away from home.
Change it up. To make walks more fun for you and your dog, rove a little—travel off the beaten path by taking your dog on different routes, going to cool places like the dog park or a friend’s house, and taking walks with buddies—borrowing a friend’s dog or asking another owner to join you on your walk.
Know how far to go. How much walking time is enough for your dog? This is a decision you’ll make based on your dog’s breed, age, physical condition, and time of year. Dogs are most sensitive to exertion at the beginning and end stages of their lives, but they will give you clues as to whether they are comfortable, ready to head home, or up for a few more laps. If you have any questions about your dog’s condition and ability, check in with your vet.
Challenge yourself during Walk Your Dog Month: Train your dog to walk on a leash with the kids. Learn the basics with our article on training dogs and kids to walk together.
However you do it, walking your dog—this month and year-round—is one of the easiest ways to bond with your pet and get the mutual benefit of exercise—above all, we hope you enjoy the time together!
Gear for Walk Your Dog Month
Start your year off right this month with these essentials for walking your dog, from leashes, collars, and harnesses, to poop bags and visibility aids. Happy walking!
Hands-free leashes can be quite helpful for a dog who already walks well on a leash. Made from sturdy nylon, this hands-free leash, with highly reflective double trim, can be configured six different ways, including strapped around your waist or over your shoulder. Great for runs and walks, it’s an especially good option for dog walking this month when temps are low and you want to keep your hands nice and toasty in your pockets.
It’s important that your dog stay hydrated year-round. This clever and convenient water bottle is designed for on-the-go watering. Holding up to 20 ounces of water, the bottle/bowl combo is made from BPA-free, food-grade plastic. Simply squeeze the bottle to fill the bowl and release for the water to return to the bottle.
Walk Your Dog Month is a great time to establish better walking habits, such as minimizing pulling. This reversible PetSafe harness is simple and effective for training, walking, and running; strain is distributed across your dog’s chest instead of their neck. If you find that having the clip in the front of the chest doesn’t work the way you’d like, flip this harness the other way so the clip is on your dog’s back. It’s easy to put on and take off and is made of sturdy, reflective nylon that can be easily adjusted for the right fit.
This martingale collar is designed to significantly reduce pulling by slightly tightening when your dog begins to pull, then releasing when your dog responds. It’s a positive feedback collar that lets your dog know when they’re pulling and helps them to self-correct. It’s made from durable nylon and is designed for comfort.
Let’s face it—none of us love poop patrol, especially in the cold months, but it comes with the dog-walking territory. Luckily, poop pick-up is about as convenient as it can be with these poop bags. These compostable, unscented bags are designed to fit most standard dispensers and are approved by the Biodegradable Products Institute.
Available right now at the Rover Store, Canada Pooch’s fanny pack has all your Walk Your Dog Month essentials: Room for treats and a standard water bottle, plus a poop bag dispenser, key ring holder, and adjustable waist belt.
Shorter daylight hours during Walk Your Dog Month make reflective dog walking accessories a safety must. A reflective vest gives you and your dog maximum visibility. This lightweight version is rugged enough for daily use and is designed to easily go on and off. It comes in five sizes and can be further adjusted for a perfect fit. You can also hang some lightweight accessories, such as a poop bag dispenser, from the straps.
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This nylon double-leash is designed to help you walk multiple dogs this month without the frustration of tangled leashes. The leash has stainless steel hardware and each lead is adjustable, converting between 32 and 64 inches. Designed with bungee tethers to help absorb shock, it also includes an attachable bowl so you can hydrate on the way.
Light up your Walk Your Dog Month evening and low-light strolls with Illumiseen’s dog leash. Containing a long-lasting USB rechargeable battery, the LED light shines for up to five hours. Choose between a steady light or two different flashing modes. It’s available in six neon colors and two lengths and comes with a lifetime guarantee.
Featured image by Erik Mclean/Pexels