19 Things You Should Never Do When Walking Your Dog

Walking your dog should be an enjoyable experience for both of you. It gives your pet the chance to socialize and explore different sights and smells while you both get some exercise. Most dogs adore the mental and physical stimulation they get on a walk, but you need to ensure they are relaxed, safe, and controlled. Here are 19 things you shouldn’t do while dog walking.

Leave the Leash at Home

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Even if you know your route and trust your dog’s behavior, always take a leash with you. Leashes are crucial for maintaining control of your dog and ensuring the safety of both your pet and other people and animals. Unleashing your dog in public areas, like streets, playgrounds, and urban locations, can lead to road traffic accidents, dog fights, or your dog getting lost. 

Fail to Scoop the Poop

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According to American Legal, it is “the duty of each person who owns, possesses or controls a dog to remove and dispose of any feces left by his/her dog on any sidewalk, street or other public area.” This means that ‘scooping the poop’ is not just a sanitary courtesy; it’s a legal requirement. Always carry poop bags with you and dispose of your dog’s waste properly.

Neglect Basic Training

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A well-trained dog is a joy to walk, but erratic, uncontrollable dogs can cause stress and other problems for everyone. Before venturing out on walks, ensure your dog understands basic commands like “heel,” “sit,” “stay,” and “come,” and don’t neglect discipline just because your dog is exploring. Taking toys or treats with you is a great way to reinforce good public behavior.  

Force Interactions with Other Dogs

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Not all dogs are social butterflies, and some may be over-reactive, fearful, or even aggressive. You don’t know a strange dog’s history or recent experiences, so always ask permission from the owner before allowing your dog to approach another dog. Similarly, never use your dog’s leash to drag it towards other dogs or force it closer to fellow canines than it chooses to be.

Ignore Distractions

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Walks are a time for your dog to sniff, explore, and take in its surroundings. They can be relaxing for you both, but don’t let your attention wander completely. Be aware of potential distractions like squirrels, cats, joggers, traffic, or loud noises that might trigger unwanted behavior in your dog. If you see a possible problem ahead, consider turning around or taking a different route. 

Walk During the Hottest Part of the Day

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Like humans, dogs can suffer from heatstroke and don’t enjoy walking in scorching summer temperatures. Vets Now recommends keeping your dog indoors or in a shady place when it’s over 68°F. Also, be aware that your dog doesn’t wear shoes like you do, so touch the pavement to check if it’s cool enough for your pet to walk on after periods of intense sunshine.

Let Your Dog Pull You Along

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Walking your dog shouldn’t feel like a tug-of-war competition, so don’t allow your dog to choose the route or drag you behind them. A dog that pulls constantly makes walks stressful and can potentially injure you. Use a properly fitted harness and practice loose-leash walking techniques. Reward your dog for walking calmly beside you and gently redirect them if they start to pull.

Yell or Punish Them

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Positive reinforcement training methods are the most effective for achieving desired behavior, especially when your dog is in a new, distracting environment. Yelling or punishing your pet during walks could build a negative association with walking, potentially making them fearful or anxious when out of the house. Focus on rewarding positive behavior instead.

Skip the Warm-Up

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Active dogs that love sprinting and chasing a ball might need a warm-up before engaging in strenuous activity, just like you would! Backyard playtime or an on-leash stroll before the dog park can be ideal. Concentrate on your dog’s walking style, not your own; a leisurely stroll (for you) could be an intense workout for your dog, particularly if they’re small or highly energetic.

Walk in Unfamiliar Territory

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If you’re exploring a new walking trail, be cautious and aware of potential hazards. Keep your dog on the leash until you are confident that the area and surrounding wildlife don’t pose a threat and that your dog won’t get lost on the unfamiliar route. Watch out for snakes, steep cliffs, deep water, sudden drops, and uneven surfaces that could harm your dog.

Leave Your Dog Tied Up

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According to CBC, “Leaving a dog tied up unattended poses great risk to both dogs and public safety: dogs can become stressed, suffer in extreme temperatures, and act out in aggressive ways.” Make walks solely about walking, and don’t try to incorporate other errands or visit buildings that your dog cannot enter. They could be stolen, harmed, or become frightened.

Overfeed Your Dog Beforehand

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Just like people, dogs shouldn’t exercise on a full stomach. It can be uncomfortable and even dangerous, and they’re unlikely to get maximum benefit from the experience. Time your dog’s meals so that they are given after a walk or at least one hour before. If you take treats along to reward good behavior, make them small and nutritious and give them only in moderation.

Allow Your Dog to Drink Untreated Water

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While it can be difficult to prevent your dog from quenching its thirst from lakes, ponds, puddles, or other such sources, try to avoid this if you can. Untreated water contains bacteria, parasites, or toxic pollutants like pesticides and motor oil, and it is impossible to know if it contains these contaminants. These contaminants can make your dog ill, so carry fresh water and a bowl and offer your dog a drink regularly. 

Forget Parasite Prevention

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Fleas, ticks, and heartworms are not only unpleasant for your dog but can also transmit serious diseases to humans, like Lyme disease. Don’t walk your dog outside if they aren’t protected, as they can pick up parasites from other dogs, cats, wildlife, and natural environments like meadows. If you’re unsure which product to use, consult a veterinarian for advice. 

Walk an Unwell Dog

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A dog who is injured or unwell needs to rest and visit the vet—they don’t need exercising! Never ignore signs of illness, like lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, coughing, or injury (such as limping). Postpone your walk until your pet is feeling better. As with human patients, rest aids recovery and prevents additional stresses and strains from worsening their condition.

Dress Your Dog Inappropriately

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Your dog’s new doggy coat or knitted sweater may be cute and fashionable to you, but it could cause overheating or discomfort for your pet. Only use extra layers for short-haired dogs in cold weather, and watch for signs of discomfort, limited mobility, labored breathing, or excessive panting. Use your judgment to prioritize your dog’s comfort over fashion.

Use Retractable Leashes in Crowded Areas

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Retractable leashes are great in open spaces or on wide, empty trails but can make your dog challenging to control in confined, crowded environments. Happy Hound University warns that owners have lost fingers from improper use of such leases, especially with dogs that are prone to bolting or being startled. Entanglement with other people and dogs can also be an issue!

Skip Post-Walk Care

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Once your walk is complete, take a few minutes to check your dog’s paws for debris or apparent injury and remove any foreign objects. Wipe their paws with a damp cloth to remove dirt or allergens, and offer them fresh water to replenish the fluids they will have lost during exercise. This is especially important on hot summer days.

Neglect the Fun

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Walks should be an enjoyable experience for both you and your dog, so try to incorporate some fun elements to keep your dog engaged and motivated. Let them sniff interesting spots, play fetch in a safe open area, or incorporate short training sessions with positive reinforcement. Avoid making the experience a military exercise; merely walk from point A to point B!

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