If you’ve never taken a dog out for a walk by yourself before, the first time can be daunting. Maybe you’re dog-sitting for a friend, or maybe you’re interested in dog-walking as a means of income. If you’re lucky, maybe you even have a brand new canine buddy of your own! Whatever the reason, it’s important to know a few basics before leashing up for your first outing.
Professional dog walkers spill all their secrets
As a company that’s done tens of thousands of dog walks, we know way more about dog walking than pretty much anyone. We’ve learned over years of practice how to be the best, safest, and happiest dog walkers we can be.
We asked our top walkers to give us their most-used tips and trick for doing the best dog walk you can do. We’ve organized them into 5 important tips that, if you follow them, will make you a pro.
Step 1 — Always Prepare Before You go Out
Before you embark on an outing with your furry friend, it’s important to consider a few things in order to set yourself up for success.
Check the collar and harness
Check the fit of your dog’s collar or harness before leaving home. Make any necessary adjustments. You want the collar or harness to be tight and secure but not TOO tight. A good rule of thumb is being able to slip two fingers underneath! If you can fit more than two fingers, it might be too loose. But if you can’t quite fit two fingers, it might be too tight!
Use a Traditional Leash (Not a Retractable Leash)
Go for a traditional leash over a retractable one! Retractable leashes are often too long which isn’t ideal for maintaining control over your dog. Just think- if you’re near a busy road or pedestrian area, you’re going to want something that’s easy to grab and reel in. Also, the retraction mechanisms of retractable leashes have also been known to disengage when pulled hard enough, and those tiny, thin leash lines can potentially cause injury to both humans and dogs (think rope burn. Ouch!).
Check the weather
Check the weather conditions before you leave. Your doggo might require a coat or booties if it’s cold or wet. If it’s hot and sunny out, their paws could burn on the pavement, or they could tire out/overheat quickly. Bring water!
For cold weather, your dog may need a coat or a sweater for being outdoors, particularly if they’re a dog with a low percentage of body fat (think greyhounds!) or a young puppy, or if you notice your dog shivering during your walks. Additionally, the rock salt on sidewalks that’s meant for melting ice and snow can irritate a pup’s paws. You may want to consider a set of booties if your dog has sensitive paws! (Plus, how cute are dog booties?!)
On hot days when the pavement is too hot, try to stick to earlier morning and later evening walks! These times in the day tend to be cooler. If you can’t avoid being out when it’s especially hot out, plan to take a route with plenty of shade and bring water for your dog just in case.
Pro tip! Some dogs tire out more quickly than usual in the heat and might simply lay down on the sidewalk. Stay close to home if you know your dog is heat-sensitive.
“How do I know if it’s too hot or too cold?” you ask? Simple. If it’s too hot for you to walk barefoot on the sidewalk, then it’s too hot for your dog’s paws. If you need to bundle up before heading outside, chances are your dog needs a jacket too.
Know that all dogs have different tolerances for weather. Short-nosed and long-haired breeds generally tire out more quickly in the heat, while smaller dogs and short-haired breeds get colder easily. That said, the best thing you can do is just pay attention to how your dog reacts to different weather and change your walk patterns as needed!
Step 2 — The important checklist for what to bring with you on your dog walk
Now that you’re prepped and primed, you’re ready to head out the door!
✅ Poop bags for cleaning up after your dog
Pro tip! No poop bags? Just take along a couple of plastic grocery or produce bags!
✅ Treats are always good to have on hand, particularly for puppies, dogs in training, or dogs with behavioral struggles.
✅ Doggie ID. Make sure your buddy is wearing identification. Unpredictable things can happen to even the most experienced dog-walkers. In the event that something goes awry on your walk, you’ll want to be sure your buddy has some ID in case they get loose! It’s never a bad idea for a pup to wear a little name tag with a phone number
✅ Water and a bowl, if you’re planning on taking a long walk on a hot day.
Step 3 — What to do during your walk
So you’ve made it outside, and now you and your pup are on the move. Here are a few helpful things to keep in mind during your walk!
Keep a taut but not pulled leash. Reward good behavior with a slackened leash. A very tight leash signifies to the dog that they’re doing something wrong! Check out our “How to Train a Dog to Walk on a Leash” blog for lots of very helpful info.
“Wrist-wrap” your leash! It’s a great way to stay in control on a walk. This means simply putting your hand through the loop at the end of the leash and then wrapping the top foot or so of length around your palm. If you have enough length left, it’s also not a bad idea to keep your other hand on the leash partway down, especially if you have a strong buddy! Some dogs are “pullier” or more excitable than others. Wrist wrapping your leash provides an extra level of security if your buddy were to lunge forward or tug suddenly.
Clean up after your pup. There’s nothing worse than a person leaving their dog’s #2 behind for an unfortunate unsuspecting pedestrian to step in!
Protips on HOW to clean up the easiest way. Using proper poop bag technique makes picking up #2s simple and painless. Simply open your baggie, put your hand inside, creating a protective “glove” over your hand, pick up the poop with your protected hand, and then carefully reverse the bag and tie it off!
Super-pro tip, take a deep breath BEFORE bending over. Hold your breath while scooping. No more stink.
Keep #1s polite and off of gardens, young trees and other annoying places. Steer your dog away from peeing on things like the front steps of buildings, the middle of the sidewalk, gardens, flower beds, planters, other dogs, and in general the personal property of others.
Step 4 — How to stay safe while walking
Over the years, we’ve seen everything. Here is how you can keep your pup safe at all times.
In general, when in doubt, err on the safe side. There are a few common dog-walking scenarios where a little cautiousness can go a long way in preventing a headache later.
Secure your gear before you leave. Make sure your harness/collar and leash are on correctly and securely before you head out. A loose dog is dangerous, and having secure gear ensures that you are in control of the situation!
Give other dogs and people space. Ask other dog-walkers if it’s ok for your dog to approach their dog. “Is it okay to say hi?” is a good question to ask. While it may not always look like it at first, some dogs may be aggressive towards other dogs or people, or maybe they’ll simply get too excited and make a scene. If another dog-walker seems hesitant as you approach, just let them be.
Keep your dog close, particularly in more crowded areas. Keep in mind that not everyone is excited about dogs or will want to interact with your dog! Some pups can be adorably curious, and you don’t want to put yourself in a situation where you look over only to realize your friendly four-legged friend has their snout fully buried in a mortified stranger’s stroller.
Be vocal with strangers. Similarly to being vocal with other dog-walkers, if you’re not sure how your dog is going to react to a well-meaning, friendly stranger approaching them for a pat, speak up! It’s never rude to air on the safe side.
Scan the ground ahead of your buddy for chicken bones and other trash. Some dogs are more prone than others to grabbing and eating things off the ground, and things like chicken bones, sticks, and chocolate can be dangerous for a dog to ingest.
Step 5 — Get out there and have fun!
If you’ve never walked a dog before, don’t worry- it’s normal to feel a little nervous the first time! But, preparing well by choosing the right gear, bringing the right things along, and knowing some basics will go a long way in easing your mind. Before long, you’ll be walking dogs like a pro! Now have fun out there, you two!