Pet Talk: A walk in the park

From the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University

Although the cold, winter weather may suggest otherwise, January is National Walk Your Pet Month. Whether you’ve just brought home a new puppy or want to improve on old Fido’s walking habits, here are some tips to make walking your dog “a walk in the park.”

The absolute best length of leash is not 100 percent established, but the key is to not have the leash be so long so that you are unable to control your pet when they are on the leash,” said Dr. James Barr, clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences.

Dogs, like their owners, have all sorts of different personalities and activity levels. While Fido may become eager for his daily walk as soon as the sun comes up, Fluffy might rather just curl up by your side all afternoon. For those dogs that don’t necessarily look forward to going on walks, a little motivation can be helpful.

Whether or not your dog needs rewards for walking depends on their intrinsic motivation,” said Dr. Barr. “If they do not want to go on a walk, then a reward system will help them be motivated to do so. However, most dogs don’t need motivations; they love it.”

Walks are also great training opportunities, so bringing their favorite treats along to practice obedience while you’re out on your stroll can be beneficial. This will not only convince them that going on walks can be fun, but also helps with their training.

The length of the walk is entirely dependent on your dog. Young, active dogs will likely respond positively to longer walks, whereas older dogs may not be able to handle the longer durations.

The weather conditions at the time can also really effect how the pet does on a walk,” said Dr. Barr, “especially when it is extremely hot and humid.”

It is important to keep your dog’s health in mind, as well as the weather and terrain, before dragging Fido along on too rough of a walk that may do more harm than good.

When on a walk, you should have your pets on a leash at all times, especially if they show signs of aggression toward other pets. “Most municipalities have rules about having animals leashed,” said Dr. Barr. “The main thing is to avoid a situation that may cause aggression in the first place, and having them on leash usually mitigates this.”

Having your pooch on a leash and in your control can also help prevent them from running off if distracted or startled by something. Even the most well trained dogs can unexpectedly dart off after or away from something, and it may be difficult retrieving them.

Keep in mind that your pets just want to spend time with you, no matter what you’re doing. Going on walks is a great way to get some fresh air and a little exercise, and if done correctly, can be a daily routine that you both eagerly anticipate.

Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed online at vetmed.tamu.edu/pet-talk. Suggestions for future topics may be directed to editor@cvm.tamu.edu.

Posted Jan. 16, 2015

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