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Is winter making walking your dog more of a chore than a good time? Well, that’s kind of the point behind January status 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 with our pets (and it’s a great New Year’s resolution, too).
Here, you’ll find 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. New year, new you! But don’t forget your dog, too (or Rover’s team of professional dog walkers, there when you need them).
Dog Walking Tips
Be the pack leader. Be in charge when you walk your dog. 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 pulls ahead, shouting won’t get him to return to your side. Reinforce good behavior by rewarding with a treat when he’s walking by your side to keep him in stride with you, and consider a sturdy, no-pull harness to help discourage your dog’s inclination to pull.
Practice leash lessons. 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. There are many types of leashes (think multi-dog leashes, hands-free leashes, and the good old-fashioned heavy-duty nylon type), and the one that’s best for you is the one you feel most comfortable holding. 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 she stays by your side (see our ideas on treat dispensers for walks below).
Bring the necessities. Make the walk pleasant for you and your dog. 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, carry water for yourself and your dog, especially in warmer weather. Don’t forget 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—and 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 (preferably a dog owner!), 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 the 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, whether they are ready to head home, or whether they are up for a few more laps. If you have any questions about your dog’s condition and ability, check in with your vet.
Want a challenge? Train your dog to walk on a leash with the kids. (For tips on training dogs and kids to walk together, check out this helpful article.)
However you do it, walking your dog is one of the easiest ways to bond with your pet and get the mutual benefit of exercise, and we hope you enjoy the time together!
Dog Walking Gear
As someone who regularly walks (and runs with) my dog, here are some suggestions for some of the best dog-walking essentials, 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. This leash has a bungee-type material to help absorb shock, and can be used by dogs ranging from very small to very large (150 pounds!). The adjustable belt is designed for humans of all sizes, too. Good for walking, running, and even for training, this belt is a great option for January dog walking when temps are low and you want to keep your hands free (or in your pockets).Shop Now
It’s important that your dog stay hydrated in hot weather as well as cold. This clever and convenient water bottle is designed specifically for on-the-go watering. It holds up to 20 ounces of water and features a safe, food-grade silicone “leaf” that flips up into a portable water bowl.Shop Now
This PetSafe harness is a staple in our house. It’s a simple and effective harness to minimize pulling, and it’s great for training, walking, and running. I like it because any strain is spread across your dog’s chest instead of her neck. If you find that having the clip in the front of the chest doesn’t work the way you’d like, you can flip this harness the other way so the clip in on your dog’s back. It’s easy to put on and take off, is made of sturdy nylon, and can be easily adjusted for the right fit.Shop Now
This martingale collar is designed to significantly reduce pulling by slightly tightening when your dog begins to pull, then releases when your dog responds. It’s a positive feedback collar that lets your dog know when she is pulling and helps her know when to self-correct. It is made from durable nylon and is designed for comfort.Shop Now
Let’s face it—none of us love poop patrol, but it comes with the dog-walking territory. Luckily, poop pick-up is about as convenient as it can be with these Pets N Bags poop bags. These unscented bags are designed to fit into any roll-dispenser and are 100% biodegradable, with a water-resistant coating to protect your hands.Shop Now
This treat pouch is great for those who want to spend a little extra time with their leash training during Walk Your Dog month. It has enough room for treats, includes a poop bag dispenser, and has multiple options for carrying (via waist belt, belt clip, or shoulder strap). It’s weather-proof, so the pouch will keep your treats dry on those snowy/rainy January days. If your dog is already a great walker and will behave when you tune out for a minute, it’s even got a holder for earbuds.Shop Now
Let’s face it—the fanny pack never really went out of style. Rock one this January, and fill it with everything you need for a successful dog walk. This gear pack is large enough to hold an iPhone and a water bottle (in separate compartments), dog treats and poop bags, and is designed to fit all shapes and sizes of humans. It even has reflectors for maximum nighttime visibility.Shop Now
Depending on your walking route, you may want to invest in a reflective vest for maximum visibility for you and your dog. This lightweight reflective vest is rugged enough for every-day use, and is designed for easy on/off. It comes in several sizes and can be adjusted. You can also hang some lightweight accessories such as poop bags from the straps.
Making the most out of walk-your-dog January? This double-leash is designed to help you walk multiple dogs without the frustration of tangled leashes. The leash is made of nylon and can extend over six feet, and accommodate up to 180 pounds of dog. There are two options for handles—depending on the level of control you need, and the leash has reflective stitching for maximum visibility. As a bonus, it also includes a poop bag holder.Shop Now
January may be Walk Your Dog Month, but unfortunately January has short days and you may find yourself walking your dog in less-than-optimum light. This LED-illuminated leash provides visibility out to 350 yards (almost a quarter-mile), can be charged from any device, and has a battery that lasts up to seven hours. It comes in multiple colors and has three lighting modes.Shop Now
Cheers! Here’s to safe and fun walking with your dog this month. For more helpful reading about walking and exercising with your dogs, check out one of the following articles.
- Running With Your Dog: A Winter Guide
- 11 Fun Dog Workout Ideas to Start 2020 on the Right Paw
- Learn All About Your Dog’s Exercise Needs According to Their Breed
- 9 Must-Have Items for Walking Your Dog in a Winter Wonderland
- 7 Signs Your Dog Needs a Walk in the Next 5 Minutes
- Preparing Your Dog for the Dog Walker: A Guide