Explore the Great Outdoors with Your Dog

Awh, the signs of spring-time…the weather is warming, the tulips are sprouting and the dog biking, dog walking, dog hikingbirds are singing.  I can envision Winnie the Pooh bear stretching out his arms and crawling out of his comfy hollowed out tree den.  With a smile and a huge curiosity, he greets the beautiful outdoors as if it was the first time he experienced spring-time. So you ask, “what does Winnie the Pooh have to do with dogs?” Well sometimes, it takes children stories to bring out our inner child so that we desire to explore this new world that is about to greet us.  Those of us who have dogs are lucky to have such an eager companion to explore the outdoors with us and greet this new beautiful season.

Before we venture out to take walks with our dogs there are some important things we should consider such as:

  • the length of the walk and your dog’s physical condition,
  • does your dog walk nicely on a loose leash instead of pulling you,
  • where to walk your dog,
  • the surface he or she walks on,
  • does your dog need runs instead of walks and if so how do you do that without being a runner,
  • what preparations have you taken in case your dog gets loose and runs away,
  • what do you do if a loose aggressive looking dog approaches you and your dog,
  • what assistance can you give your dog if he/she is injured during the walk,
  • what preparations have you taken in case you are injured or become lost and
  • what if you don’t have a dog to join you on walks?

Length of Walk & Physical Condition
As with any physical activity, it is important to begin with short walks and build up to longer and more energized walks.  We know this is true for us but it is also true for our dogs.  Unless you’re a winter warrior, your dog has probably been restricted to walking in his backyard during the cold winter months.  To prevent injuries and to ensure your dog enjoys the walks, it is important that the duration and difficulty be increased gradually.  It is also important for your dog to have his/her spring-time veterinarian wellness and heart worm check.  It is vital that your dog begin heartworm preventative as soon as possible, if your dog wasn’t on year round preventative.

Walking Nicely on a Loose Leash
Does your dog drag you down the street or trail?  If so, contact a professional dog trainer to train your dog for you or to help you train your dog to walk nicely with you instead of pulling on the leash.  It is very easy to train a dog to walk with you.

An excellent management tool is the Easy Walk Harness developed by Premier Pet products.  It’s like a walking harness except the leash attaches at the dog’s chest instead of on top of your dog’s back which encourages pulling.  It doesn’t pinch your dog as he/she walks forward but your dog will tend to walk nicer as he/she doesn’t want to walk with their shoulders turned sideways.  The Easy Walk harness will cease the pulling by approximately 75% by itself.

Or if you desire to teach your dog off leash walking and control, check out Michael’s remote collar training which can be done via group classes, in home training or a board  train program.  Your dog will be walking nicely beside you, without pulling, in no time at all.  Just imagine how enjoyable your walks will become.

Where to Walk Your Dog
There are many places to walk your dog.  It’s important to walk often and in new interesting locations for you and your dog’s mental health sake.  The more interesting, the better.  Some of these options include:  city parks, metro parks, and state parks.  If you get bored with local parks, load up your dog and discover other regional parks.  You might also want to commit to a spring-time walking program to prepare for a summer adventure to a northern Michigan camping trip that will include exploring various trails through the woods.

Surface to Walk On
As your dog’s endurance improves, it is important to consider the ground surface he walks or runs on.  If your dog is commonly walking on a hard surface such as asphalt or concrete, increase the distance of the adventure gradually so your dog’s paw pads can be slowly accustomed to the hard surface.  Once summer rolls around the corner, you will also have to consider the temperature of the surface.  Generally, soft surfaces such as grass and dirt are best for your dog’s paws.

Does your Dog Need More Exercise?
Does your dog need more exercise than what walking can provide him or her?  This is commonly the case with an active sporting, herding or working dog.  If you’re not a runner, consider biking your dog.  To do this safely, purchase a K-9 Bike Jogger. It’s a metal quick release attachment for your bike that allows you to bike your dog hands-free.  The metal attachment has an internal spring with a short leash on the end.  It gives your dog enough room to run comfortably by your side and prevents him or her from running in front of or behind your bike wheels.  They are relatively cheap and can be found at WalkyDogUSA.com.

What if Your Dog got Loose and Ran Away?
Obviously, the first thing a dog trainer will advise you is to enroll your dog in either a group obedience class or private in-home sessions. The moment your dog gets loose, get your dog’s attention by calling his/her name and run away from your dog in an excited manner.  You may even have to roll around on the ground to convince your dog that you are the most fun thing to chase and play with right now despite him/her being off leash.  Beyond that, be sure your dog is microchipped and has pet identification on his/her collar.  And lastly, the recommendation for training your dog to “come” reliably cannot be stressed enough.

What to do if a Loose Aggressive Dog Approaches?
If a loose potentially aggressive dog approaches you, walk with your dog calmly away from the other dog.  Do not run with your dog.  Running will almost assuredly result in the stranger dog chasing you and your dog.  If the dog continues to approach you, throw treats out to the side and slightly behind the stranger dog so you can walk with your dog in the opposite direction.  If this doesn’t work, you might have to use a more confrontational approach such as spraying “Direct Stop” toward the stranger dog.

Direct Stop is a non-harmful citronella product that is commonly sold in pet stores.  When sprayed, it comes out forcibly startling the stranger dog.  In most cases, it will convince the stranger dog to go in the other direction.  Using a pepper based spray is not recommended as you have to be trained in it’s use so you don’t spray it into the wind.  If you spray a pepper based product into the wind, it will be blown into your eyes causing your eyes to tear, swell and temporarily close shut.  There is no risk of this with Defense Shield as it does not have any pepper based ingredients.

Dog is Injured During Walk
When traveling to new areas with your dog, determine the location and phone numbers for emergency veterinarian practices in those areas prior to commencing your adventures.  You might also want to have a dog first aid kit in your car and take a dog first aid class offered by ComfyCreatures or the AmericanRedCross. It’s also a good idea to have your dog’s vaccination records in your vehicle, should it become necessary for your dog to be seen by an emergency veterinarian.  For more medical referral information, please visit Michael’s website at:  http://michigandogtrainer.com/links/medical.html.

Don’t have a Dog to Walk With?
If you don’t have a dog to walk with, consider becoming a volunteer walker at a local humane society or dog shelter.  Three area shelters that would love to have your help walking and exercising dogs are:  Dearborn Animal Shelter (www.dearborn-animals.com), Humane Society of Huron Valley located near Ann Arbor, Michigan (www.hshv.org), and the Michigan Humane Society (www.michiganhumane.org).

So like Pooh, stretch and crawl out of your comfy den to embrace the beautiful spring-time weather.  With the above tips in mind, you and your dog should have many wonderful adventures together. For more information regarding dog training, please contact Michael at http://www.MichiganDogTrainer.com, 734 – 634 – 4152, info@MichiganDogTrainer.com.

About Michael Burkey

Michael Burkey is a professional dog trainer, behaviorist and owner of MichiganDogTrainer.com, a highly successful dog training company whose aim is to promote peaceful relationships between pets and families. Additionally, he is an expert trial witness, certified Canine Good Citizen (CGC) evaluator for the American Kennel Club (AKC), former Police K9 Handler, Search and Rescue (SAR) K9 Training Director and SAR K9 Handler, obedience and rally competitor and social worker. Dog training is a complex science and art requiring knowledge of behavioral science and learning. You can rely on Michael's experience, teaching methods, and integrity. He can be contacted at info@MichiganDogTrainer.com or 734-634-4152.
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