Four Dachshunds on a walk though the city.

Dog Walking Tips From an Expert

January is Walk Your Pet Month, although, let’s be honest, every day should really be dedicated to walking your pet, especially if you have a dog.

Taking walks multiple times a day helps dogs with more than just relieving themselves; walks provide your pup with exercise, fresh air, and mental stimulation. Walks can also help socialize them with other dogs out for a stroll, or can alert you to social issues your furry friend might be struggling with and signal the need for additional training.

No matter the reason for walking your dog, there are some things to consider before heading outside with your pup. We spoke with Rich Miller, owner of Walk It Like A Dog and co-founder of Scout software for dog walkers, to get some dog walking tips that will ensure a healthy, happy pet on a daily basis.

Don’t Use A Retractable Leash

According to Miller, retractable leashes can be harmful to both you and your dog’s safety. “The locking mechanism can break on these leashes, which can lead to all sorts of injuries for humans, including a dislocated shoulder, if your dog chooses to run,” says Miller. “My mom’s friend needed reconstructive shoulder surgery from using one of these leashes, so I’ve seen firsthand how destructive they can be.”

Additionally, the whole point of using a leash is to maintain control of your dog and retractable leashes can end up having the opposite effect. Instead, Miller recommends that all pet parents use a solid leash that runs between four and six feet long.

Ask Permission Before Approaching Other Pets and Humans

It’s easy to assume that because you love your dog, everyone else will too, however, that is not always the case. Miller suggests approaching other dogs and humans (especially children) with caution. “Sometimes it’s not about your dog,” says Miller. “It’s about the other dog. Some dogs are afraid of other dogs, some children are afraid of dogs, and sometimes things with wheels–like strollers, scooters, or bicycles–can freak dogs out.”

Miller encourages dog owners to always be careful and considerate when you encounter other dogs and humans in order to create more positive experiences for everyone involved. “Don’t be offended if other people tell you to keep your dog away from theirs,” he says. “It’s not personal, and it’s most likely for your own collective safety.”

Follow Off-Leash Rules

One of Miller’s pet peeves (no pun intended) is seeing people walk their dogs off-leash in public areas, where they can pose a risk to themselves and others. “No matter how well-trained or well-behaved your dog may be, you should never walk your dog without a leash unless it’s in a designated area where you are encouraged to do so,” says Miller.

There are a host of things that can go wrong when your dog is off-leash, and as any responsible pet or human parent will tell you, safety should always come first. “There is a time and place for everything,” says Miller. “So as long as you follow the rules, you won’t have to worry about unintended consequences that can come from your dog being off-leash.”

Be Prepared For Anything and Everything

Since most people take their dogs out for multiple walks per day, it’s a good idea to put everything you need in one place. For instance, Miller secures a spare key to the house and extra poop bags to his leash before going out on walks. “I also recommend that my dog walkers put a small kit together that has all the essentials they might need,” Miller says. “From sanitary wipes, to water bottles, to treats — you really never know what you might need and you don’t want to be caught off guard.”

In the colder months, you should also be prepared for your dog to be affected by sidewalk salt, which can irritate paws. “Some people use booties when they know salt will be down on the sidewalk, but I like to carry a damp washcloth with me,” Miller says. “And if the dog starts walking funny, I’ll stop to clean their paws with the cloth, which dissolves the salt.”