Claire Hargrave - BSc(Hons), MSc, PGCE, C Sci, C Chem, MRSC, DAS(CABC), CCAB

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How do I make walks safe and fun?

Claire Hargrave - BSc(Hons), MSc, PGCE, C Sci, C Chem, MRSC, DAS(CABC), CCAB
Reading time: 2 minutes

Walks are one of the great pleasures of dog ownership, but keeping things enjoyable for both you and your pet is a learning curve.

It’s not as simple as putting a lead on your companion and heading out, there are all manner of things to be considered to ensure that you return home happy. If your dog isn’t yet fully trained, or is nervous in certain outdoor environments or around other dogs, walks should be approached carefully, as there will be plenty for him or her to get used to.

Back to basics

It’s important to establish good behavioural training with your puppy. Reinforcing the basics will help greatly. Teach your puppy to sit, lie down and walk to heel, put them loosely on a lead and walk along a path, dropping treats. They’ll soon learn the rewards of walking alongside you.

A whole new world

Gently introduce your dog to novelties on a walk. Early socialisation is vital, if your puppy is initially nervous of other people and dogs, then take the time to introduce them in a controlled environment so they get used to variety.

You want them to be able to come across new situations on a walk without it initiating the flight-or-fight reflex. If your puppy is becoming stressed or unhappy, gently distract them away before any problems start.

Quiet, please

Start your walks in quieter areas before hitting the high street as there are a lot of unknown stimuli, including traffic, which you’ll need to build up to gradually. Put the lead on near traffic, cliffs and ponds, and bring toys to calm stressful situations.

Freeze!

Getting the length of walk right is vital. It’s better to start with short walks and build capacity. This will test their comfort zone.

If your puppy freezes, then it’s been too much for them, you’ve gone too far, so do less the next day.

Have a target

Finally, once you’re successfully walking, work out exactly what you’re building up to. Do you want to take them into a city, or off camping? If so, the puppy needs to adapt gradually to those new situations.

Introduce them gently and you’ll build up their ability, you’ll know when your puppy is ready for it.

Summary

● Long leads are useful for dogs that need freedom but can’t be trusted to run loose.

● Keep dogs that like a chase under control and away from livestock.

● Learn basic canine first aid.

● Stop your dog from chewing plants that could be dangerous.

● Put your name and address on a tag, and have your pet microchipped.

Claire Hargrave - BSc(Hons), MSc, PGCE, C Sci, C Chem, MRSC, DAS(CABC), CCAB

Claire Hargrave is the only Certified Clinical Animal Behaviourist accredited by the Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour (ASAB) working in Wales. She is also a member of the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors. As the animal behaviour profession is as yet unregulated, and to ensure that a behaviourist has an adequate level of practical and theoretical experience, the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, Dogs Trust and the R.S.P.C.A. advise veterinary surgeons and members of the public to ensure that they only seek advice from behaviourists accredited by ASAB or who hold APBC membership.

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