Six Tips for Safer, Happier Dog Walking

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This Guest Post was written by Jessica Dolce, an animal welfare advocate. She’s spent the past ten years walking dogs and working with shelter dogs in Philadelphia and Maine. Jessica blogs at and can be found cheering people on over at the DINOS: Dogs in Need of Space Facebook page.

As a professional dog walker, I can’t say enough good things about walking your dog. It strengthens your bond, allows your dog’s world to expand (so much to sniff and pee on!) and provides both of you with exercise and fresh air. In honor of National Walk Your Dog Week, here are a few pointers that will help you have happier, safer walks with your best friend:

Use a standard 4-6 foot flat leash. Regular length leashes allow you to have the most control over your dog, especially if they are leash pullers. If you prefer to use a retractable leash, please remember to shorten and lock it when walking near other dogs and people. This goes double if you’re in an enclosed space (like a pet store or the vet’s office)!

Poop bags, treats, house keys. “Poop bags, treats, house keys. Poop bags, treats, house keys.” That’s what’s going through my head as I leash up my dogs. I never leave home without those three things. Know what’s on your short list, them have them stored in an easy to reach spot by the front door.

Obey leash laws. Unless you’re visiting a designated off-leash area, such as a dog park, please obey leash laws in your community. Leash laws are there to keep everyone safe. From small children and senior citizens who are enjoying a walk, to keeping your dog safe from traffic and other dogs, using a leash and having your dog under your control, allows everyone to have equal and safe access to public spaces. No matter how friendly your dog is, others have a right to their personal boundaries. Respect them by leashing up and not allowing your dogs to pull you over to anything and everyone in sight.

Give your full attention. Put down your phone. Pay attention to your dog and the world around you. Not only does talking and texting distract you from all the wonderful, tiny details that your dog is sure to point out to you, but it’s safer too. It’ll keep your hands free to hold the leash, your ears open to the sound of oncoming cars, bikes, joggers, and dogs, and your eyes up so you don’t walk into a wall!

3 dogs ready to go for a walk

Ask permission before you approach dogs. If you see a new canine friend you’d like to meet, always ask permission before you approach them (on or off leash). This is an important precaution to take to prevent dog bites. Not all dogs are comfortable meeting new dogs, even friendly ones. In fact, many dogs need space to stay healthy and safe. I call these dogs DINOS (Dogs in Need of Space). DINOS are good dogs, they just need some space for various reasons, such as: illness, injury, old age, learning manners, working or training to be a Service Dog, recovering from surgery, or they’re fearful of strangers. Whatever the reason, these dogs are enjoying a walk on leash with their people and aren’t always able to say “hi!”. So please, before you allow your dog to approach a dog you don’t know, ask first and wait for a response. If it’s “no”, don’t take it personally. Respect their wish to have some one-on-one time with their dogs and try to have compassion for them. One day, your dog may need space too!

Have fun! Dogs live life in the moment. They’re happy to be out and about, with you, the center of their world, by their side. Enjoy this time with your best buddy. If you’re struggling with leash manners and it’s ruining your good time, invest in some help from a professional dog trainer. It’s worth it, because when you’re having fun, so are the dogs!

 Wishing all of you happy, safe walking!

Have anything to add? Leave a comment below!

15 Responses

  1. John Decker says:

    This is a great article. I rescued a dog about a year ago and at first it behaved very bad. I think having multiple owners, he just did not know how to accepted new settings. I took him to dog training and he became very good and well behaved. I also learned some little techniques I can practice at home with him. Training a dog all on your own can be difficult, so I find it worth the money to have a professional train them.

  2. Jacqui Cotterell says:

    Hi, I really enjoyed your article about dog walking. I am having very bad problems with my Chinese Crested Powder Puff. We acquired him when he was 11 months. He was previously kept between a handbag and a cage. When he grew too big he was put on the internet. Unfortunately he has now become very aggressive towards people, bikes, children etc. I am doing all the training, have called in a few behavourists, (one got bitten) who have been unsuccessful in helping. I try to get him to focus and sit and then treat, when when the subjects get too close his aggression level goes through the roof. Any ideas?
    Best Wishes

    • Annie M says:

      Hi Jacqui, So sorry to hear you are having a hard time. It sounds like your dog wasn’t socialized at all as a pup. I am not a behaviorist so I can’t give you specialized advice, but I suggest you read lots of behavioral books. You know your dog best, reading will help you understand what the thought process is for your dog and get to the source/ exact type of aggression he is having. Has he been neutered? Also talk to your vet about medication to help take the edge off during training. Training is a great idea, keep it up. It will take an action plan to rewire his behavior and that takes a long time, see if you can find a behaviorist to work on a specific plan for you. Hope that helps!

  3. Nice blog. Thanks for providing such a wonderful info

  4. Greetings! I’ve been following your site for a while now and finally got the bravery to go ahead and give you a shout out from Dallas Tx! Just wanted to mention keep up the excellent job!

  5. Steph B. says:

    Thanks for this great post! These are really excellent tips. As a dog trainer (whose clients include service dogs and reactive dogs) it is so great to see information like this out there – not just about leashes but also about paying attention! :)

  6. Colt says:

    Yay for this guest post! If only everyone would follow these rules. I am a dog walker too, and people are always shocked that I can have five dogs walking next to me without going nuts about passersby and their dogs. Sadly we’re the exception, not the rule, and often have to take different kinds of evasive action. I also have a service dog, and my wee service dog in training—DINOS (and me, a PINOS, I guess!) all over the place!! Again, great post, should be mandatory reading for ANYONE with a dog!! :)

    • Annie M says:

      Hi Colt, I think people have a big problem with keeping their dogs calm in the company of other dogs (myself included) If you have any tips to share that would be most appreciated! We have had good luck with the leave it command but not always consistent. Thanks!

  7. Judynyc says:

    Great blog post from another dog walker!! Thank you!

  8. Jessica says:

    Thank you for the opportunity to guest blog!

    Walking our dogs is such a pleasure. Three cheers for Found Animals for helping to spread the message that part of that enjoyment comes from living in a compassionate community of dog lovers who are respectful of one another and responsibly manage their dogs.

    p.s. If you’re living with DINOS, be sure to check out the facebook page – you’ll find that you’re not alone!

  9. Aimee says:

    As someone who often fosters and also has a dog who needs some space I so wish that everyone would follow these tips! Its really a challenge to teach a foster dog good manners if an off leash dog is up in their grill. Thanks to Jessica for spreading the word – I love your blog and the DINOS facebook page!