What a blissful sight: dog owner strolling through the park with a well-behaved dog trotting calmly on the end of a leash. Unfortunately, sometimes the sight is more chaotic than calming with the dog tugging fitfully on the leash as the owner stumbles and struggles to gain control. Everybody prefers the first scene, but if you aren’t properly prepared, walking your dog might not be a “walk in the park!”
Get a physical before you get physical. Have your veterinarian clear your dog for any new physical activity. This is especially important for older dogs that may have joint issues, like arthritis, but it’s also important for growing puppies that have immature joints. Strenuous exercise can be painful for both the very young and the very old. Ask your veterinarian to outline an appropriate exercise regimen for your dog. Your senior dog may need anti-inflammatory or pain medication to stay comfortable during and after exercise. On the upside, walking will help your older dog shed pounds and relieve the burden on older joints. Before walking, you may want to see your own physician for a check-up!
Have a talk with your dog. Walking is an adventure! Your dog will enjoy new sights, smells and sounds that she encounters while strolling. Some dogs get really excited when exposed to something interesting and new. They forget their manners and rush up to the interesting dog or person or bird or squirrel....you get the picture. While you should have leash control of your dog, it’s a good idea to have a back up control mechanism in the form of voice commands. Your dog should listen when you talk! She should sit, stay, or come when called. So before setting out on a hike, spend some time reviewing (or teaching) basic obedience skills.
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