MAKE SURE YOU HAVE THE PROPER WALKING EQUIPMENT!
Dog Walk Safety Tips
Walking your dog is the most common form of daily exercise between pet and owner. Some take short walks while others go for long runs, but we should all remember a few things when we’re out with furry friends to ensure that we are safe. Here are a few things to consider before taking your dog out for a walk.
Leash, Collar, and Harness
Before a dog walk, be sure that all of your dog’s walking equipment fits properly. You should only be able to slip two-to-three fingers between the collar and the dog’s neck. They should be snug and your dog should not be able to pull or wiggle out of them. If you have questions about the fit of your walking equipment, consult a trainer or vet. In addition to being the proper fit, make sure that your collars, harnesses, and leashes don’t have any rusted metal or broken plastic clasps. All the fabric on your equipment should also be without rips or tears.
ID and Rabies Tags
Your pet’s identification tags should always be up-to-date with your current name, address, and phone number. There are many circumstances in which your dog may escape from your control and run loose during a routine dog walk. Be prepared for the worst! A current rabies tag is also important in the event that a bite or scratch occurs. In most places any bite or scratch, if reported to animal control, will result in quarantine even if that dog is current on their Rabies vaccine. If you are concerned that your dog may be a bite risk to others, consider muzzle training for an additional layer of protection and control.
Weather Appropriate Gear
It’s always best to be prepared for whatever weather is common to your area. For Texas in the summer, we are most concerned about extreme heat. Since humans wear shoes, it is easy for us to forget just how hot the pavement can be! You can purchase booties to protect your dog’s feet, or simply avoid areas with large uncovered areas of concrete or asphalt. If you are unsure if a surface is too hot for your dog to walk on with bare paws, you can check by placing the palm of your hand against the surface for 15 seconds. If you can’t hold your hand there comfortably for that time, it is too hot for your dog! While our dog’s paw pads protect them from a lot of discomfort, they can still blister, burn, and break under harsh conditions. Where temperature is concerned, we also want to be wary of our short-faced breeds. They overheat more easily than their long-snouted siblings and will struggle more with heat exhaustion. Not to be outdone, cold weather can be just as dangerous. Always bundle your dog up when it’s cold outside. In the case that it is snowing, be aware of salted areas. The combination of ice and salt can actually burn your dog’s feet, so be sure you are walking in safe areas.
When out walking with your dog, it’s important to always be aware of your surroundings. The best thing you can do to protect yourself from potential danger is to be alert. If possible, do not walk with music or while looking at your phone. Many people carry a weapon or self-defense tool of some kind. In the case that you carry a firearm, it is recommended that your dog walks leashed on the opposite side from your weapon. This will decrease the likelihood of accidental discharge, and make your weapon more easily accessible if you should find yourself in a situation where you need to use it. Always keep your phone and firearm on the side of your dominant hand for the maximum benefit.
A deterrent can come in very handy in the case that you come across a wild or stray animal during your dog walk. In order to deter a loose animal from approaching you, I generally recommend carrying a stun gun or air horn. The air horn is great for warning another animal from a distance, or scaring away smaller pests. It can also alert others to a situation that is happening, should you need help in the case of an emergency. A stun gun (not a taser) can be discharged from a distance as well. The sound and smell of electricity can often be enough to deter a potential threat. Dogs can smell the electrical discharge, and though we hope that we never have cause to use the stun gun, it can be used at close range if the noise and smell is not enough to scare a threat away. If you do use a stun gun, make sure that it is always charged!
Being safe is all about being prepared! Chart your path, check your equipment for wear, stock up on treats, and make sure you are able to defend yourself and your dog if the need should arise. Walking with a partner can also ease some of the concerns that you might normally have walking alone.