Tips for Walking With Your Dog

How to Have the Best Walks with Your Best Canine Friend

person in exercise wear walking dog
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Dogs are great walking companions, great personal trainers, and great nags. Once you begin walking with your dog, you may soon find your dog is in control of your walking program. Your dog is ready to walk when you are (unlike friends and family), and will let you know when it is time to lace up your sneakers.

1. Dog Training

Opt for formal classes if they are available and affordable. Start while the dog is a puppy, and continue until the dog can be trusted off leash.


  • Your dog can earn the AKC Canine Good Citizen certificate, which indicates a level of obedience and training attained.
  • If attending classes is not possible, you may want to try training books, such as Carol Lea Benjamin's Mother Knows Best, Surviving Your Dog's Adolescence, or Dog Training in 10 Minutes.
  • The result of good training is a dog that is a pleasure to walk with -- one that will sit, down and heel on command, as necessary. You don't want to be towed into the sunset at about 60 MPH! 

2. Walking Your Dog on a Leash

If your dog is on a leash, it can't get away and cause problems. If your dog is always pulling on the leash, consider using a pinch collar to increase your control and comfort. Some walkers use a harness, and others find retractable leashes to be the best way to give the dog a little more slack, then reel them in as needed.

3. Are Dogs Allowed Where You Plan to Walk?

Check with the organizers of walking events you plan to attend.

If walking in a park, call ahead or check the website to see if there are any restrictions. Note that dogs are sometimes allowed on trails, but not in shuttle buses or visitors' centers.

4. Carry a Pooper Scooper

If you don't have (or want to purchase) the actual tool, try a disposable plastic bag. When the bag is placed over the hand, you can pick up what you have to, turn the bag inside out, and tie the end closed.

Dispose of it properly. Zip-closure sandwich bags are another secure option.

5. Water

Carry water for both you and your pet. You can use your hand as a water dish if nothing else is available. Some walkers suggest using collapsible cups, inflatable water dishes, and zip-closure bags, as well.

6. Taking Time for Rest

Find a shady spot and take ten. Play with the dog, talk to other walkers and cool down a bit. Dogs can't sweat. They keep cool by panting, finding shady spots, walking in water, and drinking lots of water. If you are walking near water in the summer, find a safe place (not public beaches) and let your dog go swimming. If you drove to your walking spot, be sure not to leave your dog in a vehicle unattended if it's warm out and you're making stops on your way home.

7. Identification

Every dog should have a couple of forms of identification. Name tags and collars can get lost. Tattoos and embedded microchips will back up the name tag. You should carry a clear photo of the dog or have one stored on your mobile phone, which can aid in recovery if your dog strays.

Also, some places require you to carry your dog's rabies certificate with you.

8. Is Your Dog Ready?

Before taking a dog on a long walk, consider if the dog is healthy enough, has the desire, and is trained enough to walk that distance at your side. You should get an OK from your veterinarian if your pooch has any medical problem, is overweight, etc. Work up to the longer distances with him by doing the shorter distances first.

9. Trails

Dog walkers often prefer country walks and trails that have sidewalks, or paths that are well off the road.

10. Dangers

While you may want to let your dog roam at will on a long leash or even off-leash, this has risks. You won't be able to control your dog if you encounter an aggressive dog. You won't be able to prevent your dog from chasing other animals (skunks!) or approaching people. One of the biggest dangers is that your dog may run out into traffic. Proper dog training and walking on a leash with good control are the best ways of keeping your dog safe.

9 Dog Lovers Tell of Walking with Their Dogs

Countless people have experienced the benefits of walking with their dogs firsthand. Here, a few of their experiences:

Walking with Mimi Pollow and Her Dog Silas

My favorite walking companion for the last eleven years has been my dog, Silas. He is a peke-a-poo. His first volksmarch was at the Northern Virginia Volksmarchers event. He was only three months old and was carried for half the walk.

This was also the first walk he ever worked at. I was working at a checkpoint. Silas was sleeping on the chair next to me. He was only three months old, had just done a 5 KM walk, and needed his sleep.

Dennis Overcash Walks with Two Dogs - Needs a Pooper Scooper

 I have walked with two of our dogs. Our little Beagle mix called Droopy is a good walker. However, he has one walking habit that he does faithfully. He passes all fields and unimproved areas with little notice. Just entering civilization again he'll then find a nice manicured lawn and have his bowel movement. It is never in the places that would make no difference. He waits until the most inconvenient times. We don't usually plan very well for this, but after leaving the start point, we generally are able to find enough trash (paper cups, etc. on the sidewalks, etc. to pick up after him).

Patti Erickson on Why a Leash is a Good Idea

We were walking up on the Billy Goat Trail off the C&O Canal Towpath in the D.C.

area in Maryland. It was a bright, sunny winter's day and there was no one within hearing. I decided to let her off lead to run around as she so loves to do. (This is not recommended and almost all parks require dogs to be on a leash at all times.) So, she was running around exuberantly, up and down the hollows of the hills rising from the banks of the Potomac River, which had ice on it out to about 10 yards from shore.

She saw a bird out on the ice and took a flying leap onto what appeared to her to be solid ground. But the poor thing plopped right through the leaves and twigs which were disguising the small area of melted ice, into the frigid Potomac water! She was off lead so that I couldn't assist her. Luckily, she got a foothold on the mud and bounded back up the hill to me with the most pathetic, surprised, wet-doggy look! I felt like an idiot, which I was! The moral of the story is: Think! And obey the leash rules, even when there's nobody around that the dog might bother!

Marilyn McCarthy and Hot Walking with a Black Dog

My dog is a black dog, and the sun really bothers him. I tried to make a cover for him out of a t-shirt, but it didn't work. He is resourceful in looking for shade when we are doing walks. I ended up carrying him several times on a walk in Page/Strawberry AZ because it was hot and hilly and he did want to budge. 

Robin Rosenstock and Being Herded by Her German Shephard

Sherpa, my German Shepard, and I started walking while living in Germany.

When we first started walking, true to his heritage, if he thought we should be going faster, he started herding us along by circling the group. Since he was on a leash, we all became very good at hopping over the leash as it came around! He did learn to become a better group walker eventually.

Carol Koch and Sam

I have a spouse who is not particularly interested in walking; and while I have a few friends who enjoy it, getting together or walking at the same pace seems to be a problem. Sam is always willing to go, matches my pace, loves it, and is good company. What more can you ask in a walking buddy?

Kevin Shaw and Peaches Go for a Swim

At the Piedmont Pacers walk at the Linganore Winery near Mt Airy MD about a year ago, Peaches did her famous 1/2 hour swim in this pond near the finish (It was quite a hot day, and I wanted the pooches to cool off). However, Peaches cooled off fast, then decided all the ducks and geese would be a lot of fun to swim after. Peaches covered every square foot of that pond, chasing the waterfowl. But she would get close, and they would just fly away! This female walker worried about Peaches and shamed me into trying to swim after her. She was going to do it if I didn't! She thought I couldn't swim. Just as I was about to enter the water, Peaches calmly swam over to shore near me. So I grabbed her and brought her to shore. My friend Marty had tried to find a boat at the start point but to no avail. Peaches at times was breathing quite hard, and sounded like one of the waterfowl she was chasing, honking away! She also would honk hard when she would get so close to the birds, and they would fly away, and Peaches would get so exasperated!

Lucy Krupp and Angel

My husband's Maltese (a male named "Angel" who believes himself a Doberman) will follow my husband Marv anywhere. He has been on about eight 10K volksmarches. The only way this is possible is for me to hold his leash and walk several yards behind Marv. As long as Marv moves, the dog moves. We always carry a water dish. The very first walk he did was a city walk with the Mid-Florida Milers. It was all concrete, and Angel didn't seem to tire, but when we got home, he was too stiff to walk up two steps into the house. He slept almost nonstop for two days. We don't take him on city walks anymore. The best walk for him was in Helen, Ga. It was all soft pine needles.

Cynthia Abrahamson and Dog Volksmarch in the Northwest

I have a 5-year-old Springer Spaniel-Border Collie mix who loves to volksmarch or do any other human activity. She has been volksmarching her entire life throughout the Northwest, primarily Washington, and has done over 200 volksmarches. I would hate to see her weight if see didn't walk. We typically do one volksmarch every weekend with occasional multi-event weekends.When you ask her if she wants to do a volksmarch, she wags her tail and gets into the truck hours before we actually depart. She is as addicted to the walks as her owners.

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