Dog walking - everything you need to know
You know that walking dogs is essential. But when you have to walk your dog a few times a day both of you will enjoy it much more if you find a few alternative dog walking routes.
How can I find the best dog walks near me? What are the laws and other rules of dog walking? How often should dogs walk? You can find the answers to these questions here.
Where can dogs walk while on a leash or unleashed?
Many owners do not change their dog walking routes very often because they have no idea where their dogs have to be leashed and where they are allowed to run loose. They just choose a familiar route because they don’t have to think about where to go. Obviously this makes sense, but it could also become very boring.
In built-up areas and on public roads dogs have to be kept on a leash. You also cannot let your dog run free on playgrounds, play areas, sports parks, sports arenas and schoolyards. The reason is that your dog could get in the way of the children and athletes, creating unsafe conditions.
Outside built-up areas, different rules apply. Most local authorities have made provision for places, including dog parks, where dogs are allowed to run free. This means that you have to pay careful attention to the signage at entrances. Try a web search of “best dog walks near me” for different places to visit with your dog.
Only a small number of beaches in the UK allow dogs on the beach all year round. Most, however, allow dog walking between the beginning of October to the end of April. Then you will mostly also be able to let your dog run free if they are sociable and properly trained to obey your commands.
UK dog laws related to dog walking
Dog ownership is very popular in the UK and this is probably why this country has such extensive dog control laws. Laws that apply to every dog owner include:
- Every dog has to be microchipped by eight weeks of age
- Dogs walking on public highways or in public spaces have to wear a collar with the owner’s name and address on an attached plate or badge
- Dog faeces must be picked up
- The owner can be criminally charged if a dog is dangerously out of control in a public or private space, even if the other party only felt that they might be injured
Furthermore, every local authority has the power to issue their own dog control orders. For example, specifying the public spaces where dogs have to be on a lead and where they are not allowed at all. Some councils have even made it compulsory to carry a poop scoop and bags when you are walking your dog.
To avoid the possibility of a fine, you are advised to look up the dog ownership laws in your area. Also remember to check on the rules which apply in any places you plan to visit with your dog while on holiday.
Unwritten dog walking rules
Besides the legal requirements, there are a number of unwritten dog walking rules. These are accepted dog walking behaviour guidelines for owners and their dogs. While you cannot be fined for violating these rules, it could result in conflict between yourself and other dog owners.
Always be attentive when your dog is not on a leash. For example, if you are being approached by a dog on a leash, keep your unleashed dog close to you. You do not know why the other dog is on a leash and the other dog owner does not know how your dog will react. As a courtesy, always make sure that a dog on a leash can walk past without any problems.
Never touch, or allow your child to touch, another dog without the owner’s permission. Even if a dog is running loose, it isn’t a licence to pet it.
The same applies to offering a snack to a dog that is not yours. Always ask the owner’s approval first. If you have snacks with you, you should always know what is in them and for which dogs they are suitable. Yarrah's organic chicken necks, chew sticks and mini snacks for dogs, can be fed to all dogs - from puppies to seniors. When you have some of these in your pocket, you know that you will always have a healthy snack for any dog.
Is your dog not very social? As far as possible, try walking them when and where there are few other dogs around. Not only will your dog enjoy their walk more, but you also won’t have to be on the lookout for other dogs all the time. If you are unable to walk your dog during quiet times, rather keep them on their leash.
Always make sure that you have more than enough bags for picking up dog poop when you walk your dog. There are many gadgets available for carrying these bags, including ones that you can attach to your dog’s leash. Have you forgotten your bags? Ask another dog owner if they might have an extra bag for you. Anything is better than just leaving the faeces on the pavement and making a quick getaway.
Why should dogs walk?
Before we get to how often you should walk your dog, you need to know why dog walking is so important. Many people think that the reason is mainly for their dog to relieve themselves.
However, dogs also need to walk for exercise and to expend their energy. Furthermore, sniffing around new things and places stimulates their minds and provides them with information about their environment. They also feel safer if they know where other dogs are. Dogs that are not allowed to sniff their environment while out walking could become restless because they feel that they have lost control.
Meeting other dogs and people is also an important part of dog walking. No matter how much your four-legged friend loves you, some outside social contact is always a welcome change. For this reason, it is also important for your dog’s socialisation to get used to contact with other dogs from a young age.
How often should you walk your dog?
Now that you know why it is important to walk your dog, let's talk about how often they should go out. In general, dogs should be allowed outside 3 to 4 times a day to relieve themselves. Most owners stick to a schedule of walking their dogs in the morning, afternoon, evening and before going to bed.
Make sure that you walk your dog for at least half-an-hour during at least one of their walks. This will, obviously, also depend on the dog’s breed, health and age. Puppies should not walk for too long. You can calculate the duration of their walk by multiplying their age in weeks by one minute. For example, a 10-week old puppy should only walk for about 10 minutes.
Dogs always do better with a fixed schedule. You don’t have to take them out at exactly 08.00 every morning, but don’t make it 08.00 today and 11:00 tomorrow. Your dog's feeding schedule should also be adjusted to the walking times. Always try to feed your dog after a walk and don’t take them for a walk until at least one hour after their last meal. You find it uncomfortable walking on a full stomach, and the same applies to your dog.
Your dog's behaviour while walking
Walking your dog should be a relaxing activity for you as well, but avoid being distracted while out walking dogs. Ideally, you shouldn’t be looking at your phone all the time or chatting too long with a neighbour. You should keep an eye on the surroundings and your dog’s behaviour the whole time. Your dog experiences the walk as a journey of discovery and it is your job to avoid any potential stressors as far as possible.
Watch carefully how your dog reacts to different situations, particularly when walking along a new route. For example, busy roads with cars, many cyclists or a passing train can be very stressful for your dog. As soon as you notice that your dog is panting, yawning, or walking with its tail between its legs, it will be best to change your route. Also choose another route if you notice that your dog is becoming clingy and walking closer to you.
Furthermore, do not force your dog to walk in places that scare them. For example, many dogs are afraid of walking over bridges. They might lie down in front of the bridge or try to walk away in the opposite direction. You may not understand why our dog is acting this way, but it’s best to just accept it. Take another route so that your dog can come home in a relaxed mood rather than feeling stressed-out.
There are many other factors that determine how much your dog enjoys their walks. Most dogs are quite happy walking in rainy weather, but heat could have the opposite effect. Shorten your walks on hot days and also take your walks around sunrise or sunset. Avoid walking dogs on tarred surfaces on hot days. When the outside temperature is around 25 degrees, tar can heat up to almost 50 degrees.
You should also pay particular attention when walking senior dogs. They might show signs that they are tired sooner than usual. Some dogs might sit down halfway through the walk or they could bark to attract your attention.
You take your dog walking - and not the other way around
For both of you to enjoy the walk, your dog should understand who is in charge. You decide on the route and the pace - and not the other way around. If you don’t get this right early on, it can cause a lot of tension between you and your dog. For example, you could find yourself running after your dog in a panic all the time or you could lose your temper and lash out at your dog when things don’t go according to plan.
One of the things you can do to teach your dog who is in charge is to keep the leash loose. Then stop as soon as your dog starts pulling at the leash. Continue walking only once your dog is calm and the leash is loose between you. It might take a while for your dog to get the message, but once it works, both of you will be rewarded with pleasant and peaceful walks.
Furthermore, it is fine if your dog walks in front of you. Dogs naturally walk ahead because they want to explore and investigate beforehand to make sure that everything is safe. You can easily allow your dog to walk 1.5 to 2 metres ahead of you, as long as the leash is loose and neither of you are pulling.
Also don't forget to reward your dog when he does what you have taught him to. For example, you will need to teach your dog to stop before crossing a road. After a while you will notice that your dog sticks to the rules, even without a reward. When you train your dog well, you can enjoy relaxing walks together.
Now that you know what the formal and unwritten dog walking rules are, how often dogs walk, and which places are suitable for walking dogs, you can take to the road. When everything goes well, walking your dog will become one of the most enjoyable parts of your day. It's a wonderful time to relax together and build a strong bond.