Walking your cheeky pup…
A lot of people ask me about how to walk their pup, with added comments like ‘he just sits and will not move’, or, ‘she pulls into hedges all the time and keeps sniffing’. Another question I’m starting to hear more of, ‘is it okay to walk my dog on a harness or should I just use their collar?’
Do not walk your puppy in a public area until they are fully vaccinated. That means, three individual puppy vaccinations usually one month apart. If you will be walking your dog of any age near dog parks or in an area where other dogs are common please I suggest you discuss with your vet about your dog have a minimum C4 vaccination as their third puppy vaccination or as their once-a-year top up. C4 will help protect against: parvovirus, hepatitis, distemper and bordatella/parainfluenza. If your dog has only had a C3 vaccination your vet can vaccinate them against bordatella/parainfluenza by administering a quick sinus spray.
Once fully vaccinated
Once you’re dog is vaccinated and you want to start walking them keep in mind that the world is a new and scary place for your dog. Let them set the pace and if they want to sniff, sit and look around allow that to happen. Your dog needs to build up their stamina for a walk, but not until after they feel comfortable in the environment. If you have a scaredy dog take your time on a short walk, which might mean walking 5 minutes in one direction and then turning around and going back home. As they get better take some treats with you so you can encourage them to go a bit further. If your dog is still reluctant to go out walking after a fortnight of short, gentle trips please contact an ethical and humane trainer for assistance in helping your dog.
Walk at a time when the temperature isn’t too extreme. As summer approaches that means walking early in the morning before work (which has the added bonus of leaving your dog tired for at least the first few hours when they are home alone), and again in the cool evening.
Always take clean up bags with you. There’s a $275 on the spot fine if you are caught not cleaning up after your dog. You also give your neighbours reason to resent your dog and complain about all dogs out walking. It also strangely gives tacit permission for the next person to not clean up after their dog, which means your dog might want to snack on someone else’s poop on your next walk. Yuk.
Please do not run with your dog until they are fully grown or at least 12 months old. Young dogs have soft bones and growth plates that don’t fuse together until they are at least 12 months old, and usually the larger the breed the later this occurs.
Dog collars are for carrying your dog’s identification! All dogs in New South Wales must by law, whenever they are off your private property, wear a collar that exhibits the dog’s name and the owner’s best contact telephone number.
I recommend walking all dogs using a harness, and preferably a front-clip harness.
Front-clip harnesses will not pinch on nerves or muscles like some other so-called stop-pulling harnesses. Front-clip harnesses will greatly reduce the amount of pressure your dog puts on the harness and leash, and therefore your arm/shoulder/back.
Keep in mind that walking your dog on car-harness, with the leash attaching to the harness over their back, actually encourages them to pull away from you!
What to avoid and why
Check chains can cause neurological changes and nerve related lameness in the front limbs, as well as damage to a dog’s wind pipe, food pipe, and thyroid glands.
- Prong collars are illegal in Australia. It is even illegal, under the Customs Act, to import them into the country.
- Citronella collars may cause unwanted side effects, particularly of a behavioural nature, ie aggression towards the barking trigger.
- Electric shock collars are also illegal in New South Wales. If you use an electric shock collar on your dog be aware there is a $10,000 fine and a 12 month prison sentence in your future (even if it’s not turned on). The exception to this is if the collar is part of an electric fence containment system that is no less than 1.5 metres high (so no in-ground containment system).