Dogs love a walk. They love to get out of the yard and see and sniff and smell and do those things that dogs do.
Whether we take our dog on walks depends a lot on how he behaves. We do not want to get dragged along and tangled in the leash. Unfortunately, how our dog behaves is entirely our doing. If we have trained him to walk nicely along with us, the walk will be enjoyable. But we cannot just put a leash on an active dog and expect him to heel at our side.
The dog must be taught what is expected of him and then we must be consistent.
Some like the dog to walk quietly at their side. Others allow more freedom so long as the dog is not pulling. Dogs need exercise and like to be able to check things out around them.
When on a pleasure walk with just one dog, the retractable flexi-leash is terrific and allows moving about. It is too restricting to keep the dog in heel position all the time, but it beats no walk at all.
At some time during the walk, it is good to spend a little time working on heeling and basic obedience so that when you need the dog to sit or stay or heel, you know you can depend on him to do it. Walking two or three dogs requires more control and keeping them fairly close.
There are two basic types of collars --round the neck or the harness. The harness was designed for pulling, not walking on leash, and offers no real control. If your dog is not a puller, a plain web or leather collar around the neck is perfect. There are several types of collars designed to help control a headstrong dog and teach him not to pull. Most of these ideally would be used only until the dog is trained to walk nicely.
The choke collar used to be very popular in obedience classes. Most people do not put them on correctly and they do not tighten and release as they were designed to do. A dog can suffer serious damage to the neck and throat with this collar. If used at all, the choke collar should only be kept on while walking. Many dogs have been choked to death by having the ring on the collar get caught on something and they could not get free.
The prong collar is useful with a headstrong dog. Many think it is cruel, but it is far less cruel than the choke collar and far less damaging. The prong collar has sets of teeth or prongs and when the dog pulls, these prongs tighten around his neck. They are not sharp, but they do give control. This collar is self-correcting and the dog should learn quickly that if he does not pull, he will not get pinched.
The newest of the control collars is made of webbing and wraps around the muzzle and behind the ears of the dog. The leash connects to a ring under the muzzle. If he pulls, it tightens around his nose which inhibits his breathing. It too is self-correcting and very effective. The Gentle Leader and Halti are two brands available.
Any of these control collars should be used only while walking and hopefully can be eliminated after the dog has learned proper walking behavior. However, a refresher course might be needed from time to time.
Walking and training leashes should be 4 to 6 feet long and made of leather or webbing.
The retractable flexi-leash comes in 10-, 16- and 26-foot lengths and for small, medium and large dogs. They are terrific for pleasure walking and give the dog some freedom while giving the handler control. The flexi can be used with any type of collar.
The dog should never be allowed to chew on his leash.
Taking the time to teach your dog proper walking behavior makes walking a happy and healthy experience.
Christy Wrather is a columnist for the Payson Roundup. She can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by snail-mail at HC1 Box 210, Strawberry, AZ 85544.