Home > Mom's Life > Family Relationships > Pets > Walking the Dog

Walking the Dog

What could be simpler or more fun than heading out the door with your dog on a leash? Walking (or jogging or running) is a great way to keep you and your dog in shape. You can walk as far as you both are up to, and you can continue at home or away. As simple as it is to walk the dog, though, a little planning and a few precautions can make your outings more pleasant and a lot safer.

Before you start any exercise program, physical checkups for both of you may be in order. Make sure your dog's nails are trimmed short and that his pads are in good condition. You may want to trim any long hair between his pads to give him better traction and prevent small debris from collecting between the pads and injuring his feet. If your dog is overweight or out of shape, ask your vet about a diet and an appropriate distance to walk in the beginning. Start slowly and build up.


A brachycephalic dog has a broad, short skull. Pugs and Pekinese are brachycephalic. Because the muzzle is shortened, a brachycephalic dog typically has trouble lowering its body temperature by panting and is therefore more prone to heatstroke than other longer-muzzled breeds.

Whoever walks the dog should be able to control the dog. If a child—your own or a visitor—wants to walk your dog, the same rule applies: If the child can't control the dog under all circumstances, don't let him walk the dog without a responsible adult. Anyone taking a dog for an outing should be capable of making reasonable decisions, too, so even if your dog is tiny and your seven-year-old can control him, consider carefully whether turning them loose together is a good idea. Some walking hazards (encounters with stray dogs, for instance) are difficult even for adults to manage.

Always keep your dog on leash in public places. Make sure your dog's collar fits properly so that she can't slip out of it. If she has a tendency to try to slip her collar off, get a martingale-style collar that tightens when the dog pulls against the leash. Check your leash periodically, too, to be sure the bolt for the collar is securely stitched in place and that the leash is in good condition. Keep a firm grip on your leash, but if your dog weighs more than about 10 pounds, I do not recommend slipping the loop over your wrist. A quick leap by a squirrel-happy canine can break your wrist, and if your dog is very big, she could even pull you down. I've seen it happen! Teach children, too, never to slide their hand through the loop, and never ever to slip a leash around their neck or waist.


A little petroleum jelly rubbed into the bottoms of your dog's feet will help prevent ice balls from forming between her pads if you're hiking in snow.

If it's hot out, keep walks short or postpone them until evening. Concrete and blacktop get very hot in the sun and can easily burn your dog's foot pads. In addition, excess heat can cause heatstroke. Dogs can sunburn, too, especially if they have light-colored skin or hair. Avoid areas that may have been sprayed with pesticides or insecticides. If your dog does walk though such a place, wash his feet with warm water and dog shampoo when you get home to prevent absorption or ingestion of toxic chemicals.

If you like to walk before sunrise or after sunset, put a reflective collar or vest on your dog, and wear light colors or a reflective vest yourself.

Cold-weather walking also calls for precautions. Keep the hair between your dog's pads trimmed to prevent accumulation of ice balls. If your community puts salt or other chemicals on sidewalks and streets, always wash your dog's feet with warm water after walks. The chemicals can irritate his feet and can be hazardous if he licks them off.

More on: Pets


Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Getting and Owning a Dog © 2003 by Sheila Webster Boneham, Ph.D. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon's web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


Special Books for the Kids You Love
Celebrate 20 years of sharing love to the moon and back with the anniversary edition of Guess How Much I Love You, one of the world’s best-loved picture books. Plus, search our Book Finder for more great book picks. Brought to you by Candlewick Press.

Vote Now for the Children's & Teen Choice Book Awards
Voting is open now through May 3 for the Children's and Teen Choice Book Awards — the only national book awards program where the winning author, illustrator, and books of the year are selected by young readers. Encourage your child to vote for his favorites today!

Top 10 Math & Science Apps for Your Whiz Kid
Looking for the best math and science apps for kids? Check out these cool apps for all ages, which will grow your child's love of the STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and math).

Registered for Kindergarten — Now What?
Wondering what to do now that you've signed your child up for kindergarten? Try our award-winning Kindergarten Readiness app! This easy-to-use checklist comes with games and activities to help your child build essential skills for kindergarten. Download the Kindergarten Readiness app today!

stay connected

Sign up for our free email newsletters and receive the latest advice and information on all things parenting.

Enter your email address to sign up or manage your account.

Facebook icon Facebook icon Follow Us on Pinterest

editor’s picks