22nd February is National walk your dog day. #walkyourdog
I have had some fantastic walks out with my dog Bella. On many beautiful beaches in Wales and cliff walks on the Jurassic Coast, but owning an anxious or reactive dog can be challenging too. And amongst the daily worries, stresses and heartache it can be easy to lose sight of something truly amazing like the joy from walking your dog.
So what makes life easier when walking your nervous dog on national walk your dog day?
For me, our yellow harness & lead.
When your dog wears yellow, it's a clear visual sign that catches peoples eye to show that we need space.
There can be lots of things for us dog owners to remember on a dog walk - especially when walking our reactive dogs. So a multi-functional dog walking bag is just what I need and it’s filled with:
Firstly Poo bags and a Poop Porter. You are required by law to clear up after your dog in public areas and dispose of the bag in an appropriate bin. Every dog owner knows that it can be annoying and inconvenient to carry a used poop bag around until we find a bin or get home. Scooping the poop has to be the least pleasant aspect of owning a dog. Let's face it, no one enjoys it, even the best dog trainers haven't managed to train dogs to do it themselves. We simply clip it to the bag. To use, just slip the knot of the used poop bag through the large hole, and the Poop Porter will keep a hold of it for you, keeping your hands free for giving out those treats.
Water, another essential item. I always have a water bottle and a collapsible bowl. A portable dog bowl is a traveller’s best friend, especially when it’s warm. Ours are attached to our bag with a carabiner clip.
A lightweight muzzle. Bella is scared of being touched by strangers so if we suddenly find ourselves in a busy area I have her muzzle always with me which makes life so much less stressful.
I also carry a weather resistant LED safety light just in case I get caught out in the dark and I can easily just attach it to Bella’s collar to keep her visible and safe at night.
Bella’s lightweight raincoat fits into the end mesh pocket perfectly, again handy if we get caught out in a sudden downpour.
A dog whistle. Bella has been trained with a dog whistle so I always carry one for distance work.
A rubber ball, it can be a great way to motivate your dog. Virtually every dog out there loves playing with a ball, so use this power wisely. It’s a great way to get your dog’s attention and just as you would give them a treat for being good, playing fetch can also be used to instil good habits. Treats an essential for food oriented anxious dogs. Every dog loves treats and it is a great way to help reinforce the positive behaviours you want from your dog.
Gemma from Canine Reactive specialises in behaviour therapy for reactive dogs.
Gemma says "Great advice from Sarah. Having your dog wear yellow can really help change your mindset too. When walking a reactive dog we sometimes struggle to vocal shout out to people that our dog needs space. By having you or your dog (or both) wear bright yellow with clear info 'i need space' helps people clearly see your dog will not appreciate their dog approaching. Also it helps to empower the anxious dog owner as they have added something else to their equipment and management that helps them let people know their dog needs space (you have given warning).
To enjoy national walk your dog day even more plan your walk. Don't just grab the lead and go. Planning is key to stress free walks. Find a location that is either a big open space, quiet, or allows you to change direction. This way you can help keep your dog under threshold and avoid reactive episodes.
Or try and celebrate national walk your dog day by NOT walking your dog. Have a day off for both you and your dog. and Instead of worrying about going for a walk, do something fun together instead, like teaching your dog a new trick, scent games, puzzle games, obedience training and so on.
Remember walks look different for different dogs. A successful walk for you may be only ten minutes up the road, but if there were no reactive episodes from your dog then this is a huge success. For others a walk may be a ten mile hike up mountains. Don't compare your walks to others, your dog is unique and he will thank you for catering to his needs. Take the pressure of yourself and your dog by seeing your walks in a different light."
And finally through the power of our Yellow Army the awareness for our #dogsinyellow. We believe with gentle education, life can be easier for everyone. With joint forces, we can spread understanding, compassion and support throughout communities, making life better for dogs and their humans everywhere.