You may be wondering why National Walk Your Dog Month is celebrated in January. It could be because the first month of the year is a time for making resolutions that we hope will set the tone for the months that follow. Or it could be a friendly reminder that despite the colder weather, we cannot neglect the importance of keeping our dogs physically active and mentally stimulated all year long. Regardless of the reason, we encourage you to participate in National Walk Your Dog Month and follow the safety tips outlined below.
General walking tips
When walking your dog, follow the same pedestrian safety rules that you would follow if you were walking on your own. This means walking on the left side of the road facing oncoming traffic and using sidewalks whenever possible. You’ll also want to keep your dog on your left side furthest away from traffic to prevent them from getting hit by a car. For the sake of your dog’s safety, your own safety, and the safety of the other people and pets around you, make sure your dog has a handle on the basic commands: Sit, Stay, Come, Down, and Leave It.
When it comes to walking safely, the best practice is to keep a leash on your dog at all times. Your local pet store will have many leash and harness options that will suit every body size and strength level. Check that your dog’s collar fits correctly and that all identification tags are attached securely and are up to date with your contact information. Replace the collar and leash if there are obvious signs of wear and tear like rust or torn fabric.
Evening street safety
There are less daylight hours in the winter making it more difficult to see cars, dog walkers, cyclists, and other animals in the evenings. Carry a flashlight to illuminate your path, a whistle to scare off nocturnal critters, and stick to familiar well-lit routes. You may consider purchasing reflective clothing and accessories like a light up collar and leash to increase your dog’s visibility to drivers.
Hiking trail safety
While some dog-friendly trails allow off leash walking, the safest practice is to use a leash at all times (especially if your dog is prone to wandering). For your own safety, wear appropriate footwear with no-skid soles and a good amount of tread. Proper hiking shoes will help you regain your balance if your dog pulls you in an unexpected direction.
Pack a backpack with all the hiking essentials: first aid kit, treats, extra dog food, fresh water, a bowl, bug repellent, plastic bags, and a comb to check for ticks. If your dog is in good physical health and enjoys having a job to perform, you can even pack a light backpack for them to carry with their favourite toy inside. Your dog will gain great satisfaction from their newfound sense of purpose and the added weight will make for a more challenging workout session. There are a variety of backpacks designed for dogs on the market.
Besides being a great form of exercise, walking strengthens the bond you and your dog share. No matter how you celebrate National Walk Your Dog Month this January, we wish you and your pet safe travels!