Walking your dog(s) around town is a good thing for both you and your dog, but walking on roads near cars and/or the public can easily turn to tragedy should an unpredictable event occur such as being hit by a car or becoming involved in a dog fight. There are things that you can do to increase your safety and ensure that tragedy is much less likely.
- Have control of your dog—this means use a leash. There is one scenario this author witnesses over and over at Astoria Animal Hospital and in public: a lack of control for owners over their dogs. Owners think they have “voice” control over their dogs or hope their dogs will behave, and hence they don’t use a leash. But very often they have very little control and do NEED a leash. So please don’t put your head in the sand regarding this very simple thing: if you are walking your dogs near cars, in public, along the river walk, at Sunday Market, and/or near other dogs, use a leash always.
- It is unsafe when your dog pulls you when you are walking. You can be injured or pulled into a dangerous situation. A Halti Collar is a gentle way to get control of your dog as it works on the same principle as a halter on a horse: where the head goes the body will follow. By using a Halti collar, you are able to guide the dog and walk more comfortably and safely because you are controlling from the head rather than the shoulders, which stops the dog from throwing their weight into the leash and collar and pulling like a plow horse. The author recommends using the name brand Halti collar rather than any of the other makes as they are a higher quality construction which makes putting them on and using them easier.
- Don’t confuse walking your dog with having your dog run behind a bike or alongside a car. When you are on a bike or in a car your control over your dog decreases significantly which makes this form of exercise incredibly dangerous. Accidents from dogs exercised this way lead to a great deal of worry, stress, guilt, and expense for the owner, because accidents are so severe. Also, dogs generally want to be with their owners and will try to keep up with the owner no matter how tired they are and often the owner has no idea (or way of knowing) how tired their dog is. DON’T HAVE ANY DOG EXERCISE BEHIND A BIKE OR A CAR–ever or anywhere.
- When walking your dog anywhere near cars, make it so you AND your dog are visible to cars. Use REFLECTION. It is simply not good enough to assume you can see the car and get out of the way. Cars are so much bigger, heavier, and faster than pedestrians, that should a driver hit you because they could not see you or the driver’s reaction time was delayed (age/alcohol/medication/cell phones/disease); then surely injury or death will occur. Purchase a reflective vest for both you and your dog. The more reflectivity you have the better you are able to be seen and this increases your safety a lot!
- Don’t take poorly-behaved or aggressive dogs in public. It is the owner’s responsibility to have socialized and trained dogs in public. A dog fight reduces safety for not only the dogs but for the humans as well. It is not appropriate for owners with aggressive or poorly trained dogs to take them to places (such as our local Sunday Market) where people or other dogs can be injured. So leave them at home rather than in the car and walk these dogs away from the public.
- If you are in an area where it is acceptable to have a dog off-leash and you see that there are other dogs on a leash, give respect and distance to those leashed dogs. Often there is a reason these dogs are on leash—for example they may be aggressive, in training, or recovering from surgery. Please call your dog and give these dogs wide birth. Sometimes these leashed dogs have a yellow ribbon on them which is a signal to other owners to keep their dogs away. The Yellow Dog Project is an international movement using a yellow ribbon as a signal and more information can be found at www.theyellowdogproject.com.
It is great that you are walking your dog. It’s even better that you care enough and are aware enough that you can affect you and your dog’s safety. Owners that prepare for both their and their dog’s safety and then utilize the safety items they purchase or learn about, have a much lower chance of a tragic accident.
Dr. Dannell Davis
Astoria Animal Hospital