by Barry KuKes
As I have mentioned in the past, my lovely wife is a pet sitter, and thus she walks many dogs regularly. On the other hand, I let the dogs out in the backyard, sit on my rump, and have a cup of coffee while they do their business. However, there are those rare occasions when I do take one of our dogs for a walk. These walks always, and without fail, produce a story of adventure. The adventure varies depending on the dog I am walking.
Each one of my dogs (I have three) is totally different from the others in every way except that they all resemble a Golden Retriever. Only one, Bentley, is actually a Golden Retriever, but that’s neither here nor there. Like children, they all have their own personalities, quirks, and behaviors to manage. If you walk a dog, you know the challenges you must deal with every time you go on a walk. Some dogs love to smell every inch of pavement and grass. Their noses are glued to the ground, and they hardly walk at all. Of all of my dogs, Max, a Golden Labrador rescue that passed last year, was the best walker. He would walk by your side, stop when you stopped, would not pull on the leash, and listened. Max would also walk on a treadmill either by himself or with me. He would stay on for a mile or longer, which is very rare for a dog with typically a short attention span to do.
Then, there are the dogs that pull on the leash the entire time. In my bunch, this would be Mini-Cooper. A little guy of only 16 lbs., he pulls as if he weighs 80! He is also that dog that barks at everything. I let my wife walk Cooper.
Then there is the dog that needs to poop on every walk. It doesn’t matter if they just pooped a minute ago in the yard; if they are going for a walk, you better have a poop bag or two. This would be my other dog, Spencer.
Of course, some rules and regulations apply to dog walking. Here are a few.
One, if it is too hot for you to hold the back of your hand on the pavement for 8 seconds, then it is too hot for your dog’s paws. Instead, take your dog to an area that is grass or dirt to prevent its paw burns.
Two, use a leash that is sturdy and can control your dog. Retractable leashes, although popular, can be dangerous to you and your pet. Dogs can easily break the thin leash material or wrap it around your legs, causing you to fall. Invest in a 6-foot rope-style leash like a Weiss-Walkie, which is used by dog trainers.
Three, always have poop bags and water with you when walking your dog. Even if your dog doesn’t usually poop on a walk, you never know when they might. Leaving poop on a neighbor’s lawn or the sidewalk isn’t very neighborly.
Carrying a bottle of water is also a good idea. Sometimes, we meet up with another dog walker or a dog-less neighbor who wants to talk, and the 15-minute walk ends up being a 45-minute excursion.
Four, if you meet up with a neighbor and are standing in one place for more than 30 seconds, move to a grassy area so your dog is not standing on hot pavement.
Five, observe your dog’s behavior. Look for signs of heat exhaustion. When it’s over 75 degrees, limit your walks to 10 minutes so your dog doesn’t get overheated. Also, observe your dog’s demeanor towards other people and dogs. Just because your dog gets along with every dog doesn’t mean every dog will get along with yours. Slow introductions and keeping a safe distance away from an unfamiliar dog and person are good practices.
Most dogs love to go for a walk, so let’s keep them safe and happy so they, and you, can enjoy the experience. Lastly, please adopt, don’t shop.
Barry KuKes is the former Community Outreach Director for the Halifax Humane Society.