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Chapter 9: Walkies

No matter what other kinds of exercise you do with your dog, taking him or her for on-lead walks should remain a regular part of your routine. It is, in fact, an important part of the bonding process between you and your dog: in the wild, canines travel in packs for hours every day and this is the city/suburbs human-canine version of that.

To Your Left

During obedience classes your dog will walk
to your left, so that’s where he or she should
walk outside of obedience class too.

 

Detour: Finding Variety In And Out Of The City And Suburbs Setting

Living in a suburb or city environment, your dog will do plenty of walking on concrete. This is good to help file down your dog’s nails, but for a change of pace go off-concrete with your dog when you can.

Visit the beach, go on a long drive and walk in the mountains - as long as it’s safe and dogs are allowed (check beforehand), go for it!

Doggie First Aid Kit

When travelling far from home for walking adventures
with your dog, it's important to keep a doggie first aid kit
(as well as a human one) in the car at all times.
Make up one of your own with guidance from your vet,
or buy one from an online store that stocks them.
 

Poo Patrol

Help retain dogs’ rights to places by picking up after your pooch.

People leaving behind dog poo has resulted in many places banning dogs, so help dog-friendly areas remain dog-friendly by taking plenty of poo bags with you and picking up after your dog every time.

Note: The Command Font

Whenever I mention commands (or praises) I’ll put
them in small caps. For example: sit, stay, heel, etc.

Teaching Your Dog Commands

I’ll list the commands you’ll need with each activity, but as this website is not about training, I won’t be giving instructions on how to teach them to your dog. That’s the kind of work you’ll be doing in obedience class with your trainer.

The exception is that I give instructions on some of the commands used for wheeled activities (Chapter 14: Putting The Wheels In Motion) seeing as they are commands that would never be taught in an obedience class.

Commands Needed For On-Lead Walks

  • heel: the dog walks by your heel on a slack lead.

  • free: in the context of an on-lead walk, the free command releases the dog from the heel command. Unlike heel-walking, when free-walking your dog is able to meander, sniff around, and go to the toilet. (free is better than the often-used okay as a release command, because the word 'okay' is used too often in common speech and you could inadvertently release your dog if you randomly say the word 'okay' in a conversation.)

  • this way: instructs the dog to walk in the direction you’re going, but not at a heel. After the initial free releases the dog from heeling, the this way command indicates to your dog that it’s time to be on your way at a free-walk (some dogs like to sniff the same blade of grass for ages and ages, so sometimes you need to be the one who decides that it's time to move on!).

  • stop: indicates to the dog to halt in his or her tracks immediately.

  • sit: tells your dog to plonk his or her bottom on the ground.

  • stay: commands the dog to freeze in position. During a walk, this would most often be in a sit while waiting at the curb to cross a road. The dog is expected to retain the sit until the next command (in the case of crossing the road, that would be heel).

  • uh-uh: a reprimand to prevent your dog from doing whatever he or she is currently doing. During walks you can use it if, for example, the dog tries to stop without your command. (uh-uh is better than the often-used no, because uh-uh is a much sharper sound.)

  • leave it: orders the dog to leave alone anything you don’t want him or her to sniff at, be close to, or try to eat. I use it in conjunction with the reprimand uh-uh (for example: uh-uh! leave it!).

  • good wee-wee: this is not a command but a praise to use when your dog goes to the toilet. Keep things simple by using good wee-wee to praise both Number Ones and Number Twos. Even if your dog is already toilet trained there’s no harm in continuing to use this praise - it’s very negative to only ever catch your dog doing things wrong, and this is one instance where you can catch your dog doing things right during each and every outing. (I still use this praise even though my dogs are thoroughly toilet trained. It’s a habit from my flat-dwelling days where short ‘Wee Walks’ were necessary and praising the dogs using good wee-wee for doing their business expediently was an important part of that.)

Detour: Praising And Reinforcing Commands At The Same Time

The reason I use good wee-wee instead of the more usual good dog is because it’s a praising method that reinforces the command itself.

As another example, when my dogs sit after I give the command sit I praise them with the words good sit. Not only does it give them praise, but tells the dog precisely what I’m praising for. Similarly, I’ll say good heel when the dogs are heeling well, and good stay when they’ve patiently remained put where I’ve told them to.

You might work with a trainer who doesn’t like this method - they might want you to use the more generic praises like yes, good, or good boy/girl/dog. It’s totally up to you what to do, and all ways have their merits. But when you make the decision, stick to whichever you choose - don’t constantly switch or you'll confuse your dog.

Special Note On The heel Command

NEVER let your dog cross the road ahead of you.
Always
heel-walk your dog across a road, and never
on a free command. I once met a woman whose dog was
hit by a car this way. The driver paid for the vet service
incurred by the accident despite the fact that the woman
was (in my opinion) totally at fault for being stupid
enough to allow her dog to cross the road ahead of her.

 

Equipment Needed For Walks

Sneakers

Get sturdy sneakers specifically made for walking or running. Find some that are a good fit, and don’t skimp on quality in favour of a cheap price - you never want to risk the health of your joints for the sake of saving a few bucks.

Detour: Open Shoes In Warm Weather?

What if the weather’s warm and you’d like to wear open-toed shoes? Well don’t. Open-toed shoes are made for walking at a leisurely pace, and your aim is to go well beyond that. Only sneakers will allow you to walk your dog at a pace that will amply increase fitness.

But what if it’s so boiling hot that you can’t handle the thought of putting your feet in closed shoes? Well then it’s too hot to take your dog out at all. Wait until a cooler time of the day, put your sneakers on and take your dog for a walk then.

Why A Treat Bag?

As the name suggests, a treat bag is used to hold treats. And the reason to take treats with you is to practise what you learn in obedience class during your daily on-lead walks.

There are different types of treat bags to suit different people’s needs, so check out what various petshops have to offer.

Treats

Tasty dog treats can be bought from all petshops.
Tip: use treats that are dry and non-greasy.

 

Adjustable Lead

Adjustable leads can be altered to fit around your waist so that you can attach yourself to your dog.

Why Attach Yourself To Your Dog?

In one word: safety. If you accidentally let go of the lead or briefly need your hands for something else (like picking up a poo, for example), your dog will still be safely attached to you.

Your Lower Back

Be conscious of your lower back when attaching yourself to your dog.

While heel-walking you’ll have one or two hands on the lead, and that keeps your lower back safe. But going hands-free after giving your dog the free command is a very bad idea. A dog who’s been told free is unpredictable in his or her force and direction, and an enthusiastic dog (especially a big dog) could put your lower back out.

For safety, keep at least one hand on the lead at all times, whether heel-walking or free-walking.

Exception

The exception to the 'Hands Always On Adjustable
Lead Rule' is when you pick up poo and need
two hands to tie the bag up. In this case, give your dog
the commands sit and stay to ensure that he or she
remains still while both your hands are off the lead.

 

EzyDog Standard Extension

An adjustable lead won’t necessarily give enough length for a comfortable walk with your dog (it depends on how short/tall you are and how short/tall your dog is), so you’ll possibly need to also use an EzyDog Standard Extension too: put the adjustable lead around your waist, attach the extension to the adjustable lead, and attach the extension to your dog.

No Springy Leads

Leads with elasticity are not suitable for heel walking as they don’t give you enough control. They’re great for when you need some shock absorption - like when your dog runs as you skate or scooter (more on this in Chapter 14: Putting The Wheels In Motion) or if you're doing an on-lead free walk - but not for heel walks.

Some petshops try to sell the idea that elasticity in a lead helps protect your shoulder, but that assumes your dog is dragging you around during walks. I’m assuming that you - not your dog - will be in charge of the walk and that you’ll train your dog to walk at a heel unless you give the command free.

Detour: Making Walks Work For You

Although this website is about helping your dog through exercise, there’s no crime in taking full advantage of the added benefit to you, which is toning up and losing weight.

For developing a specific fitness program using walking your dog as the main tool, get a hold of the book Fitness Unleashed by Dr Marty Becker and Dr Robert Kushner.

Now with any book (or website) I recommend, I don’t necessarily agree with every single word the authors say. I generally won’t mention the points I disagree with. However in this case I will mention one point as it’s directly relevant to the topic of on-lead walking: the authors of Fitness Unleashed recommend the use of a retractable lead in all scenarios. My advice is to never use one in any scenario.

No Retractable Lead!

Here’s why I’m 100 percent against the retractable lead:

  • Staying connected to your dog at all times during a walk is a top priority, and a retractable lead’s bulky handle is too-easily dropped.

  • You need some dexterity when on-lead walking your dog - especially when practising commands - and the bulky handle renders one of your hands completely useless.

  • A retractable lead allows your dog to come and go as he or she pleases. In other words, your dog’s in charge of the walk, not you.

  • The retractable lead gives you little control as to how far away your dog goes except by clicking it into place when you decide your dog shouldn’t stray further than that particular distance. To make it worse, there’s no ‘reeling in’ mechanism to draw your dog closer to you if needed.

The Head Halter

Training your dog to heel-walk (rather than dart about, lurch forward, and pull backwards at his or her will) has two benefits:

  • It makes walks more enjoyable.

  • It teaches your dog discipline.

But heeling is not the easiest thing to get a dog to do due to his or her enthusiasm about being on a walk. Luckily there’s a device on the market designed to help you teach your dog: the head halter.

Why I Prefer The HaltiŽ

There are a few brands of head halter on the market, but the HaltiŽ by KraMar PetCare is currently the best because it has an attachment that clips onto the dog’s collar as a backup connection. (Love that extra dose of safety!)

Short-Legged Dogs And The HaltiŽ

To ensure your short-legged dog doesn’t trip over the
HaltiŽ’s backup connection, tie a knot (or two)
in the backup connection it to make it shorter.

 

Note: Not A Muzzle

A head halter is like a horse’s bridle and helps you control the dog by leading him or her ‘by the nose’ (both figuratively and literally). Although the device goes around the dog’s muzzle, the head halter does not function as a muzzle. In other words, it doesn’t stop the dog from opening his or her mouth, and that means two things:

  • It’s totally safe in terms of allowing the dog to pant and therefore lose heat while exercising.

  • It’s not an effective way of curbing the biting ability of an aggressive dog.

Not A Magic Trick

No matter what the marketing of the head halter
promises, it’s not a magic trick. It can make the
task of heeling your dog a lot easier, but you still
need to
teach your dog to walk at a heel.
 

Why Not Attach The Lead To A Regular Collar?

A correctly-fitted head halter is safer than a correctly-fitted collar to use during on-lead walks. This goes for any breed of dog, but especially small-headed breeds.

You can judge if your dog is a small-headed dog by comparing the size of our dog's head and neck: if the neck is around the same size as the skull or thicker, then your dog is a small-headed dog.

Even with a correctly-fitted collar, a small-headed dog can execute an escape using a backward pull rather easily. In fact that’s how Jordan, my second Jack Russell (a small-headed breed of dog), ended up dead.

I wish that of all the books and websites I’d read up to that point, even one had told me that collars are not to be used for walking your dog and are simply there to house a dog’s ID tag. Jordan’s untimely death is why I’m telling you emphatically that you should NOT attach a lead to your dog’s collar when taking him or her out.

Home Alone?

Only put the head halter on your dog when going for walks. It’s a big fat no-no to leave your dog by him- or herself with anything on but a collar and ID tag.

Why? Because even a dog that’s generally tolerant of the head halter will not tolerate it forever. The dog will eventually try to take the head halter off by rubbing his or her face along the ground. A lone dog desperate to take a head halter off can do a lot of damage to the surroundings and - more importantly - to him- or herself.

Instruction Needed?

Head halters are designed to require little more instruction than what you read on the packet.

However, although it can be used straight out of the box it’s best to check with your vet or trainer that you’ve altered it to correctly fit your dog (the two-vertical-fingers-underneath rule that you use with collars as discussed in Chapter 8: First And Foremost, The Collar does NOT apply with head halters). Without the correct fit, effectiveness is lowered and the head halter could possibly become unsafe (ie. by slipping off).

Safety Tip For The Head Halter

never jerk the lead with force when your dog is wearing
a head halter, as that could strain your dog’s neck.
 

What If My Dog Doesn’t Like The Head Halter?

My dogs tolerate the head halter because it involves going for a walk, but have no real love for it. From talking to other people, it seems that it’s not just my dogs who don't love the head halter - lots of dogs express varying levels of irritation to the part of the head halter that sits on the muzzle. But this doesn’t mean the dog won’t get used to it with time.

Many people have told me that they tried the head halter once and because their dog didn’t like it, they stopped using it. The question I ask is: what ever happened to a little persistence? It’s just plain ridiculous to try something for twenty seconds and then give up if your dog doesn’t like it, because I’ve got news for you: there are plenty of things your dog won’t like that you will do for his or her own good (eg. vaccinations, baths, etc).

If this particular device helps to get your dog heeling, then use it, whether the dog likes it or not. It’s called tough love and it helps your dog because the better your dog’s heel, the more walks your dog will go on, and the fitter and happier your dog will be.

Consider this: if you could ask your dog to choose between a walking device of his or her choice and less walks, and a head halter and more walks, your dog would most definitely choose the latter. However, since you can’t ask, use common sense and tough love to do what’s best for your dog. And if that involves using a head halter when your dog doesn’t particularly like it, then so be it.

Use the advice I give in Chapter 8: First And Foremost, The Collar for desensitising your dog to a collar for desensitising your dog to the head halter and your dog should be used to the head halter in no time!

Damage To The Throat?

No part of a head halter is positioned on or
exerts pressure on the dog’s throat. This is
a big plus in the body-safety department.

 

Detour: The Check Chain And Half-Check Chain Debate

The question among vets, trainers, and behaviourists that continues to rage is this: is using a check chain or half-check chain cruel?

Proponents of these tools say that positioned and used correctly they pose little risk of damage to the throat, but that incorrectly positioned and used they can cause damage.

People against the check chain and half-check chain will say it causes damage no matter how it's positioned or used.

I guess it's up to you to make up your own mind, but I will say this: you'll notice I don't advise the use of the check chain or half-check chain in any of the activities in Little Dog In A Big City. (Hint, hint!)

Desensitisation Plan For Head Halter

Some work might be needed for habituation to the head halter
because of the annoyance it causes some dogs (although
for many dogs the promise of a walk is enough to make up
for the irritation!). To help your dog get used to the head halter,
use the same desensitisation plan as I outlined for the collar in
Chapter 8: First And Foremost, The Collar .
 

Increasing The Intensity: Power Walking

Adding some power walking to your walks will benefit you and your dog enormously.

Build up your walking speed over time by alternating between fast- and medium-paced walking. At a certain point you’ll probably be able to do entire walks at a fast pace (ie. power walking) if you wish, or you might want to stick to alternating.

Either way is beneficial, but the advantage of alternating is that you’ll be able to walk for longer overall. Longer walks (provided that they’re still physically taxing - not just a leisurely stroll) mean more energy expended.

Increasing The Intensity: Hill Work

Adding hills to your walks is also a great idea. And when I say hills, they don’t have to be giant mountains - small and medium inclines count too.

They add intensity to the walk and bring into play muscles that don’t get used in the same way while walking on flat ground. Again, start slowly and alternate between flat and hilly terrain.

Bigger Hills: Two Legs Versus Four Legs

Your dog will be able to handle bigger hills a whole
lot better than you can. He or she will be able to trot
uphill faster and with more ease (meanwhile you’re in
slow motion, walking on a strange angle, legs aching).
And your dog will be more in control on the decline
while you’re trying not to tumble downhill. As you can see,
there are many advantages to having four legs…just
do your best with two and take care as you do hill work.

 

What About Running?

Running is high impact, which makes it potentially more dangerous to your joints than walking which is a low impact exercise.

This elevated likelihood for injury is the reason I don’t do it myself. That, and the fact that I’ve personally never met a runner who hasn’t permanently injured themselves from running. In other words, the possibility for injury translates into reality a heck of a lot.

Although I don’t run with my dogs, if you want to run with yours there’s nothing stopping you. Nothing except your health professional, that is - clear it first with them and, if you’re given the go-ahead, build up gradually from walking to running.

You can use the same commands for running as for walking, but teach them to your dog before progressing to running. Also, be sure that in the concrete-filled city/suburbs setting you live in, you run off-road as much as possible to help protect your joints.

Does That Mean Running Is Bad For Dogs?

Dogs are (clearly) built differently to us. This makes running less potentially injurious to your dog than to you.

However not all dog breeds are made for running. Most dogs are born to run. Others are born to run and run and run…and keep running. And others aren’t good candidates for running at all, so get your vet’s blessing before running with your dog.

>>>On to Chapter 10: Pumping Iron

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Pet First Aid Kit
We have three doggie first aid kits - one in each car and another in the house. John and I also did a Pet First Aid Course. Doing a first aid course for animals is something I highly recommend to anyone who has a dog or any other companion animal.

Poo bags
Poo bags can be almost any shape or size, but the qualities they must have are that they're plastic, free of holes, and ALWAYS with you when you're out with your dog. Honestly, picking up after your dog is so important. People leaving behind their dog's poo has resulted in many places banning dogs, so please help dog-friendly places remain dog-friendly by always having plenty of poo bags with you and picking up after your dog every single time.

Sit/Stay
Before the dogs go out for a walk, they must sit and stay...

Heel
...until I say heel...

Walking
...and then we're off!

Free
When it's time for a break from walking, I tell the dogs sit/stay and then give them the free command. Only after the free command are they able to have a sniff around. All these rules Jake and Jasmin follow are all about one thing: keeping them safe. While unfortunately there are no guarantees, the theory is that the more my dogs practise listening to me in everyday situations such as going for a walk, the more likely it is they'll listen to me when it really counts - that is, in a potentially dangerous situation.

Poo pick-up
If one of the doggies does a poo while we're out and about, I tell them to sit/stay (as in the picture above) while I pick it up. The reason for this is that dogs lurching about while you try to pick up poo can never turn out well: one, because you could go a little off-balance and accidentally land in it and, two, for lower back safety due to your hands being off the lead while the dogs are attached to you. (On the last point, notice that in all these pictures of me walking the dogs, I'm always practising good lower back care by keeping one hand on the leads. The exception is the photo above where I'm about to pick up poo and just letting go of the leads.)

Sitting at the curb
When it's time to cross the road, the dogs must sit/stay at the curb.

Crossing the road
And then, for the crossing of the road, it's always at heel. The reason for this: safety. Dogs free-walking while you cross the road is a recipe for disaster.

Treat bags
Treat bags come in many different shapes and sizes. Do some research and you'll find one that you like. The ones John and I use are these by The Real Boss.

Adjustable lead
This is an adjustable lead - the size of the part that goes around you can be changed to suit to the size of your waist. It can also be adjusted to be attached to a chair you're sitting on - eg. if you've stopped by a café for a quick bite or drink during or after your walk - so that your dog remains safe while you relax.

EzyDog Standard Extension
Here's what the EzyDog Standard Extension looks like. You can attach this to the adjustable lead to add some length to it. Personally, I'm such a shorty that I don't need to use it - not even to reach dogs as small as Jack Russells - but many of you will find that using it gives a more comfortable lead length to walk your dog.

dogs wearing head collars
There are quite a few head halters on the market, but my favourite is the one made by KraMar PetCare called the HaltiŽ. And the reason for that is the backup connection. Because Jasmin's side-on (she's the one wearing the red head halter), you can see how the HaltiŽ's backup connection attaches to her collar. If you haven't attached the HaltiŽ correctly and it slips off your dog's head during a walk, the dog will still be attached to you via his or her collar. That gives you a chance to reconnect the HaltiŽ (properly this time - get it nice and tight!) meanwhile your dog has been safely attached to the lead the whole time. The other safety feature is that the head halter doesn't sit anywhere on the dog's throat, so there is no risk of damage to the throat even if the dog pulls.

fitness unleashed
Fitness Unleashed is a book that helps you develop a specific fitness program to lose weight using walking your dog as the main tool.

doggie love
The thing I urge you NEVER to do is to attach the lead to your dog's collar. It's how my little Jordan died - he slipped his collar and was killed in a hit and run. Here he is pictured with me. (If you're wondering why he's wearing no collar in this photo, it's because he was just about to be bathed.)

dogs in the sun
Best buddies: Jake (left) and the late Jordan (right). Warming up in the sunlight after their bath. (And, yes, I do see the irony in the fact that, while telling you to always have your dog wear a collar, I ended up choosing photos of Jordan pre- and post-bath - and therefore all when he's not wearing a collar. Don't take that to mean that he didn't wear a collar - my dogs always do!)

Jordan
RIP Jordan. My little angel.

Back-up connection of head collar
Jasmin (left) is taller than Jake (right) and doesn't need an extra knot in back-up connection of the head collar like he does.

Treat
Jake happily receives a treat while wearing his head halter. Dogs can easily and comfortably open their mouths to have a drink, receive food and pant while wearing a head halter so this device is totally safe for walking your dog.

Muzzles
These are muzzles - on the left is a cloth muzzle and on the right is a bucket muzzle. I'm showing you these to point out that a head halter is NOT a muzzle and therefore does not curb a dog's ability to bite. What I'm saying, in other words, is that if your dog needs to wear a muzzle for any reason, a head halter is not a substitute.

Check chains
While none of the activities in this ebook advise the use of a check chains, here is what they look like (so that you know what to avoid!).

Half-check chain
Again, I haven't advised the half-check chain for any of the activities outlined in this ebook, but here is a photo of what they look like - again so that you know what to steer clear of.

dogs on a walk
Jake's a little old man, so his power walking days are over. Jasmin, on the other hand, is the Queen Of Power Walking, so rather than leaving Jake at home while she goes on her fast and furious walks, I bought a stroller! The first type of stroller I bought was a four-wheeled one. Having used that and the three-wheeled one above, I highly recommend a three-wheeled stroller instead of a four-wheeled one. Unless you just want to saunter and dawdle (and I'm assuming since you're on this site you don't because your dog needs serious exercise) the only choice is the three-wheeled stroller as they're built for a faster pace. I bought the heavy-duty one above from Classy Tails.

 

SAY NO TO PUPPY MILLS! SAY NO TO ANIMALS IN PETSHOPS! SAY NO TO BREEDERS!

Adopt a homeless animal instead - they all deserve a second chance

It's estimated that 130,000 dogs and 60,000 cats are killed every year in Australia because there are not enough homes for them all. And the global numbers amount to millions upon millions every single year.

Puppy mills are a major contributor to the terrible problem of overpopulation. Puppy mills are essentially 'dog factories' where dogs are forced to churn out litter after litter, with no thought for the welfare of the dogs and all thought for profit. The dogs live in appallingly dirty, cramped conditions all their lives, and when they no longer serve their purpose they're killed, dumped or sold to vivisection laboratories.

Petshops fit into the picture because puppy mills are generally where petshops get their animals from. Furthermore, having animals in shop windows encourages impulse purchases, and adding an animal to your family should be a conscious, careful decision - NOT one to be made while shoe shopping.

Breeders contribute enormously to the tragic statistics above too. And it doesn't matter whether they're professional breeders or backyard breeders, and whether they breed for profit or not, because while there are homeless animals sitting on death row in shelters, any and all animal breeding is utterly irresponsible.

Now, here's where you come in. You can either be part of the problem or part of the solution. You can either buy animals from puppy mills, petshops or breeders and be part of the problem. Or you can adopt from a shelter or rescue organisation and be part of the solution.

If I haven't convinced you, visit your local shelter to see the homeless animals. Let their innocent faces convince you that adopting is the only responsible choice to make.

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Apart from any fair use of the information on this site for the purpose of private study, research, criticism or review (as per the Copyright Act),
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