Keep your best furry friend safe with these vet-recommended tips.

By Jennifer Aldrich
Updated January 14, 2021
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Taking your dog on a walk is essential to their physical and mental well-being. (It's also an excellent way for you to get out of the house and get some exercise, too.) Although putting your dog on a leash and walking outside seems easy enough, there are still a few common mistakes that many dog owners make. But don't worry, there are easy fixes to the mishaps to ensure your pup (and you!) stay safe on your walks. Here, experts explain the frequent errors they often see with dog-walking and what you should do instead. Soon, your pup's favorite time of the day will be even better for them.

woman walking with leash
Credit: RyanJLane/Getty Images

5 Common Dog-Walking Mistakes

Go over this list and make sure you're not making any one of these missteps. And if you are, simply correct it for a happier and healthier pup.

1. Getting too Friendly with Other Dogs

Dogs explore their surroundings by sniffing, but you shouldn't let your pup get too close to their furry counterparts. "Not all dogs interact well with other dogs or even strange humans," explains Jenifer Chatfield D.V.M., a veterinarian with Emergency Vet 24/7. "If you do not know a dog, it is best to steer clear so that your dog is not forced to interact with other dogs or even cats that are out with their human."

2. Using the Wrong Leash

Retractable leashes seem like a great idea as they can let your pup roam without running away, says Rebecca Greenstein, D.V.M., veterinary medical advisor for Rover, but they're not the best leash available. In fact, extendable leashes can be dangerous. "If you aren’t paying attention, or if your dog takes off across the street suddenly, there’s a risk you may not be able to 'reel' them back into safety in time," she explains. Instead, use a safer option like the Soft Touch Leather Leash ($25, Chewy).

If you live in a building with an elevator, absolutely do not use a retractable leash. If your pup wanders into the elevator without you, they could be taken up several stories while still on the leash. "That nightmare scenario, while rare, can have deadly consequences," Greenstein warns.

3. Choosing a Collar

Collars can be quite stylish, but you should use a harness instead when it's time for a walk. "Excessive traction from a leash on a neck collar can put significant pressure on the throat, neck, and even lead to traumatic injuries of the windpipe and surrounding structures," Greenstein explains. "Body harnesses are much preferred to more evenly distribute pressure away from just the throat area." This is especially important if your pup has any neck, back, or breathing problems. Try the top-rated cushioned dog harness ($48, Wild One) for a comfy (and cute!) collar alternative.

4. Letting Your Pup Take Control

"Walking on a leash is an obedience skill for your dog, not for you," Greenstein says. Dogs don't always want to listen to their owners, especially when there's so much to explore on a walk. "The trick is to remember that you are the 'master,' and you set the pace of the walk and the pit stops along the way, not vice versa," she adds. The best thing you can do is teach your dog commands, including "sit" and "heel" when they're a puppy. (Or when you first adopt your pet.) Then, you won't spend your life "getting dragged along" on walks, Greenstein notes.

5. Slacking on Your Vet Visits

You (hopefully) head to your physician and dentist every year for check-ups, and your dog needs to do the same with their vet. "Many pet owners fail to recognize that taking their pet for a walk without up-to-date vaccinations, dewormers, and heartworm prevention is like taking an infant to the local grocery store and letting anyone and everyone kiss, hug, and hold them," Chatfield says. Other dogs, animals, and even things like puddles carry diseases and parasites that can be harmful to your four-legged friend. "All of these risks are readily mitigated by keeping your pet up-to-date on routine vaccinations and other preventive medications based on your pet's lifestyle and your veterinarian's recommendations," Chatfield adds.

Oh, and while you're there, it's a good idea to get your pup microchipped. "Just like you wouldn’t leave home without your wallet and ID, make sure that your dog is always wearing identification and rabies tags," Greenstein says. These preventative steps are an easy way to ensure your pup stays healthy and doesn't get lost.

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