Aug 14

City Dog Walking Advice

City Dog Walking AdviceCity dog walking requires 360 degree awareness at all times

Dogs love cities! What they lose in wide open space is made up for in the volume of sights, sounds and smells which envelop a dog during their time outside. Many owners who have moved their suburban or rural dog to the city have found that they develop a new level of confidence, both with other dogs and with people.

But with this stimulation comes the potential for mishap. Walking your dog in the city demands your utmost care and attention at all times. It’s a good idea to bear a few things in mind during a city dog walk:

Never unleash your dog on a city street

For most people, this is common sense — yet it’s surprising how many dog owners think it’s no big deal to walk their dog off leash in the city. Such people will tell you that their dog “would never do anything crazy”, but the simple truth is that all dogs have the potential to react unpredictably when provoked or startled. Here’s why you should never walk your dog unleashed on city streets:

    In most cities, it’s against the law and subject to a fine. Sudden loud noises like truck horns can startle a dog and cause them to bolt. An approaching unleashed dog can be interpreted as a threat to a leashed dog and can create tensions and possible physical conflict. It’s not possible to steer an unleashed dog away from hazards and obstacles they may not be aware of. For people who are afraid of dogs, an approaching dog off the leash — even a small dog — can be a terrifying experience. Such people need to see that you have full control over your pet. If your dog causes an accident while unleashed, you’re going to pay through the nose! If anything should happen to your dog as a result, you’ll never forgive yourself.

Scan the sidewalk ahead of you at all times

There are many hazards on city sidewalks which mean that you should never take your eye off them, in much the same way as you should never take your eye off the road when driving.

Sidewalk snacks are the most common — always do your best to steer your dog away from them. Chicken bones are plentiful in areas that have a lot of fast food establishments, as are pizza crusts. Dogs love both! But chicken bones can splinter in the intestines and everything else carries with it the risk of bacteria and food poisoning. If your dog looks for food obsessively it may be a good idea to walk them with a collar instead of a harness, as a collar attachment makes it easier for you to move their head away quickly from anything they might eat.

Broken glass is a problem for dogs in the city and it’s for this reason among others that many urban dog owners have their dogs wear booties outside. Large pieces of glass can cause serious lacerations in paws, and smaller pieces can become embedded in pads and lead to infections. If you suspect that your dog has walked across broken glass then be sure to stop and check their paws there and then — don’t leave it until you get home.

Sidewalk scanning is a skill that develops in time for the city dog walker. You’ll do it without thinking after a while. Just remember — you are the extra pair of eyes your dog needs!

Avoid using retractable leashes on city streets

Although retractable leashes are very popular among dog owners and great for certain environments, they are not always such a good idea for city dog walking. First and foremost — even though it is very rare, the locking mechanism on such leashes has been known to fail. This can be a terrifying experience if your dog is trotting ahead towards a busy intersection and you need them to stop. To compound matters, most retractable leashes consist of a thin line which will burn your hand if you ever need to grab it and pull in such a situation. Besides which, the added length and freedom which these leashes give you is moot in a busy urban environment in which you really need to keep your dog on a relatively short leash and near you at all times. Another disadvantage is that you can’t wrap them two or three times around your hand like you can with a regular leash — and that’s something which adds an invaluable extra layer of security.

Keep your dog close when crossing busy roads

A short leash and full control is absolutely essential when crossing roads with your dog in the city. When waiting to cross, insist that they sit right by you on the curb and not on the road or in the gutter. When crossing at an intersection which allows cars to make turns onto the crosswalk, be aware that many drivers either cannot see your dog or aren’t looking out for one anyway, so make sure your dog stays away from moving wheels! Drivers are often impatient in the city and like to edge their way through crossing pedestrians with the smallest of margins when turning. If your dog is walking slightly behind you it’s so easy for them to be caught up in the wheels of a turning car.

Never let your dog spray lampposts or scaffold

Dogs love to pee on anything vertical — but just make sure you avoid anything that carries the potential for stray currents, as dogs can and do get electrocuted in such situations. In New York City for example, many lampposts are badly maintained with open hatches at the bottom — and sometimes even live wires protruding. Similarly, sidewalk scaffold can in rare cases lead to electrocution as current strays from faulty overhead lighting into the steel poles.

Approach other dogs with caution

Dogs live to socialize. In the course of a 30 minute dog walk in a busy urban area it’s not uncommon to pass ten dogs or more — and if your dog’s friendly, they’re going to want to do a meet and greet with them all! But never assume that the other dog is friendly. It’s good practice to ask the owner “is your dog friendly” before letting them meet — unfortunately, some dogs aren’t.

Once you have the go-ahead, never be tempted to let go of the leash even if they insist on circling each other. It’s tempting to do this to avoid leashes becoming entangled, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Leashes can always be untangled safely.

A little horseplay is fine, but try not to let them get too excited while wrestling because in rare cases two leash fasteners can clash in certain positions and unhook themselves. It has been known! The last thing you want during a period of such excitement is for your dog to become unleashed.

Take great care with dogs around elevators

If you take your dog into elevators on a regular basis then always make sure they stay right by your side. Never let your dog run into an elevator well ahead of you, and similarly never let them run out ahead or behind you. If the elevator door is faulty and closes suddenly with you on one side and the dog on the other — well, it doesn’t even bear thinking about! Bear in mind that this can and has happened. It’s also important to keep your dog on a short leash right beside you when traveling in an elevator, since you never know who’s on the other side of the doors when they open. If it’s another dog and they startle each other, a melee could ensue!

All in all, city streets are like Disneyland for many dogs. They’re a cacophony of sensual stimulation and socialization. The most important thing to remember is that city dog walking is something to be enjoyed — with caution!


For more information on dog walking in New York City as well as helpful dog walking advice, visit King Pup’s website.

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