Dog Walking Laws and Safety

Oct 7, 2019   Tracey Aston   Pet Safety

Walking with our favorite furry friends can be great exercise and stress relief for pet parents and provides physical and mental benefits for our pets. Unfortunately, dog walking doesn't come without some risks from things like cars, other dogs and people. Knowing out to keep both yourself and your pet safe will go a long way to enjoying your time together. 

Before even setting foot outdoors with your pet, check all leashes, collars and harness for signs of wear, fraying or broken pieces. Leashes should be 4-6 feet in length for proper control of your pet. Avoid retractable leashes!  Be sure all collars and harnesses are the right size for your pet. A too tight collar could cause throat, neck or thyroid injury and a collar that is too loose could easily be slipped off.  You should be able to fit 2 fingers in-between the collar and dog's neck to ensure a proper fit. Have your pet's ID and vaccination tags securely on their collars or harnesses. ID tags should be replaced if any contact information changes so they are always up to date.  PA state law requires all pets have their license tags and current rabies vaccinations tags. 

Unless you are in an area specifically dedicated to off-leash playtime, keep the pet on their leash and under control at all times! Our article on Loose Leash Walking provides great information on keeping both you and your pet happy and safe during walk time! 

If walking during dawn, dusk or evening, you and your pet should always be wearing reflective gear! Leashes, collars and harnesses are all available in reflective colors. For added security, bring a flashlight or attach blinking lights to your clothing and your pet's leash.  Walking at these times also has the added danger of wildlife being active, so be in the lookout other animals. 

If at all possible, keep to the sidewalks! If sidewalks aren't available, always walk on the left side of the street, facing oncoming traffic with your pet to the left of you to protect them. Not only will you be better able to see oncoming vehicles, drivers will see a person, standing much taller than a dog, before they see a pet. 

If it's a warmer day or you're planning a longer walk, bring water for your pet too! Snacks are also a great tool for training or if you need to get your pet's attention quickly. If your pet is still working on their training commands, bring along a clicker to train while getting exercise and having fun!  While it may not be the best part of the walk, don't forget to pack poop bags to clean up your pet's waste.  Most townships have fines if you don't clean up after your pet. 

Always be aware of your surroundings and the possibility of other dogs.  Not all dogs are dog friendly and it's best to allow the dogs to have their own space before walking up to them. Watch for dogs bolting out of doors, in their yards or behind a fence.   If you do see a dog coming at you, first try commands like “no”, “stay” or “go home.” If that doesn't stop the pet, attempt to throw treats towards the approaching dog and away from you and your pet. If the dog continues its approach, Stop It Spray can be used to make a loud hissing noise and may startle the dog to run away. Please be aware, this noise may also startle YOUR pet, so always have a tight hold on the leash before spraying. As a last resort, or if the dog is showing aggressive body language and continues to charge, Spray Shield is a citronella scented spray that will interrupt dog attacks without harming the charging dog.  It's always our first instinct to pick up a smaller dog if another dog is attacking, doing so could result in a redirected bite from your dog or the larger dog could end up attacking you to get to your dog and there is a risk of getting knocked to the ground. 

Check the weather before heading out and take appropriate precautions for your pet. Heat can be dangerous to pets and hot pavement can scorch the paw pads in a matter of seconds. To test the pavement, place the palm of your hand against the ground, if it burns your palm, it will burn their paws! Some heavier coated dogs love the reprieve of the colder weather, but smaller or shorter coated dogs can easily become chilled. If your smaller pet will allow, doggy jackets and sweaters are easily accessible at many pet stores.  Dogs can also get frostbite, pay attention to the feet, tails and ear tips for signs of frostbite. 

If your pet becomes distressed for any reason or shows signs of excessive panting, drooling, shivering or shaking, appears uncoordinated, lethargic or starts to limp, it's time to end the walk and return home. 

Walking your dog can be a special time spent together getting exercise, enjoying the sunshine and fresh air and if a few simple steps are taken, it can be done safely for all involved. 

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