Enjoying the outdoors with your pet is one of the great health benefits for pet owners. Something as simple as a walk around the block, or longer walks around the park, visits to a dog park or even biking with you dog are all activities that are good for both of you.
When walking a dog, there are some tips that can help you avoid problems that can occur. Dogs on leash can be extra protective of their companions, and in some cases, this can lead to issues when encountering people, children or other animals during your outing. This works both ways, when approaching a leashed dog, please be wary of causing an issue, make sure that the dog owner is aware of your presence and is OK with you approaching the animal.
Extendable leashes seem like a good idea, but they can be very dangerous. Yes, they stop the dog from getting away, but they can make it much harder to control your animal during an encounter. They are great when you want to let the dog roam a little in an unfamiliar area, but close attention needs to be given when in the presence of others. Excited dogs can also harm themselves by getting tangled in the leash, and lastly, dogs actually learn to pull more on an extendable lead because that's how they get them to extend.
The best lead for walking is what we call a "traffic lead". This is a 4' or 6' lead with two handles. One at the end, and another at the clasp. This allows you to give the dog room to roam, but you can get a good grip on your animal in case of a problem. Yes, you could just loop the leash around your hand, but having that second handle ready to go makes getting things under control much quicker and easier when the need arises.
There are a number of different collars and harnesses that allow you to control animals that have behavioural issues, but that's a different topic that we've covered before. Sometimes, a basket muzzle (not a nylon muzzle) can be a good idea to limit the potential for damage should a situation arise. Basket muzzles allow dogs to breathe, drink and even get treats while preventing them from biting. Nylon muzzles are used for only a few minutes at a time, like during nail trims, as they prevent the dog from breathing properly, or drinking. Do NOT use nylon muzzles when walking.
When riding a bike with a dog, there are special devices designed to limit the risk of the animal knocking you over, or worse, knocking you into traffic. Holding a dogs leash in your hand while riding means that any sharp pull on the leash can twist your handlebars, or upset your balance. The leash can also get tangled in your feet, the chain or around an obstacle like a parking meter, bringing you both to a crashing halt.
Cycling leashes usually tether the dog to the frame bar extending down from the seat. This is closest to the centre of gravity of the bike/rider combination, and therefore the most stable spot. These can be fixed brackets that a special leash/handle device clips into the frame, securing the dog at your side, away from your feet, chain and spokes. They usually have a metal bar and a flexible lead for the best control. If the dog gets spooked, or spots another animal it wants to chase, that motion is transferred to the centre of the bike, where is it easier to deal with.
Regardless which activity you partake in with your pet, a little bit of thought ahead of time can prepare you to avoid a dangerous situation.