Stay Safe While Walking Your Dog

Remember, if we are not taking care of ourselves, we are not going to be able to properly care for our pets.

Now that we have chosen the appropriate harness and leash for our pups, we have made sure that their paws are protected from the elements and we have found the best winter and rain coats to be sure they are comfortable while outside walking or playing, it’s time to make sure we are prepared as well. We all do everything in our power to keep our doggos protected and safe while we are on our walks, but we don’t always think about ourselves. Remember, if we are not taking care of ourselves, we are not going to be able to properly care for our pets. If we slip and fall, suffer from heat stroke or get frost bite, we are not going to be of any value to them, and could actually put them in danger if we were to lose control of the leash. It’s important to stay safe while walking your dog.

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Last year was a particularly cold and snowy winter. This made for great adventures while walking with my clients. They loved to play and run in the white stuff, but the sidewalks and park paths were never free of ice. Sometimes it was black ice, or hidden below a layer of snow. This left me vulnerable to falling, which I did – several times! Some of these falls put not only me in jeopardy, but after the fact, I realized that the dog could have been as well.

“…she fell on a patch of ice and hit her head on the ground. She was unconscious for several minutes and the dog stayed with her.”

One incident that was cause for concern was when I fell forward toward a driveway entrance. Fortunately, the Golden Retriever I was walking was on a long lead so he was well past the area where a car might drive. I did drop the lead when I hit the ground. Not only did I land in a very precarious position with regard to traffic, but if it had been a dog who was a runner, he might have bolted.

Coincidently, he was walking with his owner a few weeks later, when she fell on a patch of ice and hit her head on the ground. She was unconscious for several minutes and the dog stayed with her. Again, a dog who is a flight risk could have been long gone.

Why am I telling you these stories? To demonstrate the importance of safe walking practices. While all accidents are not 100% preventable, we should do our best to reduce the risk.

How to dress in winter:

If you are out in the colder months, check the weather before going out. Wearing appropriate jackets, hats, gloves and boots will help you to be comfortable. This will also allow you to enjoy your walk as well as focus on your dog’s needs.

If there is snow or ice, I would highly recommend spikes for the bottom of your boots. I have been using a pair this year and the stability while walking has kept me upright. They provide traction when you walk on slippery surfaces. Although they do not completely prevent falls, they have made a significant difference to the way I walk. In addition to preventing slips and falls, they have kept me from tensing up. This has helped to reduce sore muscles and back pain.

Always wear something bright colored and/or reflective. In the shorter days of winter, you will likely be walking at dawn, dusk or in complete darkness. Wearing reflective jackets or vests will ensure that you are visible when crossing streets or walking along roadsides. A reflective vest, leash or flashing collar will make sure your dog is visible as well.

The Best Hot Weather Clothing and Accessories:

Aside from wearing cool and comfortable attire when outside in summer, you should be sure to wear a hat. Keeping the hot sun from beating down on your head will prevent heat stroke. Heat stroke can cause dizziness and weakness which could result in passing out. Again, this leaves your dog unattended and vulnerable.

Wear proper walking shoes. Flip flops and sandals will not support your feet and ankles properly and could cause permanent damage. If you step on uneven terrain you can easily slip off a sandal or flip flop causing you to fall. You could also wind up spraining or breaking your ankle rendering you useless for doggy walks over the next several days or weeks.

Carrying and consuming water is as important for you as it is for your doggo, as maintaining hydration is another key factor in preventing heat stroke.

Wear sunblock. Though this will not prevent any sudden issues while on a walk, if you get a nasty sunburn, you are not going to want to walk tomorrow, and your pup will not get his proper exercise.

Rain Gear:

Many people ask me if I have my umbrella on rainy days. Truthfully, I try to avoid carrying an umbrella. Because I have one hand on the leash, I need the other free to pick up poop, clean burrs off of fur or remove mud or pine needles from paw pads. Carrying an umbrella can be a hindrance. I opt for a hooded cape or raincoat with a rain hat to keep me warm and dry. They usually come in bright colors, so they cover the visibility issue on foggy, misty, rainy days.

Be prepared:

Always carry a flashlight when walking on particularly cloudy days or in the dark. This not only makes you more visible, but it can protect you and your pup from coyotes or any other animals that may pose a threat. If your area is known to have a strong presence of a specific wild animal, learn all safety and protective measures to keep you and your pup safe from attacks.

When you are on an airplane, the flight attendant always tells you to use the mask first. If you are not safe, your partner or child isn’t either. It is the same with walking our pets. Make sure you are protected so that you can keep them as safe as possible.

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