Fed up with walks that are a tug-of-war? Check out these tips for walking your dog.

I’M crazy about dogs, confesses Ryan Leong from Puppy Cottage, a pet grooming shop in Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Kuala Lumpur.

“I have 11, mostly because I love them but they also double as training dogs for the academy. All my dogs live with me in my house. They’re all small dogs – four Bichon Frise, two Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, three toy poodles, one Schnauzer, and one Shih Tzu.”

“We go for walks every day, and all my pets are trained to walk on a leash,” says Leong. In selecting a collar and leash for their dogs, owners need to consider that dog’s shape and size, and whether they are walking a small dog or cycling with a big dog.

“Dogs with short muzzles have short necks so they do better with a harness, as a collar could choke them. A harness that clips at the chest is best as it’s the most comfortable. For a big dog that is obedient, you can use a collar. However, if you’re cycling, then you’d want a harness. Depending on the size of the dog and type of harness, you might want to look into one that clips at the neck for that kind of activity.

“All collars and harnesses will mess up the fur, so if you have a long-haired dog, you must immediately brush out any tangles when you get back home,” adds Leong.

Training your dog to walk properly on a leash takes time and effort. Experts recommend you first play with your pet so that he or she has run off any extra excitement. Dogs usually pull because they’re excited and full of bounce, so make sure you run that energy off before you start your training exercise.

Serene Tan with her dog Angel (left). She takes Angel and her other dogs for walks at least three times a week.

Once your pet is a little tired, get the collar and leash out. If your pet starts rushing around, just stand still and wait. Only put on the leash when your pet is quiet. This instills the idea that he or she must stand still for this part.

Keep the leash short and walk briskly, keeping your pet at your side. If you walk quickly, your pet will trot beside you to keep up, and won’t be distracted or tempted to pull. Keep the walk very short, and at the end of it, let your pet off the leash and praise him or her. Give it a treat as it reinforces the idea that walking on a leash is fun.

To encourage your dog to walk nicely, here are two recommended methods:

> Lure-Reward training: Hold a treat in your hand, and “lure” your pet into doing the desired action, like walking by your side. When the dog does this, give it the treat and praise it as a reward. It’s a great method but you may end up with a rather fat pet.

> Compulsion-Praise training: Get your pet to do what you want by using your hands (or in this case, a short leash). When your pet does what you want, praise him or her. When walking, use a very short leash, walk briskly, and every 15 steps or so, stop and praise your pet before moving on.

For both methods, stop your pet from pulling at the leash/harness by saying “No” if it does that, and then start again. Some trainers use punishment to scare their pets so that they stop unwanted behaviour. I find this abusive and unacceptable.

“Keep the leash short at the very top of the neck so you that you can communicate your movement and guide your dog better,” recommends pet rescuer Sherrina Krishnan from The Pet Adoption Network (petrescuekl.blogspot.com).

“When he gets used to short ‘freedom’ of the leash, bit by bit give him more leash. Dogs only need about 14 days to learn this so take the time to learn this together, and be patient – he does want to learn, he does want to be better for you, and he definitely wants to have longer and nicer walks with you.”

Serene Tan, who volunteers at HOPE, a pet rescue organisation in Johor Baru, says: “We go for very short pee breaks three times a day but our walks are different.”

She has four dogs: Angel, a three-year-old poodle, and three mongrels named Galgal, nine, and Doggy and Boyboy, both five years old.

“When we go for a walk, we’re out to have fun. We go out when it’s cool, at about 6pm or 7pm. We walk round our housing area and to a field. Angel likes to retrieve, so we play a ball game but the other three chase each other around and go completely crazy. Afterwards, we all walk home. Angel walks on a leash and the other boys walk at my heels,” says Tan.

“I think dogs need fun walks to be happy, so we’re out at least three times a week. The rest of the time, we play in the garden. Walking isn’t just for ‘doing business’ or for exercise – it’s social!”

Walking basics

Kogi has been with the SPCA Penang for 10 years, and she walks about five dogs a day.

“I can’t walk them all, so I pick the ones that need it most and we have volunteers who walk the others.

“You’ve really got to watch the weather. Avoid hot pavements in favour of grass whenever you can, and walk in the cooler times of the day. Also, give your pet a bowl of water before and after the walk so he or she is hydrated.”

The duration of the walk depends on the dog’s age and breed or size. Generally, a big, active dog requires walks that last 40 to 60 minutes. However, a medium-sized dog or an older one needs just half that amount. Also, a younger dog needs more exercise than an older dog.

“Walking is essential – it’s more than just exercise. A dog that isn’t walked becomes bored and then turns into a nuisance barker or even a biter. It’s out of sheer frustration! Also, an unwalked dog will have health problems,” adds Kogi.

If you want more exercise but don’t want a dog, SPCA Penang needs volunteers. There is a monthly briefing for new volunteers, and this month’s takes place today, 9am-11am. For more information, call 04-281 6559.

Ellen Whyte is ruled by cats but she sneaks out to talk to her dog friends. She blogs at http://blog.lepak.com.