Dog walking safety


Spring is here, and so is squirrel-chasing season for our dogs.

Because of this winter’s mild temperatures many more squirrels will have survived the vicissitudes of the season.

Sciurus Carolinensis is the fancy name for what our dogs are chasing says Paul Curtis, extension wildlife specialist at Cornell.

“If you really want to see a lot of squirrels,” says Paul, “just wait a few weeks. Early May is when the baby squirrels come out of their tree nests to play!”


Chasing is a dog’s natural instinct; if it moves, dogs want to chase it. Dogs pull, even the best trained of them.

Training is foundational to your good walk. Trained dogs are more responsive to commands in most any situation. “Fido, Watch Me” and Fido, Sit” should be part of your daily practice.

Use positive reinforcement. Catch them doing something right versus a “punish for bad behavior” model. A rule of paw: reinforce your fur friend’s good behavior; distract them from their bad behavior.

If your dog pulls and tugs, try a chest-attached, front leading dog harnesses like the Walk Your Dog With Love http://www.walkyourdogwithlove .com or Soft Touch’s Sensation harness.


Play with your dog before the walk. If they have been sitting at home all day, this will drain off some of their excess energy and take the edge off their excitement.

Bring special “only for our walk” treats. These walking treats need to be super-compelling; a food that smells “loud.” This way you will have pooch’s full attention when you need it.


Keep a short leash to maintain control.

Stay alert. If you see a squirrel, your dog does too. Slow down or stop walking.

Give squirrels a verbal warning so they can run away. Avoid forcing a squirrel into a situation where they have to run into a street. This way if your dog does want to chase, it won’t be into traffic, with you attached.

Vary your walk. This keeps your dog focused on the walk versus “been here, done that, where’s the squirrels at?”

Remember, we are taking a walk, not a sniff. That means set a pace, and don’t let the dog bamboozle you with its “I need to sniff everything” tomfoolery. Sniffing means the dog is in control, not you. Sniffing is a gateway to the dog thinking squirrel chasing is also allowed.

Every dog needs a job. On the walk, the job is to walk and follow other commands. “Fido, Sit!” This helps them have a job, reinforces your relationship, and reminds them that that you have that special wonder-food.

Talk to your dog. Give them regular positive reinforcement when they do good things. Dogs want to hear your happy voice. “Good Dog, Good Dog!” is another kind of super-treat.

When squirrel chasing crosses your dog’s mind, distract it from its mission with one or all of these methods:

tug sharply on the leash and turn right around and walk in the opposite direction

Give a short and momma-dog like growl. RRRRR.

Give your dog a familiar command like “Fido, Sit” or Fido, Watch Me”

You can also using a dog training noisemaker like a clicker or squeaky squeeze toy to distract your dog. These techniques can also be applied to other non-walking conduct like errant sniffing or “I gotta see that other dog” behavior.

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