January is Walk Your Dog Month! It’s a great time to get active and take your dog for a daily walk. Walking should be enjoyable for both you and your dog, so why not work on some skills that will help both of you enjoy your time outside together. When walking your dog, it’s important to establish that you are the one in charge. This is your time together, so focus your attention on your dog. Don’t let your dog wander ahead of you or around you while you give your attention to texting on your phone or listening to music. Focus on your dog, providing correction when needed and rewards when earned. Be the Alpha. Keep your head up, shoulders back and have your dog walk by your side or slightly behind you. If your dog has the habit of pulling forward, stop and refuse to move forward until the pulling stops. Then, provide positive reinforcement and soon your dog will learn to walk correctly. A good leash for walking your dog is important. Choose one that feels comfortable and provides secure control over your pet. In the beginning, keep the lead short, but not too tight. A harness often provides better security and more control over the dog than just a collar. This is especially important for little dogs with delicate necks or larger dogs who pull all the time. In the beginning, your walks may seem more like a training session than a peaceful time together, but soon your dog will learn to walk nicely. Don’t always follow the same route on your walks. Dogs love the chance to take in all the various smells (they say the smells are like email for dogs), so take different routes to keep your dog’s mind engaged and stimulated. If you are walking for exercise, walking at a good pace without stopping away from home and then letting your dog sniff on the way back exercises both the mind and body. If your dog is overweight or hasn’t been walked in long time, it’s a good idea to check with your vet to make sure there are no health issues. Just like humans, dogs need to be exercised slowly at first, building their conditioning over time. Finally, while on your walks, don’t forget doggie bags. Pet waste is a health hazard and if you don’t pick up after your pets, you’ll not only irritate your neighbors but you could be fined. With these tips in mind, both you and your dog will look like pros in no time. You’ll enjoy your time together in the great outdoors and build your bond.