Taking your dog for a walk has to be one of the best things about being a dog owner, don't you think?
I love my daily walk with the dogs, it gives me a chance to clear my head, enjoy some fresh air and enjoy their company. The only thing that makes us miss our daily walk is a raging storm - and that's only because there are lots of trees around, and no-one wants to be taken out by a falling branch.
The doggos look forward to their walk too - it's a highlight of their day where they get to sniff pee mail, check out new smells, and occasionally find a tasty treat - nature's granola anyone??
I'm really lucky, as some of you know, we live in Culburra Beach, and for the most part our walks are quiet and peaceful. We have the choice of beach, river or bush, and are very spoilt.
As responsible dog owners, there are some things that we can all do to make sure we all stay safe and have fun on our walks.
Follow Council Rules
Unless there are signs to the contrary, assume everywhere is on leash. Council will have signage in parks, reserves, at beach entrances etc which show if an area is off leash, whether it's timed eg before 8am, or whether it's in specific areas. If you don't see any signs, assume your dog must be leashed.
As someone with an anxious dog, nothing gets me more annoyed than people who think the rules don't apply to them, who merrily call out "it's ok, he's friendly" as their out of control dog barrels towards us.
You know what people? It's not ok. It's bloody rude, it's entitled, and it's unfair on all the leashed dogs.
There are specific areas where dogs can be off leash - please respect the rules so that everyone can enjoy their walk without stress.
This leads nicely into
Be Aware of Other Dogs
When you are approaching another dog walker, please don't let your dog rush the other dog. Never assume that another dog wants to say hello. Lots of dogs out there really don't want to say hello to every dog they see, and that's ok.
Imagine if you were out for a quiet walk and a big scary looking man rushed up to you and jumped up and down shouting hello in your face - how would you feel? Scared? Intimidated? Would you shout at him, or try to push him away? Or would you back away, try to make yourself invisible? I'm pretty sure you wouldn't say "oh hi, nice to see you."
Keep your dog safe and other dogs comfortable by passing without allowing your dog to approach - personally I find the easiest way is to put myself between the dogs if possible.
Which leads us to
When we are out walking, children often want to pat Baldrick - he's cute and looks like a puppy. Fortunately he's also good tempered, even though he doesn't particularly enjoy it. Mavinnotabeagle wants to patted by everyone, but he looks scary so usually misses out.
When we are approached I always thank someone if they ask if they can pat. If a child comes up and reaches out without asking, I ask them not to do that. Not because my dogs will hurt them, but many dogs find kids scary, and might not react well.
As responsible dog owners let's use opportunities like that to gently try to educate people - even adults who didn't think to ask first.
Keep Safe Around Roads
Always be vigilant in high traffic areas. A car backfiring, an angry exchange of horns, a motorbike accelerating rapidly - these are all scary noises which could startle your dog and make them try to run.
Always be sure to have a firm grasp on the leash - if it's long enough, you can even hold it across your body and use two hands on it. One of Baldrick's friends was hit by a bus when he made a sudden dash off the pavement - it was a split second, he was on the edge of the path and the bus was close, he didn't even cover a metre. Fortunately his injuries were't serious, but they could have been life threatening or worse.
Don't Walk When It's Hot
In the hotter months try to take your walks early in the day before the sun starts to get warm, or later in the evening.
Always feel the ground - if it's too hot for your hand, it's too hot for their paws. Don't forget, sand gets hot too.
Make sure your dog gets plenty to drink too - dogs aren't able to regulate their temperature by sweating, so if your dog is panting a lot, he is trying to cool down.
Take Time Out
I could say "live in the moment" or "be mindful" - those expressions aren't really me though.
What I mean is, really enjoy the time you're spending together. Walk along, enjoy the scenery, talk to your dog. Have fun together. I see people walking their dogs while they are scrolling on their phones, or with headphones in - and honestly - I feel sorry for them. Take an hour out to relax, unwind, and enjoy the company of someone who loves you unconditionally and is always pleased to see you. You're the centre of their universe - give them your undivided attention.
Has anything in this post resonated with you? Tell us in the comments, we'd love to hear.