Will my dog get hurt on walks?

happy dog on her walk

Yes.  Most likely, at some point during their life time, your dog will be injured on a dog walk.  That doesn’t mean that your dog is walked in a mine field and once false step, and it’s adios pupper.  However, I would be lying if I told you dogs NEVER got hurt on dog walks.  Injuries can run the gambit from a small scratch or pulled muscle to an impalement or broken leg.

There are several factors that can change the likely hood of an injury: private, on leash only, group walks, off-leash parks, going off leash in non-off leash areas, walks in remote areas.  We will discuss all of them here.

A private walk is exactly like it sounds, private.  Only your dog is out on the walk.  These can be on leash only or include off leash time, but for the purposes of this blog, we’ll assume that the private walk is on leash only.  If your private walker includes off leash time, you’ll need to review the “Group Walk” paragraph that reflects the type of off leash time they have.  The walker to dog ratio is 1:1.  There is almost no interaction with unknown dogs, because the walker always has the option to cross a street or turn around.  As such, there is very little risk of them getting into a fight with another dog on the walk.  Theoretically, they could be attacked by another dog while out walking, but the chances are slim.  They are still at risk of stepping on a sharp piece of glass, rock or wood chip.

A Group walk: up to six dogs in a group on the walk together.  The walker to dog ratio is 1:6 (at the most).  Now the walker is watching up to six dogs at a time.  There is no way a walker can be watching ALL six dogs ALL the time.  We’re picking up poop, watching our surroundings and trying to watch six dogs.  This is true of all group walks, on leash and off leash.

On Leash only group walks: these walks are group walks, but on leash only.  These tend to be a reduced risk of injury because all the dogs are leashed all the time.  There’s almost no interaction with unknown dogs, because the walker always has the option to cross the street, hug the edge of a trail or turn around.  The dogs can still get into a fight with each other on leash.  The dogs can step on a sharp piece of glass, rock or wood chip.

Off Leash Group Walks in Off Leash Parks: these are group walks to official city off leash parks.  These dogs are at a greater risk of injury than their on-leash counterparts because, they are running around playing with each other, chasing balls or toys.  They could crash into each other, scratch each other with a nail, or accidentally nip in their excitement.  They could also be intentionally injured by another dog or person.  We don’t know all the other dogs we share the off leash park with each day.  There could be an aggressive dog in the park.  A person could hit a dog.  These areas are free and clear of brush and large environmental objects, though there tend to be holes dug in the ground. If a running dog stepped in a hole they could hurt themselves.  They are still at risk of stepping on a sharp piece of glass, rock or wood chip.

Off Leash Group Walks to Non Off Leash Areas:  these are group walks to areas in the city that are not recognized city run off leash parks.  These dogs are at a greater risk of injury than their on-leash counterparts because, they are running around playing with each other, chasing balls or toys.  They could crash into each other, scratch each other with a nail, or accidentally nip in their excitement.  These dogs may be at a reduced risk from unknown dogs because they tend to run into fewer dogs in these areas, but that would vary from day to day.  These dogs would be at a greater risk from environmental factors, because no one is maintaining the trails or fields they are walking in, or because they are running through thick brush.  Injuries can be sustained from thorns, branches, uneven ground and dumped garbage.  They are still at risk of stepping on a sharp piece of glass, rock or wood chip.

Off Leash Group Walks in Remote Areas: these are group walks in areas outside the city. These dogs are at a greater risk of injury than their on-leash counterparts because, they are running around playing with each other, chasing balls or toys.  They could crash into each other, scratch each other with a nail, or accidentally nip in their excitement.   These dogs may be at a reduced risk from unknown dogs because they tend to run into fewer dogs in these areas, but that would vary from day to day.  These dogs would be at a greater risk from environmental factors, because no one is maintaining the trails or fields they are walking in, or because they are running through thick brush.  Injuries can be sustained from thorns, branches, uneven ground and dumped garbage.  They are still at risk of stepping on a sharp piece of glass, rock or wood chip.  These dogs could also be at a greater risk because of the remoteness of their walking location.  Is there a vet office near them in case of an emergency?

Sharp objects
Other dogs
Unknown dogs
Environmental
Far from help
Private walks
Average
Low
Average
Low
Low
On leash
Average
Average
Average
Average
Low
Off leash parks
Average
High
High
Average
Low
Off leash in non park
High
High
Average
High
Low
Off leash in remote areas
High
High
Average
High
High

Sharps Objects could be anything from broken glass to rocks and wood chips.  They can be found on sidewalks, dog parks, trails in and out of the city.

Other dogs, for this purpose, are dogs who are known, but could pose a threat.

Unknown dogs, for this purpose, are dogs who are completely unknown.

Environmental is anything from thorns, branches to uneven ground or even garbage that someone has dumped.

Far from help/vet office or even cell service should an emergency occur.

Low means there’s a lower chance of encountering this risk.

Average means there’s an average/ medium chance of encountering this risk while on this type of walk.

High means there’s a higher chance of encountering this risk on this type of walk.

Even with all this being said, freak accidents can still happen. A driver has a heart attack while driving and jumps the curb hitting your dog or the group of dogs walking back to the car after a nice romp at the park.

So, what does all this mean?  What’s the right style of walk for you and your pup?  That’s a personal decision.  Some people are comfortable with environmental risks but not unknown dog risks.  Some people are comfortable with other dog risks but not remoteness. This is here to help you understand the risks associated with different styles of dog walking.  And the beauty thing about this industry, these days, is that you will be able to find any combination of the above, so you’ll be able to get exactly what you and your pup need.

Bha! My dog won’t leave the park!

dog with all the toys at the park

Walk time!   Taking your dog for a walk is such a great experience.  You walk to the park, unclip the leash and watch your pup run free around the off-leash area, enjoying their friends and all the new smells.  Thirty minutes later, it’s time to go.  It’s your turn to put the kids to bed, so you need to get home to relieve your partner.

“Fido, come!” you call.  Fido turns and looks, but keeps playing.

“Fido, com’mon.  Time to go.”  Fido doesn’t even look this time.

Expletive deletives are whispered under your breath.   You know this game—Keep Away.  You’re going to be late getting home.  Your partner is going to yell at you for not being there to put the kids to bed—all because FIDO wouldn’t stop playing with his buddies.

This game is all too familiar.  As a dog walker, it is the one thing that sends me into a rage in 0.05 seconds, flat.  I’ve had dogs who have done this for upwards of half an hour.  Keep Away is a tremendously infuriating game, because there is absolutely nothing you can do to stop it.  Fido has to choose to show up.    And what could be more fun that being chased all over the park by your human best friend? Why would he want this to end?

We dog walkers have gotten wise to this game, and there are several tricks we employ to prevent it.

  1. Practice makes perfect! Practice recall over and over and over again during your time at the park.  Call Fido every couple of minutes, for no reason—just for the sake of calling him.  If your dog is treat motivated, bring treats with you to the park.  Cut them into small pieces and keep them handy for quick disbursement.   Every time Fido shows up, give him a treat, and then the release command:  “Ok, go play.”  Don’t just wait until it’s time to leave the park to recall Fido.  Fido is smart.  Fido has learned that ‘being called’ equals ‘home time.’  And why would he want to leave?
  1. Up the Ante. Fido has gotten really good at coming when called.  Yah!  ..every time you reach for his collar, he darts away.  The collar grab has been become the marker for leaving the park now.    (This could also be true of holding his leash in your hand.)  Fido thinks:  “I can come in just close enough to get lots of yummy treats, and I only need to avoid the hand….got it!  Easy peasy. “  Up the ante to:  The Collar Grab.    Step one:  get Fido comfortable coming all the way in (right up close to you) to get the treat.  When he’s good at that, move to Step Two:  Hold the treat tightly in the fingers of your right hand, so only a little bit is accessible to Fido.  Call Fido.  Fido comes right in.  Offer him the treat which is tucked in your fingers.  While he nibbles your at the treat, gently grab the collar with your left hand and give it a little tug—just enough so he knows you have a hold of it.  Let go of the collar, give him the whole treat and give the release command: “Ok, go play.”  Keep practicing this until they are confident with the Collar Grab.
  1. The Long Line. A long line is just a really fancy name for a really long leash. They typically are around 10 to 40 feet in length.  For an off-leash park setting something around 10 – 20 feet is ideal.  This would be a special leash that you would bring with you to the park—you wouldn’t walk your dog on this leash.  Once inside the fenced area, you unclip the regular short leash, and clip on the long line.  You would let this drag on the ground.  Now you only have to get within 10 feet of your dog to catch them.  This tool can be used in conjunction with the above, as a backup.  It is also a good idea to tie some knots in the long line—this way you can step on it, and it won’t slide under your shoe.
  1. Break Glass in Case of Emergency. I carry a squeaky toy with me all the time.  Most of our dogs LOVE them.  This toy never leaves my backpack.  This is the emergency toy.  If I’m having a really hard time getting a dog back, I pull it out and give’r the squeak.   I can get lucky sometimes, and the dog will show up for it.  Fido only gets it once he’s back on leash.  It’s a reward for showing up.
  1. L’etranger. If you can’t get close enough to grab Fido, perhaps a stranger can.  This has worked on many occasions.
  1. Never Punish. This one is really important.  No matter what.  Never ever.  Doesn’t matter if Fido ran around playing Keep Away for three hours before FINALLY showing up.  You CANNOT, under any circumstances, punish him for showing up.  Even though it took three hours, he did what you wanted….he showed up.  Give him the treat, put the leash on and go home.  Then scream into your pillow.  Tell your partner you’re really sorry, and you’ll do bedtime and the dishes for the rest of the week.    The dog who shows up and is punished, learns to avoid showing up.

These are our tricks for grabbing a wayward Fido.  We’d love to hear some of yours…
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