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'I've been on hundreds of walks and have experienced all kinds of scenarios.'

These days it's very busy out on the K-9 Highway. Dog walkers often pass each other with as much frequency as cars do. This increases the need to be much more vigilant.

Since starting my pet sitting business in 2010, I've been on hundreds of walks and have experienced all kinds of scenarios. Here are a few tips to help make walking your pup a safer experience:

• Leave enough space between yourself and other dog walkers. You never know which dogs are reactive. Situations can change faster than a tail can wag.

• Avoid letting your dog walk/run off leash in public places because they're "dog friendly." Many other pups are not!

• Be aware of the area surrounding you. Runners and walkers often unintentionally sneak up on dog walkers, startling them, which can potentially lead to a dog bite.

• Minimize distractions like cellphones. It's hard to pay attention to what's going on around you when fiddling with a phone.

• If your dog is reactive, carry citronella spray with you. It can help detour a fight; however, from personal experience, it doesn't always break up a fight.

• Choose proper walking gear for your dog. For example, if your dog is a puller, a front clip harness or a gentle leader is a good option. They help slow them down and will be easier on their neck.

• Be extra-cautious when letting your new puppy meet other dogs. A negative interaction can lead to issues with other dogs.

• Avoid Flexi-leashes. They are dangerous! It's not always easy to be quick with the lock feature, and some don't work very well. Dogs have been known to dart out into traffic before their walker had the chance to lock the leash into place.

• If your dog is aggressive or extremely reactive, it can be beneficial to consult with a licensed/certified behaviorist instead of a trainer.

The most important thing is to enjoy walking your dog and developing a bond. With a little extra precaution, it can be done safely!

Shari Hanson owns and operates Shari's Pet Sitting, a Sherwood-based small business. She is a licensed and certified pet care technician.


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