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What do you do when your dog outweighs you? You love your extra fluffy friend, but walking big dogs isn't always easy. Not to mention, if you're worried about them running off or that the event will end up as a disaster, you may also be struggling to provide your pup with enough exercise.
But with this expert advice on walking big dogs safely, you'll no longer have to sweat taking your XL pup out and about.
Training Is Key When Walking Big Dogs
Even big dogs are susceptible to the lure of squirrels and can get spooked by a backfiring car. When walking big dogs, such as Newfoundlands or Saint Bernards, it's important that you take the appropriate measures to make it a safe experience for everyone.
For starters, proper leash and obedience training is a must. Teaching your pup to refrain from pulling or to return to you on command will go a long way in ensuring they don't overpower you. There are many methods for training your pup, from group classes to reinforcing good behavior, so choose the one that works best for you both.
"I train with positive reinforcement/nonaversive training methods," shared Lisa Spector, a professional dog trainer, in an interview. "So it's not about being stronger than a dog, it's about enticing (them) to work with me. I always carry a treat pouch or a toy — anything that the dog finds very rewarding."
If Possible, Avoid Walking Multiple Big Dogs
It's best not to walk two dogs who outweigh you at the same time, unless it's absolutely necessary. "Best advice is don't do it," said Spector, adding that she only walks one large dog at a time. "This is even more important when the dog has been rewarded for pulling, has a strong prey drive or is reactive."
Patrick Flynn, owner and founder of Patrick's Pet Care in Washington, D.C., agreed. "Don't do it unless you're experienced and feel safe and confident in your manual dexterity to untangle leashes and your physical strength to keep control of the situation," he said in an interview.
However, Flynn realizes that sometimes walking more than one large dog at a time happens. "If you are going to do it, and they are dogs who don't live together and know each other very well, keep dog weight ratios of no more than 2-to-1," he said. "So if you have a 50-pound dog, the smallest dog you should walk with that dog is 25 pounds."
What Gear Is Best for Walking Big Dogs?
Starting out with the right gear is crucial in ensuring you all remain safe during the walk. A secure harness that fits well is a very important part of safely walking large dogs.
According to Flynn, selecting a harness that offers two points of connection — one at the dog's chest, and one at the base of their shoulder blades or upper back — affords you additional control over larger pups. However, there are other types of harnesses and walking aids to consider that can help you keep these walks safe and comfortable for your dog. Take time to try a few on and if possible, have your pup fitted for one at your local pet supply store.
How to Avoid an Accidental Escape
Even if you're walking your pet with the appropriate harness and you've both gone through leash and obedience training, your big dog may still break free from your grip. Accidents happen, after all.
Flynn emphasized that the best way to avoid these accidental escapes is double-checking that the harness or collar is appropriately sized and fitted to your dog. Additionally, he said, "The best thing to do to avoid that horrible panicked feeling that happens when you see your beloved dog running toward traffic, off leash, is to train your dog to have an excellent recall so that when the crazy situation occurs, your dog comes right back to you."
Walking multiple big dogs, or even just one large dog, doesn't have to be terrifying. With the right training and the proper gear, you can feel confident and relaxed when taking a stroll with your canine companions — no matter their size.
Erin Ollila is a pet enthusiast who believes in the power of words and how a message can inform — and even transform — its intended audience. Her writing can be found all over the internet and in print, and includes interviews, ghostwriting, blog posts and creative nonfiction. Erin is a geek for SEO and all things social media. She graduated from Fairfield University with an M.F.A. in creative writing. Reach out to her on Twitter @ReinventingErin or learn more about her here.