Walk Your Dog Month

Make the most of it with these experts' tips

It’s January, the sun is out, and dogs and their owners everywhere are enjoying relaxed time together in the great outdoors. With January being ‘Walk Your Dog Month’, now is the perfect opportunity to discover how to get the best outcome from those summer outings.

Exercise has benefits for all

“A key part of dog parenting is ensuring their daily exercise, which many see as motivation for maintaining their own fitness too,” says Michelle Le Long, COO of pet insurance specialist PD Insurance.

“The benefits of exercise for humans are well documented – it can improve brain health, help manage weight, reduce the risk of disease and strengthen bones and muscles, and the same goes for dogs. Your pooch will benefit greatly from a daily walk or run, but it’s important to abide by New Zealand’s laws and Council rules to ensure a successful outing.”

Kiwi pet owners prefer leashed dogs

Recent research by PD Insurance shows New Zealanders generally prefer seeing dogs on a lead.

“Almost everyone understands dogs pose a potential problem for native wildlife and birds in particular, including our precious kiwi,” says Le Long. “But many of us probably don’t realise that most pet owners feel more comfortable seeing dogs on leads”

“In our recent survey of 2,000 customers, more than three quarters of whom own a dog, the majority agreed that a lead should be used in public at all times no matter how well behaved the dog. This shows most dog owners understand their responsibilities, respecting everybody’s rights to enjoy the outdoors without being approached by an unmanaged canine companion.”

Teach your puppy to walk on a lead

Anyone can teach their puppy to walk on a lead well, but it does take some effort and persistence.

Get them familiar with the lead first. Don’t expect your puppy to be ready to walk with a collar and lead straight away. Start off small and get Fido used to wearing a collar around the home. Next step is attaching the lead and watching him drag it around (keeping a close eye for tangle risk).

A puppy school or dog trainer will help get your puppy lead walking properly, but plenty of happy dog walkers have tackled it alone and enjoy daily, well-mannered walks. If you do your research and take the right steps calmly and consistently, you should be fine.

Dogs are individuals and not everything that works for one will work for another. However, here are some basic steps to teach yours to walk on a lead:

Steps to walking well

  • Choose a safe, quiet and distraction-free environment to start teaching your dog to walk.
  • Keep walks short. Puppies have short attention spans, and you don’t want them to be too tired to absorb your teachings.
  • Socialise them by gradually increasing interactions with other dogs and people in controlled, safe environments.
  • Use a phrase or word as your dog’s command to walk by your side without pulling. This could be ‘’here’’, “heel”, “with me” or even “walk nicely.”
  • Bring treats, and instantly reward good behaviour with their favourite treat.
  • Teach your puppy that when there’s pressure on the lead they don’t go anywhere and when there’s none they can walk.
  • Give them time, space, and consistency. It might take a few months to teach your puppy to walk on a lead properly, but you’ll be glad of it in the long run.

Lead the Way

PD Insurance partners with Lead the Way, a Department of Conservation (DOC) initiative that educates the public about minimising dogs’ impact on coastal wildlife and others who share the coastal environment. This includes informing pet owners about the benefits of – and rules around – keeping dogs on leads.

Getting ‘Wildlife Wise’ is easy; read the Dogs on Beaches guide, complete a short quiz, and you qualify for buying a colour coded Lead the Way leash that alerts others to your pup’s temperament: red for ‘stay away’, orange for ‘exercise caution’, yellow for ‘I’m vulnerable’, and green for ‘I’m friendly, go ahead and approach me if my owner says yes’.

Know before you go

Before hitting the local beach this summer, do your research. Some beaches are dog friendly; others aren’t. Some allow ‘off the lead’; others insist on restraints.

“There are good reasons for restrictions,” says canine behaviour and training expert Maria Alomajan. “Dogs are man’s best friend, but often the opposite for native bird and marine species. Check online with DOC for restrictions and read the signs posted at public areas.”

Prioritise connecting with your dog

She says the heart of a successful dog walk is making yourself the centre of your dog’s attention.

“When walking your dog you’re competing with a whole world of distractions, so be present and engaged. Situational awareness is important for knowing who and what is in the environment and how your dog may respond. This equips you to react effectively if something does go awry, rather than when it’s too late,” concludes Alomajan.

Media contact 

Leandri Smith – The Mail Room 
027 365 9003 | [email protected]