Walking a beloved pup has been a staple of the human-dog relationship for as long as we can remember. While most walks are uneventful and filled with joy, sometimes injuries can occur — leaving us a little (or very) worse for wear.
Read on to learn about some of the most common dog walking injuries and how to keep yourself and your dog safe.
Common dog walking injuries
Skinned knee or elbow
We’ve probably all done it at some point. You’re walking your dog and not paying attention to the ground beneath you, and suddenly you trip over the sidewalk.
This can easily result in painful skinned knees and elbows, which will heal quickly.
If you’re out hiking with your dog, it’s not unusual to be climbing over somewhat rough terrain. In these cases, sprained ankles are something to watch out for.
If you’re not paying attention and taking the wrong step, you could find yourself on the ground with a hurt ankle in seconds.
If you’re a regular puppy walker, the chances are high that you will sometimes experience soreness in your muscles and joints.
This is especially true if you’re walking larger dogs that pull on the leash.
Elbow or shoulder dislocations
Other common injuries sustained while dog walking are elbow or shoulder dislocation due to sudden tugs on the leash from excited dogs who are looking to chase after some squirrels or rabbits.
This type of injury occurs when there is too much pressure put onto joints by these strong pulls, putting those joints beyond their normal range of motion and causing pain, swelling, and sometimes dislocations.
Head injuries are a potentially fatal danger when a dog’s sudden jump or pull knocks you to the ground, and your head strikes something hard.
These injuries range from mild to severe, depending on the impact.
It’s essential to know the signs of a concussion, such as confusion, slurred speech, and loss of coordination. Concussions can be severe and indicate traumatic brain injuries.
Neck strain is another common occurrence while walking dogs.
This occurs when you pull too often with the same muscles, leading to muscle soreness around your body’s shoulders and upper back region over time.
Strain in these muscles can impact others, like those in your neck.
Now that you know some of the most common dog walking injuries, you must know the steps to protect yourself.
Here are some tips to help keep both you and your dog safe while walking:
Wear appropriate shoes
Wearing shoes that provide adequate support and stability is essential since uneven terrain may cause you to slip, trip, or stumble while walking with your pet.
For example, if you wear slippers or flip-flops, you could easily stub your toe or even break your ankle. Also, consider wearing boots if it’s raining or snowing.
Invest in a harness
Even if your puppy usually does not pull much on its leash, unexpected events such as seeing another dog could suddenly inspire strong tugging.
This can lead to potentially serious injuries from falls, depending on how quickly your dog accelerates toward whatever object has caught its interest.
Harnesses give you more secure control of your pet and won’t permit as much pulling.
Bring a friend along
Taking a friend or two along for the walk increases safety for you and your dog. First, other aggressive dogs are less likely to approach you — there’s safety in numbers.
Not only that, but walking with a friend also protects you in case of injury; if something happens, your friend can act right away.
Be aware of your surroundings
Always take note of your surroundings when taking out your dog.
By remaining alert while walking, you’re more likely to recognize something dangerous, like a swerving car or an unleashed dog.
Don’t wrap the leash around your hand or wrist
Wrapping the leash around your hand or wrist could cause serious injury if you lose control of the situation — for example if you’re caught off-guard by a sudden pull.
Instead, hold the leash securely at the loop near the end.
Don’t put your fingers in your dog’s collar
Even when using a sturdy collar with proper fit and buckle closure, putting one or more fingers between your pet’s neck and collar increases the risk of entanglement.
This could result in severe breaks or twists to your fingers should your dog become startled and suddenly try to wriggle out of your control.
You could also end up hurting your dog this way.
Keep your dog on a short leash
A too-long leash can be dangerous as it could wrap around your pet’s legs and cause it to trip or even pull you off balance. Using a shorter leash also gives you more control.
The ideal leash length for control of a dog should generally stay between 4 feet (for small dogs) and 6 feet (for large dogs).
Standard retractable leashes may have lengths up to 26 feet; however, these are not recommended due to potential risks.
You can quickly lose control over your dog, and sometimes the retraction doesn’t work, which could be deadly if your dog runs into the street.
Never walk your dog while skateboarding or bike riding
This is incredibly dangerous for both of you and could result in serious injuries.
It could lead to losing your dog if you accidentally fall and let go of the leash.
Why not take 20 minutes to enjoy a stroll with your furry friend?
Always bring extra light
Remember to carry a flashlight or wear a headlamp while walking your dog at night.
There may be times when light from street lamps isn’t enough, so having backup lighting helps keep both of you safe from any surprise hazards hidden in the dark.
You can also purchase reflective belts and collars so that cars have enough time to notice both of you from far away.
Before heading out, ensure you know where you’re going and avoid unsafe places like abandoned buildings or high-traffic streets.
Look both ways
Remember to always look both ways before attempting to cross the street.
Wait until it is 100% safe to proceed before crossing with your dog. There’s no reason to risk it.
Final thoughts on preventing dog walking injuries
These safety tips will help keep you injury-free while walking your canine companion.
If you ever feel unsafe on an outing, don’t hesitate to return home early — better safe than sorry!