Walking Gear for Reactive Dogs

9 Mar

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Ages and ages ago, during the days of our Walk to Rivendell challenge, I wrote a little bit about the gear we use for our regular walks. Over the last 2+ years we’ve tried a perhaps ridiculous number of walking setups with a variety of collars, leashes, harnesses, halters, and more. Between working on Topher’s reactivity in training classes and our usual walks, we get a lot of use out of our gear and I always want to make sure what we use and carry around truly works for us. Because, in certain scenarios, these are the pieces of equipment we rely on the most to keep ourselves and others safe. So, what do we take on our daily walks?

Martingale Collar

We switched to martingale collars after a recommendation from our trainers and have used them almost exclusively since then. We clip directly to Topher’s martingale collars on casual short walks, and we love the sturdy support provided by our go-to collars from Dog + Bone.

Identification Tags

While we’ve never had an instance where Topher has gotten off his leash and gotten lost, but that doesn’t mean it could never happen. So, it’s important for your dog to have proper identification when you go out and about. Need more convincing? Here are a few more reasons you should get your dog’s identification in order sooner rather than later.

Front Lead Harness

Up until recently we were using a head halter on walks, rather than a harness. About a month ago, we decided to switch back to using a harness. Why? It all has to do with reactive classes. While Topher accepted and happily wore a head halter without incident on walks at parks and in the neighborhood, he’d become a terror during reactive classes. When stressed, he’d take it all out on the halter, pawing at his muzzle and even scratching himself several times in an attempt to get it off. We tried more positive reinforcement with the halter, to make it as positive an experience as possible, but this did not seem to make much difference.

Currently, Topher’s lunging has diminished pretty significantly. This means the need for the halter as a method to not be knocked off my feet has diminished with it. Over the last month, we transitioned to a harness and Topher has been doing very well with it. Our training group recommended the Freedom harness, and we absolutely love it so far.

Double-Ended Leash

Because of our walking setup, we use double ended leashes—ones that have clips at both ends. We use this Halti leash because it has a ton of different ways you can use it and I’ll happily buy it again if the one we have ever breaks. Our Freedom harness also came with this great double ended leash with a handle and I’m very interested to see how much more control we’ll have with this harness and leash combination in our future classes.

Waste Bags

Can’t leave home without them! We still tend to use grocery bags (after checking for holes of course) but we have a backup roll of actual waste bags if we ever run out of the ones we get from the store.

Pepper Spray

For over two years now I’ve carried pepper spray when I walk Topher by myself. Thankfully, I’ve never needed it. However, it gives me a small sense of security, should a loose dog encounter ever go truly awry. Since the dog attack, we’ve had plenty of encounters with off-leash dogs running up to us; however, through educating myself, learning how to handle Topher, and a little luck, none have led to a scenario where I feel it’s necessary to spray a dog. I still hope I never have to use it.

Microfiber Towel

We call Topher the King of the Slobs because of his ridiculous ability to go from clean to covered in drool in about ten seconds. Nobody wants to greet an outrageously slobbery dog, so I make sure to keep a washcloth-sized towel in my walking bag for quick, on-the-go clean up. It also helps keep Topher camera-ready…most of the time. Sometimes the thought of treats creates more drool than one small towel can defeat.

Plenty of Treats

The final thing you can’t leave home without! At least, you can’t if you’re me and trying to give your dog lots of positive rewards for interacting nicely with the world. We’re lucky to be so well supplied, between treats we get from BarkBox and the ones we make ourselves.

What do you take on dog walks?