Road safety for dogs

Walking the dog

How do you teach your dog not to cross roads without your permission or, worse still, run across them in pursuit of other dogs, people, squirrels or anything else that may have caught his attention? The secret is good training. Master the art of walking your dog on a lead and you won’t have to worry about how he’ll behave near busy streets.

Who's the boss?

When you take your dog out for a walk, does he pull constantly on the lead? If he does, you are probably the one who unwittingly taught him to do so. Puppies pull on their lead to start with because they see the lead as the obstacle between them and that patch of grass or any other interesting thing they've set their sights on. Unless you train it out of your dog, he'll soon learn that pulling equals progress and get very good at it too. Without good leash technique you can't realistically hope to teach your dog to cross a road safely.

Leash control

One way to stop a dog pulling on a leash is to start with a loose leash and if he races forward until it's tight, change direction. Your dog will have no option but to follow you. It’s a good way to show him who's in charge of the walk.

The red light/green light game is effective, too. Start walking forward with your dog and as soon as he starts pulling on the leash, stop. Don't look at your dog, talk to him or move forward until he stops pulling and comes back to you, then start again. You won't get very far on those first few walks but your dog will soon associate loose leash with walking and leash pulling with making no progress at all on the walk.

Training your dog to cross roads safely

Once your dog is obeying you and walking by your side on a loose leash rather than racing ahead in a crazed fashion, you're ready to move on to road safety. First, find a quiet street to practise. Start by teaching your dog to stop at a kerb by saying 'stop' as your dog comes up to the kerb. And if he tries to put his paw onto the road without your permission, pull him back up off the road.

Give your dog lots of praise when he's back on the kerb, as it will show him that this is the correct behaviour. Keep doing this until the dog appears to understand the word and the action that’s required. Do this at every kerb so it becomes ingrained in your dog. As you say 'Let's go' take a step forward, this will become the signal for your dog to go in the same way they'll associate 'stop' with waiting by the kerb.

Don't leave it to chance

However well-behaved your dog becomes, never leave him off the lead unless there's a fence between him and the nearest road. The sight of a squirrel on the other side of the pavement can make your dog forget all his training and bolt as he gives chase to it. Instead, keep your dog on a short lead and make sure that he's on the inside of the pavement, so he has to get past you to get to the road. Before long, your well-behaved dog will be the envy of all your dog-owning friends.


ABC Wagging School

Related information:

Dog theft – remember the possible risk of your dog being stolen while you're out and about and he's off the leash

Dog health insurance – find out about the options offered by Direct Line pet insurance

Pet heath checker – some simple checks you can do at home to monitor your dog or cat's health

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