two gorgeous long haired collie dogs sniffing each other at a park

Heading out with your dog is not only a great way for them to get some exercise, but it’s also a chance to bond with your dog and get in some playtime.

And if you’re an experienced dog owner, then heading out for walkies with your favourite companion will be second nature to you.

However, when it comes to walking your dog in a group, it’s a whole different ball game.

Without a good amount of training and preparation, bringing lots of dogs together into the same space can be a recipe for disaster!

With our November Dog Walk coming up on Sunday November 11th, we thought we’d put together a guide on group dog walking etiquette. Not only to help you on the day but for the future too!

And who better to turn to for advice than professional dog walker, and owner of Dog Walking and Pet Care business Wagtails, Nicola Drew.

Is my dog ready for a group dog walk?

First things first, you will need to decide whether your dog is ready to head out for a walk with so many other dogs. Nicola explains:

“Group dog walks are a fantastic way of socialising and exercising your dog. And I would say they do at least 10 times the amount of exercise when they are running around and playing with their friends than if they were being walked on their own,” she says.

“I usually take my own two dogs along with me when I’m out walking, and they will sleep all afternoon afterwards! But a group walk would not be suitable for every dog. Things that I would look for would be:

  • Is the dog friendly and does he/she enjoy the company of other dogs? A dog that does not enjoy the company of other dogs is not going to enjoy a group walk!
  • How old is your dog? A young puppy or an older dog will not be able to walk as far or for as long as a younger dog.
  • Is your dog microchipped, wormed and treated for fleas regularly? If your dog is outside and mixing with lots of other dogs, then this will make them more susceptible to picking up parasites such as fleas, ticks, worms and mites. It is also a legal requirement for a dog to be wearing a tag with the owner’s details when out and about in public.
  • Is the dog up to date with their vaccinations? If not, you need to make sure you speak to your vet for advice.

two stunning golden retriever dogs lying on the ground together smiling

On the day

Avoiding fights or potentially harmful situations

When out on a group dog walk, you’ll need to make sure you’re in control of your dog at all times. And at the Me & My Pets November Dog Walk, you’ll need to keep your dog on its lead at all times, to avoid any situation that might cause your dog – or another dog – harm or distress.

Nicola explains it’s a good idea to make sure your dog’s collar or harness is fitted correctly so that they don’t come loose at crucial moments. Your dog’s collar should be snug but not too tight, and you should be able to fit two fingers underneath when it’s on. If your dog is particularly small, then you should be able to fit one finger underneath. And with larger dogs, you should be able to place three fingers underneath.

“Something I will mention however, is a problem that can occur when you have dogs on leads,” says Nicola, “which is that they can develop ‘defence aggression’.

“A way to avoid this behaviour in the first place would be to not to let your dog meet another dog head on as this is actually very confrontational to the dog, and you are very likely to then have lots of barking and growling as they pass. Let them meet at an angle instead, or even better, walk together in the same direction and catch up to each other gradually.

“Another key here is to give the dogs plenty of space. They are always worse meeting on narrow tracks, where they are forced into each other’s personal space and feel trapped. Animals like space.”

What to do if your dog is looking worried or anxious

“Personally, I would remove the dog from the situation that is making them anxious. Or I would distract them from it without causing any fuss. Then reward your dog but only when they are relaxed, quiet and calm.

“Very much like if a child falls over and cries and the parent makes a fuss, the child will learn that crying gets them their parent’s attention, and they will react in this way again, regardless of whether they have particularly hurt themselves or not.

“Giving attention when the dog is displaying an undesirable behaviour, will teach them to behave in that way in the future and you will end up with a neurotic, nervous dog.”

What to do if your dog is getting distracted or not listening to your commands

“This is a very common problem for most dog walkers I suspect, and a lot of owners too!

“I practise recall constantly with my own two dogs, every single time I walk them, day in day out. I take ‘high reward’ treats out with me, which are something like cubes of cooked chicken, cheese, homemade tuna cake, or just anything your dog really loves.

“I also have a whistle – mine is a two tone one, as some dogs will find one of the tones more interesting than the other.

Toys are also very good at keeping the dog’s attention on you, and a squeaky toy might be a very good distraction. I’ve literally walked straight past another dog before whilst holding up a toy, and the dog that I was walking didn’t even notice that it was passing another dog!

“A high pitched, excited voice when calling them helps, and I’ve even called my dogs and then run away to make them excited to follow me! It’s all about you being the most exciting thing to them, and then they will want to be with you over anything or anyone else.

Seasonal awareness

“One thing to be aware of at this time of year, is things that your dog may eat that could be of harm. There are acorns all over the place at the moment as well as horse chestnuts that have fallen off the trees. If eaten in large quantities, these things can cause stomach upsets or poisoning in severe cases,” says Nicola.

“Also, there can be a lot of ‘blue-green algae’ in the lake at Whitlingham. This is a type of bacteria that can produce harmful toxins that stop a dog’s liver from functioning properly.

“All dog owners need to be very careful not to let their dogs drink from or swim in the lake.

"Of course, dog owners should always pick up their dog’s poo. There have been confirmed cases of parvovirus in Norfolk recently, which is a highly contagious and often fatal disease, spread through bodily fluids and faeces.

“Another important note is that people (especially children) should always ask before touching or stroking someone else’s dog.”

You can read more about keeping your dog safe during autumn in our blog.

Find more information about Nicola and her Norfolk-based Dog Walking and Pet Care business Wagtails, here. Or you can email her at: nicola@wagtails.one

We hope to see you and your dog at the Me & My Pets November Dog Walk! Please let us know you’re coming on our Facebook Event Page. And of course, if you have any questions about the day or about any of our products, you can get in touch via Instagram or Facebook @meandmypetsofficial.