6 Ways to Improve The First Walk with an Unfamiliar Dog

September 20, 2016

Every dog is different. Some are calm, some are excitable. Some love to go on walks, and others couldn’t be bothered. This is the beauty of dogs – each one has its own personality and unique quirks that make them so loveable.

This is also what makes being a pet sitter more challenging than most people give it credit for. You never know what you are going to get until you actually meet a dog for the first time, and if the first time is during your first walk, you could be in for a surprise or two.

Here are some tips to ensure your first walk with a new and unfamiliar dog is a fun and uneventful one:

1. Meet the Dog Beforehand (if possible)

Meeting a dog a time or two before taking them out on a walk is a good idea. It will help you establish some familiarity with the dog; get to know a little bit about them, their temperament and demeanor. It will also help the dog become comfortable with you – making the walk less stressful for them. Try to set up a time for you to come a meet the dog and play with them a little bit before walking them for the first time.

2. Talk with the Owner About Things to Avoid

Always talk to dog owners about what the dog’s typical walk looks like, how long they like to walk, where they like to go, and perhaps most importantly, the things to avoid during the walk. There may be a certain neighborhood dog they don’t get along with, some dogs may be leash aggressive and react poorly when they see other dogs, and there may even be things that the dog is scared of that you should avoid. All dogs have different triggers.

Here are some common things that dogs typically react to on walks

  • Other dogs
  • Kids and other people
  • Cats, squirrels
  • Bikes, skateboards, rollerblades
  • Loud noises (traffic, car exhausts)

Staying away from things that can trigger a reaction from the dog is the best way to ensure they don’t get stressed and act unpredictably.

3. Have All the Supplies You Need

Being prepared for your walk is vital. But you may need to bring more things with you on the walk than just a couple of doggy bags to clean up after them.

Here is a list of things you may need to bring, depending on the dog

  • Extra doggy bags – just in case!
  • A harness or muzzle – Some dogs wear these when they go for a walk. Check with the owner.
  • Treats – Just in case the dog loses focus and stops listening to your commands, you may need a treat or two to get them refocused.
  • Water – If you plan to take a longer walk, bringing some water for the pup is always a good idea.
  • Phone – Because you never know what could happen on your walk, having your phone with you ensures you can call the dog’s owner if you need to.

Again, talk with the owner about things you should bring with you on the walk. You can never be too prepared for a walk.

4. Keep It Short and Sweet

Walking an unfamiliar dog for the first time is a trial for both of you. You are feeling out the dog and seeing how they react, and the dog is feeling you out at the same time. Rather than jump in head first and plan an hour trek along a local bike path, taking a quick stroll around the block in a familiar area is best. The dog will be more relaxed and comfortable being in a familiar neighborhood, and you will be close enough to cut the walk short and get home quickly if an issue arises.

5. Take Charge

Remember, you are walking the dog, the dog is not walking you; and as much as they try to be the alpha, you need to assert your dominance if you expect them to respect you and follow your lead and instructions.

6. Never Let Them Off the Leash

The final and perhaps most important point about walking an unfamiliar dog is to NEVER let them run off leash (unless you are at a dog park). You never know how a dog will react, and allowing them to go off leash is only asking for trouble.

It could lead to a whole host of potential issues

  • Getting into a fight with another dog
  • Biting someone
  • Chasing other animals
  • Running out on the road
  • Getting sprayed by a skunk
  • Not listening to your commands
  • Running away


You want your first walk with an unfamiliar dog to be an uneventful one. Establishing a good rapport with a dog is important to not only get them to follow your lead and directions but to also have stress free and fun walks in the future.

If you are a dog walker or pet sitter and are looking for work, you’ve come to the right place. PetSitter.com is your connection to families in need of pet sitters in your area. We have an easy to use website that matches you to great pet sitting and dog walking jobs in your area.

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