How to stay injury-free while walking your dog
by Heidi Blackie, MOT, OTR/L, CHT
As a therapist who has treated multiple patients with a range of upper extremity injuries from walking their dogs, and as an owner/trainer of a squirrel-crazed dog, I thought it might be helpful to make some suggestions to keep people safer while walking their dogs.
When walking your dog, there is the training/equipment side and the handler side, which includes positioning and awareness.
It’s more enjoyable to walk with your dog loosely on a leash rather than being pulled. You are also more likely to take your dog more places. Equipment is also helpful such as a front clip harness and a 5–6 foot leash. Avoid Flexi leashes – they can get wrapped around your body and your dog can build up speed before hitting the end of the leash if he sees something he wants to chase. That can result in a more forceful pull on the handle and possible injury.
Being the handler, it is important to be aware of your surroundings and anticipate your dog’s actions. If you see a squirrel before your dog, move in the opposite direction or try to get your dog’s attention on you first. Hold your upper arms close to your sides and contract your core in case your dog pulls.
In general, keep your hands close to your belly button when holding the leash with your arms at your sides. Use an overhand grip and avoid letting your fingers get wrapped in the leash. When picking up after your dog, bend your knees and hips while keeping your spine neutral.
Most importantly, have fun while walking your dog and try to leave your phone at home so you can focus on your dog and be more aware of your surroundings.
If you’re dealing with pain or discomfort in your hand, wrist, or arm, you can schedule an OT evaluation with Heidi to get it checked out.
Arm and hands fine, but dealing with shoulder pain, pain in your knees or back, or feeling like it’s harder to do your normal activities? Schedule a PT evaluation today – the sooner you start treatment, the sooner you will be feeling and moving great!