You’ve welcomed a new puppy into your family – congratulations! Apart from the unconditional love that only a canine companion can provide, enjoying the exercise and the fresh air that comes with a long outdoor walk is one of the biggest benefits of dog ownership. But before you click your brand-new leash to your puppy’s brand-new collar, take a moment to make sure you understand your puppy’s limitations. They may appear to be bundles of energy that never stop moving, but there are some very real dangers with over-exercising a puppy. Read on to find out everything you need to know about walking and exercising your new puppy.
When To Start Walking A Puppy
There are two main factors to take into account when working out when is it safe to take a puppy outside. One factor is the specific exercise needs of your puppy, which will depend on your puppy’s age, breed, and other factors. Of equal importance are your puppy’s immune system and vaccination schedule. If you’re wondering when can I take my puppy outside, the generally accepted answer is that puppies shouldn’t venture out into the real world until at least two weeks after their final puppy vaccination.
Your veterinarian will be able to give you a specific timeline for your puppy’s vaccination schedule so you can plan puppy preschool or play dates with other dog owners but, in general, the answer to the question, “When can puppies go outside?” is not until two weeks after their puppy vaccinations schedule is complete.
At What Age Can You Walk A Puppy?
Your puppy’s first outdoor walks don’t so much come down to their age but where they are with their vaccination regime. Rather than wondering what age do puppies start walking, chat to your veterinarian about starting your puppy vaccination schedule as soon as possible so they can be fully vaccinated and ready to head outdoors.
If your puppy is otherwise fit and healthy and your vet is happy to administer their vaccinations on time, your puppy could be fully vaccinated and ready to head outdoors by 16 to 18 weeks of age.
Of course, just because your puppy is fully vaccinated and protected from troubling illnesses like parvovirus doesn’t mean that they’re ready to go for day-long hikes. When your puppy is very young, “walks” will mainly consist of a short venture outside to go to the bathroom, with much more emphasis on indoor play than long exercise sessions.
How Much Exercise Does A Puppy Need?
If you’re wondering how much exercise should my puppy get, a general rule of thumb is to take your puppy’s age in months and then multiply it by five to work out how many minutes your puppy can walk for each session. This is based on an average of two walks per day. For example, a four-month-old puppy can be walked for 20 minutes, twice a day, while a seven-month-old puppy can be walked for 35 minutes, twice a day.
Of course, this is simply a starting point and does not take into account other vitally important factors like the size, breed, and temperament of your puppy.
Does A Puppy’s Breed Affect Their Exercise Needs?
Although a lot can be said for calculating your puppy walks depending on their age and vaccination status, ultimately your determination of how much to walk a puppy will come down to their ability to physically handle exercise, which can be enormously affected by their breed.
Toy dog breeds like Chihuahuas and Pomeranians simply can’t handle long walks due to their small size, need for frequent feedings, and tiny legs. On the other hand, toy breeds mature very quickly, so they can jump and even try agility training from a relatively young age. Giant dog breeds, on the other hand, like the Alaskan Malamute, Bloodhound, or Bernese Mountain Dog, can handle relatively long walks since it takes much less effort for them to cover more ground than a tiny breed. However, the larger the dog, the longer it takes for their bones and joints to fully mature. Even though it may look like your enormous six-month-old English Mastiff can handle a day-long hike, you risk creating orthopedic problems in later life if you push them too far in puppyhood.
Heat tolerance is another factor to consider, with snub-nosed breeds unable to handle exercising in hot climates and working breeds like Kelpies and Border Collies having a much greater heat tolerance.
How Often Should You Walk Your Puppy?
If you’re wondering how often to walk a puppy, let your puppy toilet training schedule dictate your walks in the early stages. Your puppy will be going outside very regularly in the first few months, so each trip outside could be treated as a tiny walk. A short stroll around the garden or a walk to the end of the driveway and back each time you take your puppy out to go to the toilet is more than enough at this stage.
As your puppy gets older, you can keep most of the outdoor potty sessions quicker and turn two or three of them into slightly longer walks.
As your puppy grows into an adult, they are going to need at least one walk every day, with active or intelligent dog breeds like Retrievers, Kelpies, and Blue Heelers needing at least two or three daily walks.
How Far Should You Walk A Puppy?
How far can a puppy walk? There is no standard answer for an appropriate distance for a puppy walk, as much will depend on the size, breed, and age of your puppy. Don’t confuse energy levels with the ability to walk long distances. All puppies have enormous bursts of energy and love to play, but some puppies simply can’t handle walking the same distance as other puppies.
Always start with very short walks and build up over time, taking your puppy’s needs as a cue. If your puppy sits or lies down during your walk, that’s a clear sign that your puppy needs to rest and the walk is over. Pick up your puppy, walk straight back home, and let them rest. They’re politely trying to tell you that they’ve reached their walking limit.
While all puppy walks should start short and gradually increase over time, in general, medium-sized dogs like Standard Poodles and Border Collies can handle longer distances than smaller dogs or dogs with short legs, like Corgis and Dachshunds. Very large breeds like St Bernards and Great Danes may look like they can handle a long walk, but because of how slowly their joints and bones develop they can be at risk of orthopedic problems later in life if they have too much exercise in puppyhood.
How To Walk A Puppy On A Leash
If you’ve ever thought that dogs naturally know how to walk nicely on a leash, you’ll soon realize this isn’t the case when you first put a leash on your new puppy. Since your life with your new dog is going to involve plenty of leash time, walking nicely on a leash is a skill that must be taught as early as possible.
The good news is that leash skills can be taught in the safety of your own home, so by the time your puppy is ready for their first outdoor walk, they will already be familiar with walking nicely on a leash. If you’re wondering how to walk a puppy for the first time, the secret answer is that your puppy’s first outdoor walk should be preceded by plenty of indoor practice and leash training during those weeks when they’re not fully vaccinated and unable to socialize outdoors.
The first step to teaching your dog to walk nicely on a leash is to introduce your puppy’s walking equipment – like a harness and leash combination – as soon as possible. Let them sniff at and become familiar with these items and reward their interest and curiosity with plenty of praise. Increase the praise and add a few food treats when trying on your puppy’s harness and leash for the first time, then take it off very shortly after. Build up the amount of time that your puppy wears their walking equipment and make sure every time is a positive experience filled with playing, treats, and plenty of verbal encouragement.
Once your puppy is feeling comfortable with their harness and leash, it’s time to begin encouraging them to stay by your side while walking. This technique isn’t difficult, but it can take some time to master. Your puppy needs to learn that when they’re in the right position (immediately to your side) they get to continue their walk. If they move out of position – whether in front, behind, or to the side – the walk stops and doesn’t resume until they’re back in the right spot. Your puppy may show signs of frustration at first but will soon learn that the only way to get you to continue moving around is for them to walk by your side.
It is only natural for your puppy to take off in every direction to explore. Rather than pulling, jerking, or yelling, simply stand perfectly still and don’t move until the puppy is back in the right position. As soon as your puppy causes the leash to slacken by coming back to your side, reward them immediately with excited praise, or a food treat, and by taking off on your walk again. Make this reward as instantaneous as possible so your puppy soon learns that wandering off only leads to frustration while staying by your side gets them your praise and an enjoyable walk.
Keep these leash training sessions very short to begin with and gradually build them up over time. If your puppy sits or lies down while practicing with the leash, take this as a clear sign the puppy needs a rest. Stop training immediately and give your puppy a chance to have a break.
Every time you see a fellow dog owner struggling to restrain their dog or puppy on a leash, you’ll be glad you learned how to walk a puppy on leash right from the very beginning.
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How To Stop A Puppy Pulling On A Leash (And Other Common Leash Issues)
How long does it take for puppies to walk nicely on a leash? This will come down to the amount of time you spend teaching your puppy appropriate leash-walking skills, along with the age, breed, and temperament of your puppy. The above loose-leash training method will help your puppy to learn faster by associating polite leash walking with praise and activity.
If a puppy pulls on the leash – which they are bound to do as they are so eager to explore the world around them – simply stand completely still and refuse to take another step until your puppy is back by your side. Resist the urge to pull your puppy back towards you, jerk on the leash, or yell at your puppy. Let them work out what they need to do to get you to start walking again.
If your puppy tends to lunge while walking on the leash – perhaps at a car, another dog, or a cyclist – you will need to be proactive and learn to recognize the situations that are likely to trigger your puppy to lunge. If you know that your puppy is car reactive, be vigilant about approaching cars and direct your puppy’s attention towards you before they have a chance to lunge. Praise and reward your puppy for looking at you and staying by your side. When they do lunge, ignore the behavior and stand completely still. Only resume the walk when your puppy is back by your side. This will teach your puppy that they should give their attention to you rather than to passing cars, dogs, and cyclists.
If your puppy gets so excited on a walk that they bark excessively, this can be a sign that your puppy is not getting enough physical and mental stimulation throughout the day. If you have an active breed puppy who is being left alone most of the day and only taken for one short walk in the afternoons, they may become so overstimulated that they can’t stop barking. Try to change your day around to add more short bursts of exercise and playtime throughout the day. If you’re away from home all day long, you may need to look into a puppy daycare or dog walker to give your puppy the stimulation they need.
Walking your dog is not just a fun activity, it’s vitally important for your dog’s health and well-being. By starting a good dog walking regime during the puppy stage, your dog will soon learn how to walk nicely on a leash and will look forward to their daily walks with you.
If you’ve been looking forward to long, enjoyable dog walks with your new companion, it can be difficult to resist the temptation to start your new walking regime as soon as you get your new puppy. Just remember that your dog’s puppy phase is fleeting, so stick to short, easily manageable walks for now and leave the longer walks for when your dog is fully grown. In the meantime, take plenty of photos and enjoy those special puppy cuddles, because your puppy will have transformed into an adult dog before you know it.