Walking a puppy, especially for the first time, may not be that big a deal to you. For your pup, on the other hand, it’s a real adventure full of new impressions. Therefore, as a responsible puppy owner following a good guide to walking a puppy is a great place to start.
It will require some preparation which starts with choosing a suitable and comfortable collar and harness. Your puppy needs to gradually get used to the collar and harness, which means a slow introduction. Great collars are light, don’t get soiled easily, and have a tag. Note that the label should have your name, address, and postcode under the Control of Dog’s Act, so it’s a legal requirement.
1. Introduce a collar or harness
Introducing a collar is a relatively simple process that should be a breeze when done right. Ideally, it would be best to begin by showing the new collar or harness to your puppy. Then give a tasty treat and start teaching your pup to associate the collar with something good.
The process is pretty much the same when introducing a harness, as with the collar. A harness is even much better and is recommended for puppies. It’s more comfortable, puts way less strain on a puppy’s neck, and is safer. You do not need both a collar and a harness for your pup even if a few people insist on doing it.
Repeat this process a few times till your puppy associates either of the two with getting a treat. You will know when the positive association is established, and you have arrived at the golden moment by how your puppy behaves. What you are looking for is happiness and wiggliness from your puppy whenever they see the collar or harness.
The next step is fitting it for a few seconds, loosely, around their neck, then removing it after a reward. Keep repeating this and gradually increasing the time that the collar stays on. Soon, you will have a puppy that shows no fuss and is happy even when you leave the collar on permanently.
Next is getting comfortable with a lead
After your puppy is entirely comfortable with a collar or harness, it’s time to introduce a lead. It’s best to do this before the first walk. Putting the harness on and clipping the lead on for a short while, reward your puppy, and then take it off again.
Build up the time when it stays on, gradually, while lacing in rewards here and there. Allow your puppy to explore the house with it and garden possibly, too (keeping in mind their vaccination status).
This way, your puppy will get used to the feel of the lead in no time. You can even lace treats all over the house or garden for them to find as they explore. It makes the experience a tad more interesting and positive.
2. Plan ahead
A plan should be in place by the time your puppy is used to a collar or harness, and lead. Consider where you wish to take your puppy and the time. Ask yourself how busy the intended place will be at that time.
It’s best not to expose your puppy to too much too soon. A lovely quiet place at a less busy time would be best for a start. Remember to carry poo bags to get rid of potential messes and treats to continue rewarding good behavior.
As it’s a whole new world to your puppy. Allow for time to overcome any shyness, excitement, and general surprise they may experience. A puppy’s first walk is just like a child’s first day at school. How each reacts is bound to be different. It’s best to allow them to have the whole experience unhindered.
3. Guide to walking your puppy, not yourself!
The puppy’s first walk is likely long after you had yours, and it’s best to keep this in mind. The walk is the puppy’s first, not yours. Therefore, allow your puppy to make choices unhindered. If you notice they are scared and don’t want to go forward leave room for that. However in most situations your pup will look to you for guidance. As long as you lead by example unafraid you help give confidence to your pup to follow.
Allow them to snuffle in the grass at full swing, too, if they choose to. All you need to remember is to keep the leash loose enough for the puppy to explore.
Measure the walk by how much fun your puppy is having, and not by how much distance you cover. It means allowing the puppy to sniff and stop to look at anything new as part of the experience.
Unlike humans, dogs use their eyes, ears, and nose to scrutinize their surroundings. Sometimes, a dog will use its mouth too. Allow them to examine anything potentially scary or exciting to know what is a threat and what isn’t. A guide to walking your puppy should really start with understanding that this is so much more than just walking.
Therefore, forcing your puppy to walk at a steady pace without allowing them to explore is not a goal. You could try to keep in a straight line though it will be a frustrating and even frightening experience for your puppy.
Without a chance to examine and assess potential threats, the walk will have gone against everything instinct to your puppy. You should only interfere if you spot potential danger ahead that your puppy is oblivious to. Keep it exciting and positive.
4. Introduce new people and other dogs
If you run into new people and other dogs, inquire whether it’s okay for your puppy to say hello. If they agree, request them to stay still so your puppy can approach. This is the best way to avoid your pup feeling crowded. Some dogs will be intimidated by any suddenness or even become outright aggressive.
Your puppy may not be willing to approach them. That should also be allowed, but again try leading by example when neccessary. A dog’s owner usually knows how their dog reacts to approaches from other dogs.
By asking, you determine this and give them room to control their dog, should the need arise. Consider that some dogs may be unwell or may have had some negative encounters with other dogs in the past.
Some dogs may also be recovering from injury or be arthritic, and they may not take kindly to being approached. Be cautious on your puppy’s behalf, so their first walk and any other stay positive. If you know anyone with a friendly dog, it’s best to start any intro there.
5. A guide to walking your puppy (and knowing when to dish out treats)
Remember to reward your puppy for any positive behavior you notice on the walk. Your dog may not even walk much but choose to sniff a lot and meander aimlessly. If they walk close to you, follow or look up to you for reaffirmation, reward them.
Do this even if they say hello to a human or dog politely. If the behavior is spontaneous, even better, a reward will ensure you see it more often and make training smoother. Remember to leverage your voice and body to switch your pup’s attention and draw them away from a dangerous situation. Make them chase you in the opposite direction.
6. End the walk & allow for rest time
At the end of the walk, take your puppy back home and ensure they rest even if they are still acting excited. It means discouraging play since the experience is so new, and your puppy will need to rest. You can give your puppy a drink to cool off before leaving room for sleep in preparation for the next adventure.
FAQs about a guide to walking your puppy
When Can You Start Walking Your Puppy?
Since your puppy’s immune system is still developing, it is advisable to wait till you’ve had them fully vaccinated. Otherwise, you could expose your puppy to viruses such as distemper and parvo.
As most vets recommend, the sweet spot is two weeks after the final vaccination round ( typically 16-18 weeks). It’s okay to take them to socialization classes where they’ll associate with other puppies at similar vaccination levels.
How Often Should You Walk A Puppy?
A common rule of thumb is five minutes for every month of your pup’s age, a maximum of two times a day. If your pup is six months, you can walk them for 30 minutes, two times a day, at most.
When in doubt, keep this in mind: Your pup will need to step out about 3-5 times a day if you are to counter potty accidents. 2-3 times out of that should ideally last at least 10 minutes but shouldn’t go beyond 5 times their age in months.
How Far Can/Should A Puppy Walk?
Your pup can’t endure much, so multiply their age in months by 5. The answer is how long, in minutes, your puppy can walk for. This means that a puppy owner is advised not to calculate a pup’s walking distance by how far since the puppy cannot endure much. Just walk whatever distance fits within 30 mins or less, according to the calculation above.
Can I Walk My Puppy Before Vaccination?
The simple answer is no, to protect your puppy. See option (i) above.
How Do I Train My Puppy Not To Pull On The Leash?
The first rule of thumb is to desist from using a retractable leash as your puppy will not tell how long their leash is. Your pup needs to know how long a leash is to become disciplined enough not to pull at it.
Stick to the standard leash length of about 6ft for walks. Your pup should have about 5ft of the leash to wander, and they should be aware of this. If they tag at it, change directions. They will hit the end this way but will learn to pay attention to you and will start becoming aware of how far they can go.