Your new pup’s first foray into the outside world can be an exciting but daunting milestone. It is important that this experience is positive and that they come to view walks as a pleasurable part of their day. For many, stepping ‘paw’ in the world beyond their home can be an overload for the senses. Loud traffic, other dogs and a bombardment of new scents can make even the most confident of pups feel a little anxious. Read on to discover how you can set your little one up for success.
First things first…
Before considering going outside, make sure your puppy is used to their harness or neck collar. You should have them wear it for short periods within the home and go on practice ‘walks’ indoors. This is a great opportunity to practice commands such as ‘sit’ and ‘wait’. Make sure to reward your dog for staying calm and walking forward when asked. If your little one wants to play and chew on the lead, don’t make a big deal of it or turn it into a game. Wait for them to stop and then give them a ‘Good dog!’ and small training treat. Bite-sized treats such as our Calm & Relaxed Mini Bones or our Skin & Coat Meaty Treats are a great option for this sort of training.
On the big day, choose a time when you know it will be quiet outside and there won’t be too many distractions. Keep the walk short and sweet; 10 minutes at most. Every 20 seconds or so, praise your dog for staying calm. Every now and then, give them a little treat alongside their praise. Keeping a plastic bag full of treats in your pocket or attached to the lead is a good idea. The more we build up our puppy’s confidence, the better. If they become overwhelmed, don’t hesitate to scoop them up and go back home.
Once your puppy is an expert at going on walks, it is time to teach them some manners. A dog who walks to heel and is good at recall is a real pleasure to walk. Conversely, one who is forever pulling and lunging can suck the joy out of your walks together. Start as you mean to go on and introduce the rules during the first few weeks.
To show your dog how you want them to walk, start off by ‘showering’ them with training treats. Have them on your left-hand side with the lead short and ask them to ‘heel'. Initially, every nice step beside you gets a little treat. Build up the distance and time before treats, ensuring your dog is walking politely. If your dog isn’t playing ball, you have likely taken things a little too quickly.
Inevitably, your puppy will become distracted and may pull when excited by something like another dog or person. Work on holding their attention by calling them to you. When they choose you over the distraction, they get lots of verbal praise and… you guessed it, a tasty treat! Puppies really are easy to please and the more their good behaviour gets rewarded, the more eager they will be to do as you ask.
Vets used to advise that puppies were walked for ‘five minutes per month of life’. This would mean a four-month-old dog had twenty-minute walks while a nine-month-old dog had forty-five-minute walks. Truthfully, this is an oversimplification and results in many of the larger and more active breeds being under-exercised.
There is a risk with over-exercising fast-growing dogs, but this can be lessened by sticking to soft surfaces (such as grass) and avoiding repetitive movements (such as jogging). Allowing your dog to move naturally and at their own pace is the way to go.
Walks offer a great opportunity for you and your pup to spend time together and explore the great outdoors. Many find they really bond with their bundle of fluff when having an adventure away from home. Remember to take things slowly at first, rewarding your puppy for good behaviour with some delicious training treats.
Do I need to get my puppy vaccinated before going for walks?
The simple answer is yes. Puppy vaccinations should be administered by your vet to protect your puppy from infection. Puppies should receive their first vaccination between 8-10 weeks old and their second vaccination two weeks later. Once pups have had their second jab, it is advised to be cautious and wait an additional week before taking your puppy for their first walk, speak to your vet for specific advice based on your puppy and the type of vaccination they have received. Read more about puppy vaccinations here.