One of the most common questions when first owning a dog is ‘should I walk my puppy?’ This blog looks at when a young dog should first go out, for how long, and our top tips on what to take with you as an owner.
Every puppy should have at least one walk a day, for exercise, toilet breaks and stimulation
Walking a puppy is also a key part of its socialisation, but it's important to not over walk them when they are young because you can cause damage to their developing bodies.
As a general rule, they should be walked 5 minutes for every month of age. You can walk them generally from 10 weeks old once they have their vaccinations, if you use nosodes instead (a homeopathic alternative treatment - this is what I have used with my two toy poodles), then you can walk them pretty much straight away. Watch out for a blog post coming soon on vaccinations.
How long should I walk my puppy for?
So a three month old puppy would be walked for 15 minutes a day, this can be 2-3 short walks around the block, or one 15 minute walk. If you are going out for longer walks, it is worth getting a carry bag so you can carry them for some of the walk to ensure they aren't over exercised.
At six months old they should be getting 30 minutes of exercise. From six months onwards a puppy should always get at least 30 minutes a day. It is worth reading up on your breed for their expected daily exercise requirements, some small breeds like my toy poodles only need 30-60 minutes a day. I sometimes take mine on longer walks after they were fully grown for 2-3 hours, but the days either side I will take them for shorter walks to ensure they are getting some rest.
Some larger breed dogs may beed 2-3 hours a day. This might not be achievable every day, but you can also look at other ways to stimulate your dog, exercise for the brain can be just as good as a walk. This is also important for hyperactive puppies that are not getting enough stimulation from their short walks, so you need to find other ways to entertain them until they can walk for longer.
Stimulating your puppy in other ways
Hiding treats around the house, or getting a dog puzzle toy can help, playing with a rope toy with them, or throwing a ball in the garden are also ways to keep them active. You may find that breaking up the walking time into shorter walks works so they feel like they are getting more. Finding a puppy play mate or puppy classes are also great.
When you start walking your puppy, you need to be prepared to not get very far. They won't automatically know how to walk on lead, so they may not walk at all or keep running and stopping as they reach the length of the lead. It is really important to start walking them on a harness rather than a collar to avoid damaging their throats if they pull.
You also need to ensure you are walking them in different locations to socialise them. Walking in a park where they can meet other people and dogs. Walking them along a high street so they can get used to the sound of traffic.
Use a long lead to train
A long lead is also a good way to walk a puppy, so they can go and explore without the fear of them not coming back when you call them. Don't use an extendable lead on a collar, this can be extremely dangerous. If you do have an extendable lead then keep it at a set length. We have long rope leads that are great for training a puppy.
How to train recall
Have treats on you on walls and whilst walking them on lead call their name and give them a treat when they come towards you. As they start to know they get a reward when you call their name you can start to try them off lead. I'd recommend trying this in the garden first, or an enclosed park where you can feel safe that you can catch them if they don't come back. Once you build up your trust with your puppy and feel more confident you can then start to walk them off lead.
When should you socialise your puppy?
You want to have aimed to have done the majority of your puppy's socialisation from 3-5 months as this is when they are most likely to learn everything. I will tell you, be prepared around 7 months for your puppy to gain confidence and go through a period where it might start to invite your commands. I experienced this with both of my dogs and I've heard it from so many puppy owners. Around this age they suddenly get a little too confident and might run further, run up to people having a picnic or a dog on lead, you must train your puppy not to do these things.
Don't let your puppy run up to a dog on lead
A dog on lead may be nervous or aggressive, there are too many lockdown puppies that aren't trained for this because people aren't aware. "He's friendly" "She just wants to say hello", these are common things I hear all the time. Yes your puppy might be friendly, but the other dog might not be and might attack your puppy.
If you puppy ignores your command, you must put it back on lead as soon as you can and keep it on lead for the rest of that walk. The puppy will soon learn if it doesn't follow a command then it doesn't get the freedom of walking without a lead.