You and your new puppy are ready to go on that first walk – or are you? Taking a puppy walking outdoors, beyond the familiar parameters of home, is an adventure that’s both rewarding and uncertain, which is why you’ll want to make sure you and puppy are safe and comfortable. Here are some important tips for new puppies and their walkers that will help get those daily walks off on the right foot and paw.
Must-have Accessories for Puppy Walking
To ensure comfort and safety while walking your new puppy, it’s worth investing in a few useful accessories. First and foremost is a good collar. Buckle collars work fine for some breeds, but puppies that pull might do better with a more control-oriented collar, such as a gentle leader or martingale collar. Whichever collar you choose, make sure it is well fitted to your dog’s neck and safely buckled or secured before leaving the house.
A standard, non-retractable leash that’s four to six feet in length is another must-have for walking your new puppy. The leash should be made of durable material, like nylon or leather, and have a comfortable handle for gripping. The leash hook should also be functional and lock tightly. Other accessories for puppy walking might include a sweater, vest, or raincoat for inclement weather and dog booties for walking in snow. It’s always a good idea to bring extra waste bags and dog treats on daily walks, too.
Of course, the dog walker should also be safe and comfortable when walking the puppy. Be sure to dress appropriately – warm or cool enough, depending on the weather – and wear comfortable walking shoes or boots. For longer walks, you will want to bring water for you and your pup. Water bottle holders make carrying water bottles easier and come in designs that sling over the shoulder or wrap around the waist. And don’t forget other basic walking essentials, such as sunscreen, a hat, and proper eyewear.
When to start, where to walk
Puppies shouldn’t take walks around the neighbourhood or beyond until they have completed their puppy vaccinations, which is usually by 12 weeks of age. Waiting to start a walking routine until then helps keep the puppy from exposure to viruses and parasites that can fester in areas frequented by other dogs. That doesn’t mean you can’t walk the puppy around the house or in the yard earlier. In fact, the home is an excellent place to start teaching your puppy how to walk on a leash. Eventually, you may want to enrol your puppy in puppy classes or beginner obedience classes.
Once your puppy has had some experience with walking on a leash and is safely vaccinated, you can move your walks to areas beyond the house or training centre. Find good walking paths, well lit and free of hazards, to walk your puppy. Avoid areas that are too isolated, too noisy, or that may have threatening wildlife. You want your walks to be free of harms to you and your puppy. Be mindful of the times of day you and your puppy walk, too. Steer clear of the hottest part of the day – and the busiest.
Finally, keep walks to a minimum when your dog is young. Remember, puppies’ bodies are still developing, and their bones and joints can get damaged if too much stress is put on them at such an early age. Short walks around the block will give them exercise and experience with walking on a leash. As the puppy grows, you can gradually expand the time and boundaries of your daily walks. Always hydrate your puppy as needed, during and after walks.
Confronting other walkers and obstacles
One of the biggest concerns for dog walkers is confronting other people or animals on the road. Walking on designated paths and sidewalks will most likely be safer than walking in off-road areas; however, you can still encounter trouble on main walking routes where traffic is heavier. A good rule of thumb is to always put yourself between your puppy and any passersby. This is especially important if an approaching walker also has a dog. While this could be a good opportunity for socialising your puppy, make sure the other dog walker is agreeable to the meeting.
If you suspect that an approaching dog has aggressive tendencies, you’ll want to avoid a meet and greet. Instead, cross the street or change directions. Sometimes, a dog’s body language can give away whether the dog will react to your puppy in a friendly or hostile manner. Even if you think your puppy will get overly excited about an approaching dog, you may choose to switch paths to escape any ensuing chaos. There are times and places for socialising with other dogs; the sidewalk may not be the right venue.
Be watchful of other obstacles on your walk, whether it’s bicyclers, joggers, or even squirrels and other rodents. All of these distractions can arouse your puppy and cause havoc on your walk. Practice getting your puppy to stay focused on you, and always bring a pocketful of dry dog food to help lure your puppy away from any situation that might cause problems. Your puppy will also take cues from your reactions to confrontation, so exhibit calm but firm behavior when out walking with your puppy.
Introducing a puppy to daily walks requires time and patience. But if you properly prepare for this rewarding activity, you will enjoy a lifelong routine of exercise and bonding between you and your new best friend.
Hi, I’m Lucy Sheppard, founder of Petsinlive – A pets product review website where assists you in making a better and well-informed decision.
This story is a guest submission and does not reflect the views of Dogs Monthly Magazine, always consult a qualified expert.