You just brought home a roly-poly new puppy! Of course, the first thing you want to do is take them out and introduce them to their new neighborhood. You want them to be well socialized, and of course, the sooner you get started, the better. It’s hard to resist grabbing a leash and taking your puppy out to explore. Tempting as it is, you need to slow down.
There are a few things you need to do before you introduce your new pup to the great outdoors. You already expect a puppy to not be the best on a leash. But training isn’t the only thing to be concerned about.
We’re here to help you learn how to walk your puppy safely. We’ll cover what you need to know before you introduce your puppy to the outside world. Let's discuss safety concerns, the right equipment to use, and how to get your puppy walking the right way.
When To Walk Your Puppy
Puppies are into everything. They’re constantly smelling, and sometimes chewing, and learning about the world. It makes sense. Everything is new to a puppy, including viruses and bacteria. A puppy’s brain and social skills aren’t the only things developing. Their immune systems are still developing too.
Even if you’re avoiding strange dogs with unknown vaccine status, there are plenty of nasty things living in the dirt that your puppy can catch. One of the most concerning viruses for puppies is Parvo.
Parvovirus can live in the ground for over a year even in freezing conditions. Parvovirus causes horrible gastrointestinal distress. A puppy can quickly become dehydrated, and even adult dogs require hospitalization and constant IV fluids. Unfortunately, even with treatment, it can be fatal.
Until about 10 days after the puppy has had her last vaccine booster, her 16-week shots, they shouldn't go out on walks. In the meantime, you can absolutely still take your puppy out to experience the world. Many puppy owners will carry their pup or pop them into a doggy stroller!
But don’t worry. You can still work on socialization skills even if walking outside is impossible. In fact, this is a crucial time period for social skills in dogs. Have a friend with a fully vaccinated dog over to meet your puppy. You can also sign them up for a puppy training class where all the puppies are around the same age, and all dogs must have proof of vaccination.
How To Walk Your Puppy
Once it’s time to get them outside, here’s what you need to know.
Choosing The Right Equipment
Before you get started on long rambling walks, or just getting your puppy to walk in a straight line, you need to get the right equipment. With the huge selection of collars, harnesses, and leashes out there, it can be hard to decide.
Harnesses are often a better option than collars for puppies as they have less chance of getting tangled in the leash. A harness also puts less pressure on their windpipes and necks. Harnesses give you better control over your puppy and are effective in training your puppy not to pull. A harness should not rub sensitive areas on your puppy or sit awkwardly over their joints. Pick a harness that fits your puppy’s body type and can be adjusted multiple ways.
If you do opt to use a collar, stay away from choke collars and prong collars which can cause injury and are not compatible with positive reinforcement. A martingale collar, that does not tighten except to keep your dog from slipping out, or a basic padded collar are your best options for a puppy collar. You should be able to slide 2 fingers under a collar, and it should not cut into your puppy’s neck in any way.
Leashes come in endless colors and materials, but a basic leash is all you need. Look for a leash 6-8 feet long with a traffic handle. The traffic handle is a loop placed closer to your puppy’s body so you can keep them closer to you when in a high traffic or crowded area.
While they might seem convenient, stay away from retractable leashes. They can be easily pulled from your hand by a rambunctious pup. Even with a locking feature, which can be broken by a dog that pulls, they are too long for safe dog walking. In addition to the poor design, they have caused serious injuries to dogs and their owners.
Learning Leash Etiquette
Just because you can’t immediately take your puppy out and about doesn’t mean you can’t start working on leash etiquette. You can start getting your puppy used to a leash in the safety of your own backyard or living room if you live in an apartment.
Start by letting her get used to the feel of the collar or harness you intend to use. Reward your puppy so she associates her harness with treats. It shouldn’t take her long to get used to wearing her harness or collar. When she starts allowing you to put it on her without a fight, start attaching the leash, and let her get used to the feeling of walking with the leash attached.
Once your pup is used to the feeling of a leash attached to her harness, you can start working on walking. Start walking your puppy around your yard or inside your house. Reward her for following your directions, and remember to be patient as she learns.
Once your dog is used to walking on the leash inside, and if she’s had all her vaccines, you can head out into the neighborhood. Your puppy will be in unfamiliar territory and will want to sniff and explore. Allow her to get acquainted with the new smells, but do not allow her to pull.
Keep these early walks short. Puppies may seem like they’re full of energy, but they tire quickly. Too much exercise early on can have a detrimental effect on their joints. A good rule of thumb? Walk your puppy about 5 minutes for each month of age. And make these brief excursions twice a day.
We get it. It's hard to resist the temptation when all you want to do is show off your new family member. Just hang in there, and enjoy the early puppy days. Your little pup will be a full grown dog and your favorite walking partner before you know it.