Taking your puppy on their first walk can be daunting for both dog and owner. For the puppy, there’s a whole new set of stimuli, smells and sights to take in, which can make the world seem big and scary! For the owner, there are new safety measures to think of, new hazards, and a new environment for your puppy to sniff out trouble.
However, going for a walk together is one of the main joys of being a dog owner and, if approached correctly, can be a fun and easy experience that will only improve with time!
So, if you’re preparing to venture outdoors with your pooch, here are some top tips for taking your puppy on their first walk:
Get the right vaccinations
Preparing your dog for outdoor adventures will often start at the vets. Each country has a set of recommended vaccinations to protect your dog against the most dangerous viruses so they’re ready to explore the great outdoors.
For example, all vets will recommend your pup receives a vaccine to keep them safe from the rare, but dangerous, rabies virus. Ensure you have these vaccines scheduled ahead of your dog taking their first steps into the world, as this will reduce the risk of them getting seriously ill and make sure they’re ready for any future travel.
Not only will vaccines protect your puppy, but minimising the number of dogs who could carry a virus greatly reduces the risk of spread in your local area. This means that vaccinations not only benefit you and your pup, but also any friends they may come across during a walk!
Slowly introduce the wider world
Introducing your dog to the world is a huge step in their development. From cars, to walls, to wheelie bins, there’s thousands of new things your pup needs to see, learn about and smell on their walks.
In some cases, your puppy could find this overwhelming – and understandably so. In order to avoid this, many dog owners should start their introduction to the outdoors in stages.
For example, once your pup is familiar with the garden, try introducing them to the front of the house. Whether it be a path, lawn, or street, start with small steps, so your dog can get used to the world, one bit at a time. There’s no harm in taking things slower, especially if your dog is nervous or anxious.
Once they’ve mastered some spots closer to home and become more comfortable and familiar, try moving on, bit by bit, until the stimuli starts to repeat or until your dog’s confidence has increased.
Find a walking partner
When helping your puppy adjust to the world, finding another dog to support them can be beneficial!
Not only are dog walking dates a great way for your dog to socialise, but younger dogs will often look to older dogs for behavioural cues. Taking your puppy out with a well-trained adult dog can be a great source of comfort to your own.
For example, an older dog that is not afraid of cars, has good manners around other people, and stays within a certain area when off the lead would be a fantastic role model for any younger pups they’re playing with.
If you don’t have an older dog they can learn from at home, find friends or family members in the area who can offer a helping hand towards getting your puppy adjusted.
Tailor the length of your walks
Walking your dog ensures they’re getting the exercise and stimulation they need to live happy and healthy lives. Whether it’s running round fields or going for an inner-city stroll, keeping your dog mentally and physically fit will do wonders for them.
Knowing how good walking is for your dog, it may be tempting to take them on a long stroll to see everything all at once, but it is key to slowly build up the length of walks.
Too much walking too soon can lead to your dog feeling overwhelmed, over-stimulated and too tired. It can also lead to general irritability and potentially a bad relationship with walking.
Instead, it’s better to start your puppy off with a short walk, slowly increasing the distance as your dog ages. As they grow and become more comfortable with their surroundings, take them on longer walks that challenge them and provide more stimulation. This gentle introduction will help to improve the relationship between you, your dog, and the great outdoors.
Use positive reinforcement
As with any new experience for your dog, demonstrating that it’s something good that they can enjoy is key to long-term success, and it’s no different with dog walking.
To reduce any nervousness around walks, you should slowly introduce different aspects with rewards and praise. For example, putting the lead on the dog and then following it up with praise builds a positive relationship between your puppy and the lead.
To take it a step further, try taking your dog just outside your front door, and praise them for staying calm. Introducing parts of the walk in small, positive steps will help them learn that it’s something to be excited about, making the transition to full dog walks smoother and easier for both of you.
Taking your puppy on a walk is something that shouldn’t be underestimated. It’s a huge step in their development, and if handled poorly, can lead to years of anxiousness, jumpiness and a bad relationship with walking.
Taking the above steps to ensure your dog understands that walking is exciting and safe will mean that they have a long, healthy relationship with dog walking well into their adult life.
To get support with walking your dog or to grow your dog walking business, download the GoWalkies app available now on iOS and Android.