In 2013, a study published by The American Heart Association gathered sufficient evidence to show how dog ownership reduced the risk of heart disease. A total of 3.2 million households in the UK have acquired a pet since the start of the pandemic, according to the pet food manufacturers association. Many have bought dogs to have a healthier lifestyle, as a response to isolation and as a family pet. But, how can we care for them to keep them healthy? In this walking puppy guide, we introduce you to the best walking tips that keeps your dog healthy. Starting early will help your puppy grow healthy while having fun outdoors.
Why is it important to start walking your dog at their puppy stage?
Being a pet puppy is a plum gig. They are cuddled, photographed, fed treats, and cooed over to no end. However, while they are adored endlessly, we must remember they need to keep fit to remain healthy, just like us humans. Making walks a habit from the puppy stage leads to better mental and physical health.
Healthy bone development, muscle development, improved cardiovascular health, improved gut health, and reduced digestive troubles are all down to the amount of exercise your pup receives. Regular walks are the best form of exercise for dogs at any age. A brisk trot will burn calories and extra energy while working muscles. Dogs that are not getting enough exercise can become obese, leading to cardiovascular and liver disease, osteoarthritis, and insulin resistance. Daily walks keep them ‘regular’ and prevent urinary tract infections.
They get to sniff around and explore the outdoors, too, which helps develop better dog cognition. Dogs have 300 million olfactory receptors, overpowering our sense of smell by 10,000-100,000 times. While we cannot begin to imagine the complex nature of the information they gather with their noses, they should have the opportunity to do so from an early age. And walking enables them to unleash their sense of smell as well.
A new survey by the charity Guide Dogs suggests three-quarters of dogs in the UK, that is 8.8 million dogs, show signs of anxiety and depression. While there are various reasons that affect a dog’s mental health, we can all agree spending too much time indoors waiting for their owners to return home can trigger a lot of negative psychological effects.
Young pups are curious just as much as toddlers, and taking them outside to experience the world at large and the benefit of fresh air, green grass, and gravel will contribute to mental stimulation. New sights and smells are so important to our canine companions. Seeing other dogs, animals, people, and discovering new paths, roads, and environments feed in new information to their brain and keep it active. It helps them sleep better, promote a healthy appetite, and eliminate destructive hyperactivity. This mental stimulation keeps them happy and results in positive behavior and attitude. It improves memory, problem-solving while reducing stress levels and alleviating boredom.
Boosted emotional health due to mental stimulation will make your puppy less likely to engage in unwanted behavior, such as rough play, biting, excessive barking, chewing, whining, and knocking things over in the house.
Every dog is different and unique. However, the one trait common to all dogs is their extraordinary ability to understand human beings. Their affinity towards us and friendliness make them social creatures. Their social intelligence enables them to interact with us socially. They are responsive, attentive, and have social cognitive skills to read our behaviour. Your dog can hang out with your friends, family, and neighbours. And they can engage politely with strangers, too. However, much of their social intelligence and social savviness are acquired and enhanced through the time spent with humans and other dogs.
Puppy walks contribute to a happy, well-adjusted, and confident dog. A dog’s puppy years are the transformative years that shape its personality. With exposure to different places, people, situations, sounds, smells, and tastes, they learn to socialise. It is impactful on their temperament and safe social contact. Socialised dogs are friendly and less aggressive. On their walks, they meet new people & dogs and encounter lots of different social situations that allow them to learn.
Helps with teaching discipline and obedience training
A gentle tug on the lead signalling the end to some productive digging or the commands to sit, stay, down, come, or heel become familiar cues to your puppy on these walks. It is part of puppy training. Puppies also learn to respond to their name during walks as their names are called out often. They learn to walk on a lead and recognise boundaries.
Considerations before starting to walk your puppy
Before your puppy embarks on the joys of walking in the outside world, there are a few things you need to consider.
At what age should you ideally start walking a puppy?
When your puppy is 8-10 weeks old, they should receive their first set of vaccinations. Some may receive vaccines even at 6 weeks. After 2-4 weeks, the second dose of vaccines should be given. A puppy’s vaccination status is a vital indicator of the readiness to explore the world. As puppies, their immune systems are still developing, and they are susceptible to viruses. Until your puppy is fully vaccinated, they shouldn’t venture out for walks. This usually means the correct age can be anywhere between 8 weeks to 14 weeks.
Breed of the dog
Smaller breeds, such as Chihuahuas, Pomeranians, Yorkshire Terriers, toy poodles, Shih Tzus, and Pugs mature faster than larger dogs like Alaskan Malamute, Bloodhound, or Bernese Mountain Dog. Larger breeds take longer for their bones and joints to mature. Therefore, it’s important to consider their breed as well as age.
What is the ideal duration for a puppy walk?
The rule of thumb to follow is 5 minutes of exercise per month of age. So, if your puppy is 4 months old, they need 20 minutes of exercise at a time, and a 3month old can have 15 minutes of exercise. You can exercise your puppy 2 or 3 times a day, but not more than the recommended time in one session. Make sure they get plenty of rest in between walks.
As your puppy grows older and stronger, you can extend the time and distance they walk. A 6month old pup can go for longer walks or even a bit of trotting if deemed safe by the vet. A fully grown dog needs exercising anywhere between 30 minutes to 2 hours based on their breed.
Although your puppy may want to explore more and go further, refrain from going too far. Over-exercising your pup may lead to joint damage and orthopedic problems. Smaller dog breeds cannot handle longer walks due to their shorter legs and small size. Larger dogs, on the other hand, can relatively walk longer distances as it takes less time for them to cover more ground.
However, it’s important to remember that although larger breeds need more exercise, they shouldn’t exercise for too long. It takes longer for their joints and bones to develop. Putting too much strain on their legs can lead to orthopedic trouble. Working breeds such as Labradors and German Shepherds are genetically superior at handling physical strain.
Medium breeds need an average amount of exercise, although some may need more than others. Medium working breeds like Collies and Spaniels need extra activities, and terrier breeds need more playtime to burn off their extra energy.
Smaller breeds also need a fair amount of exercise, however, in shorter sessions than larger or medium breeds. Poodles and smaller terrier breeds are more energetic and active, which means they can walk a bit longer before they feel tired.
Best time of the day to walk a puppy
Mornings are the best times to walk a puppy as they need the potty the first thing in the morning. It also helps them burn off the excess energy after a night’s rest. Afternoons are good for walking, too. However, not all dogs can handle the heat, and there are certain things to consider, such as avoiding hot pavements that can burn their paw pads. Snub-nosed or flat-faced breeds have a genetic disadvantage as their physical features cause breathing problems as they exercise. If it’s too hot outside, they will struggle to breathe as they walk or run. Flat-faced breeds and Bulldogs are also prone to heatstrokes. It is better to walk them when it’s cooler. Kelpies and Border Collies have a greater level of heat tolerance.
Evenings have the perfect conditions for dog walking as there will be more dogs, people, and activities around that can be exciting for your puppy. There will be more opportunity for your pup’s mental stimulation and socialising.
Nighttime walks can help your puppy sleep better and more comfortably after a chance to relieve themselves before bed. For long-haired or brachycephalic breeds, it is an optimal time to go for a walk. The cooler temperature will not tire them. The night is also a good time for all dog breeds to have their last walk of the day. The roads are quieter at this time, and there are fewer vehicles, people, dogs, and fellow walkers. If your puppy gets too anxious or excited with a buzz of activity, this is a much more subdued time for a relaxed walk.
Tips on how to walk a puppy on a lead
The lead should represent fun times, and it should start with the introduction of the collar or harness and leash. Use a smaller and lighter collar that you put on them when you are feeding them treats. So, they know the collar is a good thing and not a restraint.
Before you start walking your puppy on a leash, let them walk around the house wearing their collar or harness with the lead on. Encourage them to come to you by moving a few feet ahead and rewarding them with a treat when they do. Make sure not to use a retractable leash. If they are chewing on the lead or pulling at it, be gentle and distract them with rewards rather than adverse techniques. When your puppy walks normally on a leash, it is time to venture outdoors with it.
Make sure you are walking at your puppy’s pace and not yours. A puppy is generally excited on their first trip to the outdoors, which means they will sniff at everything and run to anything they are curious about. It’s important to let them, as long as it is safe. Let them satisfy their curiosity. Avoid harsh verbal tones or aggressive tugs at the leash. If you notice them being overwhelmed, a hug will let them know they are safe. And, if you feel like they are stressed, cut the walk short and take them home. Keep the first walk short and offer a treat at the end of it.
If your puppy pulls at the leash, instead of yanking back the leash, stop moving and stand still. Use front-hook harnesses and head halters for dogs that tend to pull. If your puppy lunges at a passerby, walker, or another dog, immediately try to distract the pup with a treat.
Things to take with you while walking your puppy
A spare lead and collar – if the lead or the collar breaks on the walk, you need another to keep your dog safe.
Water – walking can be a thirsty business, and just as much as you need hydration, your puppy does too. Carry a water bottle, a collapsible bowl, or a portable bowl.
Treats – these are sometimes essential and can be the welcome distraction dogs need when they are behaving badly. Always reward your puppy instead of punishing.
Waste bags, sanitiser, and wipes – a responsible dog-owner always collects what their pet leaves behind. Collecting poo is never a pleasant business and can get messy. Always have sanitiser and tissues or wet wipes at hand.
ID and mobile phone – You never know what sort of situations you might have to run into on dog walks. So having your ID and phone with you can save you a lot of trouble. There’s always a chance your puppy might run into high-security premises. And you will need your phone to connect to a GPS tracker, if your puppy is wearing one.
GPS Pet Tracker – attaching one of these to your pet’s collar will double-secure your pet, as you will see your pet’s location on your phone.
How to ensure your puppy gets enough exercise if you are unable to walk them?
Indoor & backyard games
It could be a cold rainy day, or you just got home late to a doleful puppy waiting for you. Sometimes, walks are just not on the cards, but fun always is. If it’s wet outside, you can play indoor games with your puppy, such as treasure hunting, hide-and-seek, wild-sits, obstacle course, cardio twists, and training platform play. These are ideal for obedience and behavioural training, as well. Just remember to let them have fun while keeping them active.
If the weather isn’t bad, you can play tug-of-war in the backyard. Be gentle. And don’t worry, it will not make puppies aggressive. It will teach them emotional self-control, safe play, and the Drop It command. You can play fetch, too, indoors and outdoors. Reward them with a treat, and if they refuse to give you the fetched item, try to trade it with another.
Asking a friend or relative
You would be surprised at how many people would love to dog-sit for you. Just ask and see. Always leave a list of instructions with them so they know what to do if they run into a tricky situation.
Hiring a dog walker
As much as you would love to spend time with your puppy, we know it isn’t always easy to make the time. This is where professional dog walkers come to the rescue. Hire them through a trustworthy company, and your puppy will not have to stay at home alone and miss out on joyful walks. You can use an app and track their movements in real-time.
Ensuring your puppy grows healthy and strong into a happy dog is a dog owner’s joy. Taking care of their health is our duty. They give us so much, and caring for their well-being is our responsibility. GoWalkies connect dog owners with dog walkers in your area for safe and professional walking.