Walking a Puppy in 3 Simple Stages
For puppies and humans alike, walks are a convenient way to work in a little exercise while enjoying quality time together. However, your puppy will need some training before they start strolling around the block with you. After all, the last thing you want is for your excited pup to somehow manage to tangle your legs up in their leash!
Just like any other skill you want to encourage, walking a puppy takes patience. Your young furry friend is still learning about their world, so this is a crucial opportunity to teach positive habits while building your bond together. Follow these steps to ensure a happy, obedient walking partner for years to come.
Before You Start
Your puppy should receive all their core dog vaccinations before going on outdoor walks. These include shots against rabies, distemper, canine hepatitis, and canine parvovirus. Consult your veterinarian to learn what other vaccinations your pup may need before it's safe to take them on walks.
Although you won't be walking your puppy outside right away, it's a good idea to start preparing. Buy a sturdy leash and a comfortable harness that's appropriate for your pooch's size. Your puppy should also wear a collar with tags containing your contact information in case they get lost. Don't forget dog treats to reinforce positive behavior when training—a happy pup is a well-behaved pup!
Stage 1: Introduce Your Puppy to Their Harness
Before it's safe to start walking your puppy, they should be familiar with wearing a harness indoors. Put your pup in their harness while you are feeding them, giving positive attention, or doing something else that will distract them. Don't give in if your pooch tries to squirm out of the harness; offer praise or their favorite chew toy to focus their attention elsewhere. Keep your dog in the harness for a few minutes at a time throughout the day. Your puppy will feel confident wearing their harness in no time!
Stage 2: Work on Indoor Leash Training
Once your pup becomes comfortable wearing their harness, it's time to start leash training your puppy indoors. Take your dog to a peaceful, isolated part of your home and attach the leash to their harness. While they are wearing the harness, stand a step or two away and shake their treat bag. Give your puppy a treat as soon as they look in your direction. This will familiarize your dog with having a leash on, and before long they should be walking to you for their treat.
After several repetitions, take a few steps back. Continue to shake the treat bag and encourage your dog to walk over to you. Gradually increase the distance and eventually start to walk a couple steps as your dog comes toward you. If your puppy has an outdoor potty spot, you can even start taking them there while they're leashed for additional training. Don't forget to give plenty of praise when leash training your puppy!
Stage 3: Take Your First Outdoor Walks
Your dog will be ready for their first outdoor walk about a week after receiving their final dose of core vaccinations. This typically happens when puppies are about four months old. Keep walks to just a few minutes per day and gradually increase the amount of time your puppy walks as they get older.
Dealing with Distractions
Although your dog should be familiar with their leash and harness by the time you take walks outside, be prepared for distractions. Your puppy will experience a variety of new sights, sounds, and smells when outdoors, which are sure to pique their interest. So, don't be surprised or angry if your furry friend pulls on their leash, lunges toward other animals or people, or starts walking in erratic patterns on your first few trips outside. To avoid these distractions whenever possible, stay away from other walkers and the road, and carry along a few treats to grab your dog's attention when disturbances arise.
Discouraging Inappropriate Behavior
If your puppy starts to bark or tug on the leash, don't pull them back. Instead, stand still until your dog settles down and returns to you. Barking in particular can be remedied with physical and mental exercise, according to The Humane Society of the United States. Make sure your dog enjoys enough daily activity to help keep them happy and composed.
Some puppies are harder to teach than others. If your dog refuses to accept the harness, continues to pull too strongly, or acts aggressively toward others, speak to your veterinarian about potential solutions.
A Step in the Right Direction
Your dog won't master leash training overnight, so it's important to keep encouraging healthy habits as you practice. Over time, walking your puppy will not only help them become better trained, but they will learn to stay relaxed when you take them to the dog park. Here's to years of happy strolls together!