As I contemplate the addition of a new puppy, I can’t help but think back to some of the puppies I have raised over the years. One in particular stands out, a 9-week-old Rottweiler puppy who loved chasing snowflakes at midnight on cold January nights.
I can clearly remember being wrapped up in my big fleece bathrobe, scarf around my neck and insulated snow boots on my feet. It seemed that we were always out and walking around the yard, up and down the street and sometimes even to the park. It never failed that we were always walking when it was late, cold and the wind was howling. I tried to walk patiently, hoping she would go to the bathroom one last time so that I could go to bed. Often she had other ideas, especially if it was a perfect evening for catching snowflakes. Note to self: No more winter puppies!
I relayed this story to new clients of mine who recently got a new puppy — their first. They, too, were spending a lot of time outdoors walking with their puppy. At least in their case the snow was long gone and the evenings had been warm and pleasant. “So how often should you walk your puppy?” they asked. This is a great question.
Number Of Walks Needed
Puppies need to go on walks for several reasons: potty training, exercise, socialization and mental stimulation. Because of this, you are going to end up walking your puppy several times throughout the day instead of just one or two long walks as you would an adult dog.
Potty Training Walks
Walking your puppy in the yard not only allows you to make sure he goes to the bathroom each and every time but also to reward him immediately for going outside — even if you have a fenced in yard. By walking your puppy to the potty, you can also establish a particular spot in the yard for your puppy to use. Not only does this help establish a routine for your puppy, but it also helps contain the waste to a single spot.
You will want to walk him when:
- He wakes up in the morning and after every nap.
- After each meal.
- After a good play session.
- Every time he indicates he has to go to the bathroom.
Exercise, Socialization And Mental Stimulation Walks
These three go hand in hand. This type of walk will help provide your puppy with the exercise he needs as well as expose him to new people, places and things.
Try to take one good, mentally-stimulating walk a day:
- Take a walk around the block: This allows your puppy to become familiar with your neighborhood.
- Go to the park: A change of scenery is good for your puppy. New textures, smells and people are just a short trip away!
- Say ‘hi’ to neighbors: Walk around town or the local ball field and have new people offer your puppy a treat.
If your puppy hasn’t had his core vaccinations, be careful where you take him. You’ll want to avoid places where there might be other dogs who aren’t vaccinated.
How Long Is Too Long?
When determining the length of the walk, remember that puppies are still growing and do not have the stamina of a full-grown adult dog. So just how long of a walk should you go on with your new puppy?
I discussed this with Dr. Kelley Pozza-Adams, DVM, of Creekside Animal Clinic in Norton, Ohio. Pozza-Adams stated that she has no hard and fast rule, although she offers the following guidelines:
- Do not over walk your puppy. If he seems tired, then it is time to stop.
- Avoid hard impact or running with any dog while he is growing.
- Start out with easy walks around the block gradually building up to longer walks.
Puppy Walking Equipment
I always recommend walking a puppy on a harness and leash. There are a couple different harness options. For toy breeds, a vest-like harness is a great option. They are generally easier to put on than a traditional harness. Front attachment harnesses are a great option for larger breed puppies where you might need extra control. As for leashes, I simply use a standard 6-foot leash.
A head halter can also offer more control for active puppies, but they are also good for handlers that might not have the strength to walk a puppy otherwise. The only drawback is that it usually takes a week or two to train your puppy to wear it willingly.
Pozza-Adams also recommends harnesses or head halters.
“I do not recommend chain or prong collars,” she says. “These can cause damage or irritation to the throat. I prefer harnesses or head halters, which can help control the puppy without harming them.”
So whether you are like me and contemplating that new puppy or you have already added a new family member, remember above all else to enjoy your walks. Walking is a great way to create a strong bond with your puppy that will last the lifetime of your dog. As I think back to all the snowy nights of walking that puppy, I also think about the snowy nights of our last few walks together before I had to say goodbye. I instantly know that all of those walks were well worth it, and I would do it all again. A winter puppy doesn’t sound so bad after all!