If you have a puppy, no matter what the season, you are going to have to figure out how to get your puppy out and about. The most important learning socialization window closes at 16 weeks of age, and you need to take advantage of this time.
Leash walking a puppy is a time of great learning, when your puppy will learn everything he needs to know about the world that he lives in.
Equipment For Puppy Walking
The basics needed for walking your puppy are:
- Collar or harness
- Bags for poop pick up
For a collar, I prefer a martingale. Martingale collars are sometimes referred to as limited slip or Greyhound collars. Greyhounds wear them because they have narrow skulls. A martingale collar will not choke your puppy, but when fitted correctly, it will be difficult for your puppy to back out of the collar and get loose.
You will need something to help control your puppy. I prefer a well-fitted harness for pups but a collar will work just fine, as long as your puppy is not choking himself on walks and possibly damaging his larynx. There is really no need to use a choke or pinch collar on a puppy.
The first thing I do when teaching a puppy to walk on a leash is to attach the leash and have the puppy drag it around the house for a while.
Be extra cautious as your puppy drags the leash around the house for a bit. This will acclimate your puppy to the leash, and let you judge whether your puppy can slip out of the equipment. My favorite trick of the trade is to use a carabiner that you can buy for about a buck to connect the collar to the harness. You will be surprised at just how slippery puppies can be, especially once they have learned they can back out of a collar or harness. Their little legs can turn to mush. We don’t need our puppies getting loose!
On the off chance that the unthinkable could happen, please think ahead and microchip your puppy. Be sure to register your chip and have ID tags on your puppy’s collar, just in case.
Now that you have the equipment ready, let’s begin with special concerns you might have walking your dog in the four seasons, as I do.
Puppy Walking Through The Seasons
Winter: The winter puppy has special needs all his own. During winter, your puppy may get cold and not want to stay outside very long.
For winter walks, puppies may need their paws protected with either special boots or paw wax. If you choose to use either of these, or both, your puppy will need time to get used to the extra handling and sensation. Don’t rush this; you are setting a foundation for the life you will spend together.
Even if you use a special ice melt formula for sensitive paws on your property, chances are no one else does. Keep this in mind when salt and gravel come out on the streets after a storm.
Summer: For summer walks with your puppy, the concerns include:
- Is the sidewalk too hot? Check with your hand.
- Is your puppy tired from the heat?
- Is your puppy hydrated?
- Can your puppy breathe OK in the heat? This is of special concern to puppies with pushed-in noses.
- The end of summer tends to bring poison mushrooms. Beware of this danger.
Spring: This season is a time of awakening. There is so much for your puppy to explore and potentially ingest. There is a well-known saying among trainers that puppies are only vehicles for their mouths. This is so true.
On the positive side, your puppy will meet lots of new people and have many experiences now that the weather is warmer and people are coming out of “hibernation.”
Fall: There are not many pups who can resist a good blowing-leaf chase. If this bothers you, work on a solid “leave it” command and bring something to redirect your puppy to chase and carry. For some puppies a squeaky toy is a great distraction, but others are all about the treat.
Whatever your puppy focuses on and chews on now will be a hard habit to break. Redirect your pet away from sticks, acorns and the like, as these can pose a danger. Dogs should not be allowed to chew on sticks because ingesting a large piece might cause internal punctures.
Puppy Walking Do’s And Don’ts
Do walk your puppy with your pup’s best interest in mind. Puppyhood is a time for your puppy to learn about his world. There will be plenty of time to power walk later.
Do allow your puppy time to learn about and observe the world on walks. Make walks a learning adventure.
Do bring treats with you and reward good behavior.
Do use positive training, and work on building your bond with your puppy, and your relationship. The puppy stage is a time to build this up, not shake it down.
Don’t jog or ride a bike with your puppy. Puppies should not have pounding on their legs until their growth plates have closed — for most dogs that occurs at about 1 year old. Check with your veterinarian before starting your puppy on an exercise program.
Don’t use a choke or pinch collar on your puppy. There is just no need to do this.
Don’t worry if your young puppy goes on strike during a walk and refuses to move. This is all part of being a puppy, and this stage won’t last long. Try not to pull on him, as pups have an opposite reflex, and will just continue to strike and pull against you.
Don’t walk in areas that have been treated with chemicals, if you can help it. Be on the lookout for signs from lawn companies and lawn areas with uniform grass.