Before you think about walking your puppy
It’s very important that you begin your new pup’s training and socialisation regime as soon as you can. However, there are other things to consider. It is recommended that you don’t take your pup outside until he has had all of his primary vaccinations. Of course, this depends on when you begin the process. Your pup could be almost 16 weeks old before you finally get to take him into the great wide world. During this time, it is important that you make efforts to socialise your puppy to the things he will experience in life.
Introduce your puppy to a collar and lead
Even though your pup is quite small, you can still familiarise him with a collar and a lead. Introduce the collar when he is busy doing something else, or when you are cuddling him. Certainly, you want this to be a positive initiation. Because you cannot take your pup for a walk outside, this obviously doesn’t mean he can’t walk in the house or in the garden or even at some friend’s house. With his collar and leash in place, even just taking him around the living room will get him accustomed to these new ‘accessories’.
Of course, if you have a yard or garden where no unvaccinated dogs have access, take him out on his leash and walk him around. Lead walking does not come naturally to dogs, so it's important that if he begins to pull, (which its almost inevitable) rotate your steps and walk the other way. After a few starts and stops, your puppy will soon get the hang of things. Above all, reward him with treats and praise him when he does walk with you.
How much exercise does your puppy need?
Puppies cannot be exercised in the same way that adult dogs can! You wouldn’t expect a toddler to follow you on a 2-hour hike on foot right? Well puppies are the same! Their developing joints cannot take too much exercise at once. Plus, they run out of energy quickly, and need lots of naptime to be healthy!
In general, a good rule of thumb when exercising your puppy is to allow 5 minutes for each month of the pup’s age (up to twice a day). For instance, you can walk a 3-month-old puppy for 15 minutes a day, and a 6-month-old puppy for 30 minutes a day.
Even more important to consider, is how quickly your puppy is growing. Over-exercising a dog who is growing very quickly can damage the puppy’s joints and bones. There are several other considerations too:
How strenuous is the walk?
Certainly, this depends on where you are walking, on the type of road surface, and especially how physically demanding the walk is. Is your pup running freely or is he on the leash? Is he playing with other puppies? Is he running or walking?
Is regular walking necessary?
Almost all large and giant breed puppies need to be extra cautious so as not to impair their growing skeleton. However, if your puppy is of a smaller breed, you can probably extend this ‘5 minutes for each month’ advice. A slightly longer walk isn’t likely to cause any damage. Likewise though, don’t over-exert your pup to the stage of exhaustion.
Choose alternative activities
When you take your puppy for a walk on the leash, he needs to keep up with you. This can be quite tiring for a small dog. Instead, choose some activities and games to play at home - such as problem solving and nose work. He will still have to use his brain, give his body a workout, but can also take a little nap in between these events.
If you introduce early training regimes to your young dog, remember that mental stimulation can be just as demanding. Any training routines that aren’t necessarily physical, will also be exhausting over long periods.
How often should I take my puppy out?
As often as he needs! Just because you can’t over-exercise your puppy, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t let him out several times a day. If your puppy needs to go to the toilet, he must have access to the outdoors, no matter how many times he’s been out already! The main thing to watch out for is that any activities that are physically strenuous (e.g. playing, running, etc.,) is limited.
So to know how often you should exercise your puppy, you need to take several factors into the equation. The breed and size of your puppy and also his age will determine his exercise requirements.
In general, walking your puppy for 10 to 15 minutes a day should suffice to cover toilet breaks. Regular playtime and other activities should also be scheduled into your routine. You can start taking longer walks as your puppy grows, but you'll have to wait until your pup has fully developed physically (between 8-12 months for most breeds), before taking them on those super long walks! Above all, enjoy your puppy walks!