Updated: May 4, 2020
Taking your dog our for long walks in the country side is one of the biggest reasons why people get a dog. What could be more perfect than going on a long walk, stopping off for lunch in a dog friendly pub then walking back to the car. A shared family experience of taking the dog out for a long hike is something to cherish but it’s not recommend to do until your puppy is older.
Puppies don't need as much exercise as an adult dog. Long walks can quickly overtire your puppy which can lead to:
Joint problems when they are older
Bitting the lead
Constant jumping up
Mouthing of hands and clothing.
Your puppy’s growth plates in their joints have not fully formed yet. Too much exercise when your puppy is young can lead to arthritis or hip dysplasia when they are older. A good rule of thumb is a ratio of five minutes of exercise at a time per month of age until the puppy is fully grown.
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5 minute golden rule
When your puppy is 2 months old they can go on a 10 minute walk (twice a day) then you add an extra 5 minutes per month
2 months - 10 minutes (twice a day)
3 months - 15 minutes (twice a day)
4 months - 20 minutes (twice a day)
5 months - 25 minutes (twice a day)
6 months - 30 minutes (twice a day)
Your puppy's first walk
Once your puppy has had their final vaccination they will be fully protected and safe to go out for their first walk one week later.
It is best to walk your puppy on a harness rather than a collar, this way you can protect any strain on their neck. It is better for your puppy to have a 6-8 metre lead rather than a short lead or an extendable one (Flexi lead). By giving your puppy a bit more slack on the lead you will be helping your pup to sniff, stop and take in their surroundings without the lead going tight causing discomfort.
Don't expect to go very far on the first few walks with your puppy. Infact don't plan on walking a particular route. Chances are you might not make it to the end of your road. Your puppy will probably stop every time they hear a car or see a person, dog or leaf passing by. This is because puppies are biologically programmed to perceive everything in the environment as a potential danger. If nothing bad or scary happens then they learn that these things are safe. Its very important to let your puppy stop and give them time to sniff the air. Never drag your puppy! If you find your puppy doesn't want to venture far from the security and comfort of their home, drive to your closest park and take them for leisurely stroll on a long training lead.
How to socialise your puppy on walks
It is important that your puppy only has positive interactions with people and other dogs. That doesn't always mean your puppy should interact or even wants to interact with every person, child or dog they see. Most dogs find it scary and intimidating when they get patted on the head and would much rather be given the choice to approach the new person in their own time to sniff them without being touched or over-excitedly talked to. When dogs are on lead they loose the ability to choose how and when to approach other dogs and people. Approaching a dog face to face is impolite and not natural for dogs. If they had the choice they would stop and sniff the air first to get all the information on the other dogs then slowly giving each other a wide birth they would approach in a semi circle, sniffing each other's behinds.
Your puppy may want to say hello to other calm and polite dogs but bouncy, excitable or out of control dogs might be too scary for your pup to cope with. Keep watch with which dogs are up ahead and if they look too excitable or barking then simply turn and walk the other way. Don't feel like you have to allow your puppy to say hello to every dog passing by. This can lead to over excitement and frustration on lead which can cause more problems than its worth as your puppy gets older.
Be confident to say "No" to people, including children, who ask to pet your pup. Politely explain that your puppy is still very young and is not quite ready to meet everyone yet. Instead ask them if they could stand still and let your puppy go up and sniff them. If your puppy shows interest by walking towards the person and looks happy and calm then you can ask the person to gently stoke the side of your puppy avoiding their head, mouth and chest.
Should I let my dog sniff?
Dogs have 300 million olfactory receptor cells in comparison to our measly 5 million. Sniffing is the predominant way in which dogs make sense of the world. Sniffing is vital to the way dogs gather information and interact with their environment. Yet as humans, we often discount the dogs' level of sensory perception and need for taking in this information, pulling them away every time they try to smell a bush or lamp post.
Imagine visiting a museum, slowly strolling by each artefact, regularly stopping to take in all the information. What if every time you attempt to look at something you were forced to move along without the opportunity to read the description. Thats what it is like for your dog.
My advice is to slow your pace, don't rush. Your dog will much happier spending 10 minutes sniffing a small patch of grass than getting around the block in a fast pace.
Help my puppy is still hyper when we get home from a walk!
I often get clients saying that their puppy goes crazy when they get back from a walk, zooming around the room. You might be fooled into thinking that your pup needs a longer walk than what the 5 minute rule suggests. The reason why your pup may come home and go a little loopy around your living room is from the adrenaline, excitement, overstimulation and stress of being outside. It normally takes up to 20 minutes for the adrenaline to leave the body. Taking your puppy for longer walks will not stop them from going a little nuts when you get home instead it could lead to excessive nipping, jumping or humping from being overtired. Give you puppy some mentally stimulating activities instead. This will slow the pulse rate down, calm and tire them out.
5 minute training session, such as focus, sit, down, stay
Food puzzles like: Kongs, snufflemats, scatter feeding
Chews: natural long lasting chews
How to stuff a Kong
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