Dog Walking Basics: Beginner's Guide to Dog Walking
By Shreya Tragad
You just got a new puppy and now you’re excited to show him/her off in your neighbourhood, it shouldn’t require much other than a leash and collar, right?
Not so fast!
As a new dog owner who is getting ready for their first dog walk, there are several things you need to take into consideration for you and the little one. Yes, your puppy will learn to listen to you in the early stages of their development, but it’s important for you to be prepared before you take them out in a world full of many explorations! You may be wondering, how much exercise do little puppies need? Does their breed matter when it comes to walking? Do they need to be vaccinated before they head out? What will I need?
Don’t worry, it’s not as complicated as it sounds! We don’t want you waiting too long until you get to spend some great quality time outdoors together.
When To Start
It is important to consider factors such as size, age, and breed to determine exercise needs. Your puppy’s immune system is also important along with their vaccination schedule. Your veterinarians will recommend that your puppy should avoid big dog parks and walking outside until they have all of their necessary vaccinations. However, you cannot get certain shots such as the rabies shot until your puppy is a couple of months old.
Dog walking usually begins at least two weeks after their final puppy vaccination schedule to venture out in the real world. Your veterinarian will provide you with a specific timeline for your puppy’s schedule so that you can plan puppy preschool or play dates with other dog owners. In general, you cannot take your puppy outside until two weeks after their puppy vaccinations schedule is complete.
Age is not a huge factor when it comes down to deciding when to take your puppy out on a walk, but it is highly dependent on where they are with their vaccine regime. It will be important to chat with your vet about wanting to start puppy vaccination schedules as soon as possible so that they are fully vaccinated for their dog walk. Once your puppy is fully vaccinated, and is healthy and fit, they can even be ready to be outdoors by 16-18 weeks of age. Of course, even though your puppy is fully vaccinated and protected from dangerous illnesses, it still doesn’t mean that they are ready for long hikes. When the puppy is young, their dog walks will consist of small ventures outside for the bathroom, but they will still be able to play indoors rather than long exercise sessions.
What You Need
The items you will bring with you will depend on where you are going, the time of the year, and weather conditions. Here is a short checklist of general items you may need:
1. Poop Bags
It will be important to pick up your dog poop as it contains harmful bacteria and toxins, and can make both you and your dog sick! You can also take plastic bags or grocery bags instead
2. First Aid Kit
It is best to stay prepared in case anything happens if your dog gets injured during a dog walk such as cuts, stings, splinters or sprains.
3. Fanny Pack
A fanny pack will be great to store any walking essentials to keep your hands free such as your treats for your puppy, poop bags, water bottles, small first aid kit or even small fetch toys.
Particularly when it’s hot outside, you may want to keep water available for both you and your energetic dog. It will be important to stay hydrated during your walk, you can keep this in your backpack, fanny pack or a carrying vest.
Keeping a little bag of treats during your walk will help you keep your dog motivated and feel rewarded.
How Often You Should Go
To determine how often you should take your new pet on a dog walk, your puppy toilet training schedule will dictate your walks. Your puppy may need to go often in the first initial months, so each walk may be treated as a small tiny walk such as a short stroll in the park or even around your neighbourhood complex. This is more than enough for your little one to go out to the toilet. As your puppy gets older and used to the walks, you can change the walks into longer walks and in multiple sessions. Once your puppy has grown into a full adult dog, they will require at least one walk per day. More active dogs such as Golden Retrievers and Kelpies, they may need two to three a day.
How Much Exercise Is Considered Too Much?
You may be wondering, how much exercise is too much? There have been many debates on this topic, there is no “accurate” answer. A general rule of thumb is to multiply your puppy’s age in months, multiply it by five to determine how many minutes to take your puppy out on a walk during each session. For example, a fourth-month puppy can be taken out on a walk for 20 minutes, twice a day, the number is in sessions.
You must also look at other important factors such as the size, breed and energy level of your puppy. Your puppy’s need for exercise will change as they grow, when they are younger, vets recommend keeping dog walking limited to short walks and multiple play sessions throughout the day. Older pups will require more exercise if your vet can determine if they are in overall good health. You can slowly build up on your walking exercises over time, taking many breaks in between to prevent exhaustion.
Asking your vet or talking to your breeder for advice would be a great start for in-depth research, or even talking to other dog owners who have puppies of a similar breed. Watch out for signs of excessive tiredness, as it could be a symptom that they are getting too much exercise or even a sign of an underlying health problem
When we look at distance, there isn't a standard answer to determine how long of a distance you should go as it simply depends on their size, breed and age of the puppy. All puppies have enormous bursts of energy and love to play. Some puppies are not built to go on long dog walks as much as other puppies. If your puppy tries to sit down or lay down during the walk, those are signs from your puppy that they need rest, you can just pick your puppy up from here and go home for them to rest.
Does The Puppy Breed Determine Their Exercise Needs?
Calculating your puppy walks depends on their age along with their vaccination status, but dog walking also comes down to their physical ability to handle exercise, which is highly affected by their breed.
Small breeds like Chihuahuas and Pomeranians cannot go on long walks because of their size, frequent needs for eating, and their small legs. Larger breeds like Alaskan Malamute and Bernese Mountain dogs can handle longer walks. The larger the dog, the longer it will take for their bones and joints to fully mature so even day-long hikes can potentially cause a risk for creating orthopedic problems if you push them too far.
Heat tolerance is also a big factor to consider when it comes to different breeds. Snub-nosed breeds are not able to take long exercises in a hot climate in comparison to Kelpies and Border Collies as they have a higher heat tolerance. If you notice that your puppy may be dehydrated from the walk, it is important to hydrate them and cool them down.
Dog walks are not just an enjoyable activity for both you and your little one, but also important for your dog’s health and well-being. Progressing slowly with the dog walks during the puppy stage will allow your dog to learn how to walk nicely with their leash on quickly!
It is crucial to remember that even though you are looking forward to long enjoyable walks with your new companion, your dog’s puppy phase will last for a short time. Until then, it is good to stick to short manageable walks and wait until your dog has grown fully to go on long walks. Be sure to cherish and enjoy every moment with your little puppy and their cuddles, because they will grow into an adult dog before you even know it!