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Everything You Need to Know About Walking a Puppy

Written by Anna Hollisey


White shepherd puppy enjoying walkies

Boing, boing, is it time for a walk yet? Energetic pups will love discovering the world on their walks. And we love to accompany them! Here’s all you need to know about those early adventures. 

Collar or Harness?

Before venturing out for a walk you’ll need some basic gear. There are several options for restraining your eager pup: first you’ll need to decide whether you want a collar or harness./learn/dog-lifestyle/dog-collar-or-harness--whats-better-for-my-dog Here are some key points to consider while choosing. 

  • Brachycephalic dogs will need a harness which removes pressure from the neck. Their trachea should not be restricted so pick a wide harness suitable for the breed. 
  • A collar’s great for all-day wear. If your pup is prone to getting into trouble or escapes from your yard, a collar is a wise precaution. 
  • A harness is best for pullers. If your dog pulls you along, a harness will spread the tension and prevent damage to their throat and neck. 
  • Choke collars and shock collars are sold for pullers – but we wouldn’t recommend these. Both can cause serious physical or mental trauma. 

If you want to learn more about picking the best collar and harness for your dog and making sure everything fits correctly, have a read of our article here/learn/dog-training/with-a-whole-manor-of-different-shaped-and-sized-harnesses

Preparing for the Weather

If you’re not already a keen walker, you might need to consider additional equipment to help you to brave the weather in your region. Unlike us, dogs don’t look out of the window and think: “maybe I’ll skip the walk today”. You’ll be walking through gales, storms, rains, snow and ice for at least part of the year.

The secret to success? Be prepared. You can buy protective gear for your dog, including:

  • Dog coats. Good idea? Yes. They’re more than style statements. Dog coats are useful for dogs like sighthounds (which feel the cold due to their very thin skin and fur) and puppies whose coats haven’t yet developed. Try to choose a lightweight and insulative coat that will dry fast. 
  • Dog boots. Good idea? Maybe. Dog boots can be irritating to dogs but well-fitted boots save their feet from ice (which gathers between paws) and chemical de-icers (which are toxic). If you’re in a very cold part of the country, take your lead from other dog owners. Be aware that dogs should only have very short walks when the temperature drops below around 25 degrees F.

How Far Should a Puppy Walk?

Online, you’ll find experts recommending a rule of 5 minutes per month – that’s 30 minutes of leash-walking for a 6-month puppy, which you can do twice a day. 

It’s a good rule of thumb but in practice, your walks may differ depending on your breed and terrain. The key principle is to protect your puppy’s growing joints and skeleton – and prevent them from excess impact and overexertion. 

Some breeds can become bored and destructive (or start racing around the house) when they haven’t had enough exercise. If your pup needs extra exercise, take it slowly; choose a soft terrain (like a grassy park or sandy shore) and remember that you’ll be building up their stamina over a period of months. 

After each walk, see how your puppy winds down. You will get to know when your puppy has had enough (or too much) exercise. 

On or Off the Leash?

Some owners, especially new owners, keep their pups on the leash and it’s wise in terms of safety (they can’t eat something hazardous or run into a dangerous situation) and control (if they’re not yet fully trained). 

If you plan to walk your dog off-leash/learn/dog-training/should-my-dog-be-off-leash, the first attempt can be daunting. But take heart: young puppies often have an instinct to stay close to their owners and will gradually increase the distance as they gain confidence. Practising recall/learn/dog-training/how-to-teach-a-dog-to-come will reward you with an attentive pup who will not stray too far. Begin in a safe, enclosed place and observe how your puppy responds to freedom – and how quickly they return to you when called. 

Confident about your pup’s recall? If you’re ready to let your (vaccinated) pup off the leash, choose a safe place for the occasion. Firstly, check the rules in your state and local area to see where your pup can safely run off-leash. Then, take plenty of your dog’s favorite treats so you can entice them to behave nicely. Restrict the time they have off-leash: distracted by new friends, puppies can become overstimulated and overtired.

Here are some tips about walking your puppy on and off-leash. 

  • Some puppies are anxious about wearing a collar or harness for the first time. To alleviate this, put it on them gently before your first walk, and reward them with treats and praise. 
  • Socializing your puppy is one of the most important things you can do to support their early learning. So don’t take the same walk every day. Choose different routes and locations so your pup is used to all kinds of people and surroundings. 
  • Walking at your side is a difficult skill for puppies to learn. It’s usually easier to practice at home or an enclosed space, where you can offer treats to keep puppy right beside your heel. 
  • Playing fetch is fun, but keep the game low, close and short. Puppies can seriously damage their bones and muscles running and jumping for balls or frisbees – it’s a good game for older dogs. 
  • If your puppy sits or lies down, that’s a sure sign that they’re tired! You might want to carry them. 

Can You Run With a Puppy?

In short, no. Running or jogging means covering around double the distance on your walks and can cause overexertion, even if your puppy appears to be keeping up. For these early walks, it’s better if your puppy moves at their own pace. Take it slow and stay patient. You’re developing their legs so they’re strong enough for longer runs and one day, they may be able to run with you.