The benefits of walking your dog go beyond a simple bathroom break. Besides being an excellent form of physical exercise (for owners too!), it also provides invaluable opportunities for mental stimulation, behavioural training, learning and socialising. And a good chance to strengthen your bond with your fur-kid in what could become your next favourite activity together! If you are walking your puppy for the very first time, it is up to us owners to make sure that our puppies can enjoy the experience fully. After all, at the end of the day, we need to remember that going on walks with your puppy is for them, and not us. Not sure how to start things off in the correct direction? Do not fret, we here at The Pup Life have gathered some tips that we would be glad to walk you through, to ensure that your walk gets off the right paw!
Point 1: Timing and Breed Matters
It is first and foremost important to understand when you can start walking your puppy. And it is in fact, more dependent on your puppy’s vaccination regime rather than age. The general consensus is that puppies can go outside two weeks after they have completed their vaccination regime.
The age and breed of your puppy plays a part in determining the length and regularity of your walks as well. Snub-nose breeds such as bulldogs may not be able to handle too much walking in the hot Singapore weather. Smaller dog breeds such as Chihuahuas and Dachshunds may not be able to cope with long walks due to their small stature and tiny legs, while larger breeds such as Bloodhounds and Golden Retrievers can handle longer distances. But do note that there is a danger of walking your puppy too much, which can potentially be damaging to its developing joints, particularly if your puppy is under a year old and of a larger breed. So be sure to avoid activities such as jogging and running together first.
A general guide is to multiply the number of months old your puppy is by 5 minutes to get a rough timing. But do note that this is not taking into account the breed, temperament and size of your puppy, and we would recommend consulting a vet if you remain unsure.
Point 2: The Essentials
There are many essentials one needs before taking our beloved fur-kids out on a walk, so be sure to be fully equipped and have these ready.
First and foremost, you will need a leash of course. For puppies going on their first walks, owners are advised to avoid using extendable or ‘flexi’ leads initially, although they may seem like convenient options. While there are benefits to such leashes, they can be dangerous for both you and your puppy, as they can cause injuries when entanglements occur. And the extended leash lengths allow your puppy to dart and change direction suddenly, which can cause accidents.
Starting your puppy off on their first walk on a retractable leash complicates things as well further down the line, as using it without fully understanding the tool can potentially result in teaching the dog to pull. Your puppy may pull to extend the leash to get to wherever it wants to go, and it may get the idea of pulling as rewarding. We recommend using a regular flat leash that provides you plenty of control and practising your puppy’s leash manners before considering retractable leashes.
You want your puppy to enjoy going on walks, and treats can help to reinforce the experience. Treats can reduce your puppy’s inertia to putting on collars, help with calling them back if you need, and be used as positive reinforcement when your puppy exhibits good behaviour on the walk.
Poop bags are another must-have, and the importance of picking up your puppy’s waste goes beyond that of being a nice owner. Pet waste contains harmful organisms like salmonella which can spread to other animals and humans. Additionally, when left on the ground for an extended period of time, these substances infiltrate the soil. It is the responsibility of owners to thus avoid this potential health hazard.
Water is another essential. Dogs easily overheat and they can become dehydrated on walks, particularly in warm weather, so ensure that you have plenty of water. Additionally, when your puppy drinks during exercise, they not only get hydrated. It helps them to better burn glucose. Consider bringing along a fold-out water bowl on your walks. It is not only easy to carry and store, it can be useful when it comes to feeding your puppy on walks as well.
Point 3: Pick The Right Location
Your puppy’s first walk can be a highly stimulating experience, so it is important to get off to a good start and take things slowly to prevent it being overwhelmed. Start off your first walk in a quiet area or at a less busy time of the day, so that it is free of distractions. That way, you can focus on training it to love walking with you and better monitor its reactions or limitations. And when your puppy is eventually well trained, you can mix things up by taking them to different places to create more fun experiences for them! Also, if you intend on taking your puppy on walks in gardens, it is crucial to first read and be aware of any insects, plants or flowers that could be harmful for them.
Point 4: Smelling Is Learning
Dogs and puppies pick up new information and learn through their noses and smelling. After all, they have millions more olfactory senses than us, so let dogs be dogs! Give your puppy ample time to stop, sniff and explore the area, as it helps to stimulate them mentally, prevent depression and release anxiety. You might be tempted to keep your puppy on track and walk at a constant pace, but not only is this impossible to achieve, it makes the walk a very frustrating experience for your fur-kid. Give them the space to be themselves, and embrace their instincts. You can even go on special scent walks for them, which is a walk that focuses on smells experienced, rather than distance covered. You can gain new insights into your puppy’s character that way!