Puppies are often rambunctious, high-energy creatures who love going for walks, but require a lot of patience to get the hang of the process. Recognize that a very young puppy can only take short walks before becoming tired, so time outings appropriately for when a puppy is not overly sleepy. Start off slowly and consider the outing an opportunity to bond with your puppy.
Choose a collar that is the appropriate size for your puppy and be prepared to purchase increasingly larger collars as your dog matures and grows. If you have a pup who strains against the leash, consider a head or body harness instead of a traditional collar. Use a nylon or leather leash initially, rather than a heavy chain or a retractable leash, which can make it difficult to direct and control your puppy in high-traffic settings.
Not only does walking provide good exercise and a great bonding opportunity for you and your puppy, it is also an ideal way to teach basic obedience commands. Instruct your dog to heel, or walk by your side on command. Start this on your very first walk to ingrain your puppy with good habits. Don’t pull or drag your pup, but rather stop when you want him to stop or move in a different direction. Use gentle pressure on the leash to continually bring your dog back to position by your side if he tries to go too far astray. Reward with lots of praise and an occasional treat.
If at all possible, choose a walking route that avoids heavy traffic and large neighborhood dogs, which can frighten your puppy and potentially lead to a physical altercation. You want to build your puppy’s confidence on walks, and eventually socialize him to other people and animals, but you need to keep him safe as well. Also avoid heavily wooded areas that might harbor snakes or wild animals that could be dangerous to a young dog just developing his outside bearings.
If you're walking in a park or neighborhood setting, it is vital to bring along a pooper scooper and disposable dog waste baggies. Neighbors may not appreciate your dog using their front yard as a bathroom, but you will establish yourself as a responsible pet owner if you immediately clean up your puppy’s mess. Try to get your dog into the habit of eliminating in your yard before or after your walk if possible.
It's hard for just about anyone to resist the charms of the new puppy out for his first walk. Allow people to gush over your puppy and show him attention. This will teach him socialization skills and will help him see his walks as a fun and enjoyable pursuit. Don't allow your pup to jump on strangers, and continue issuing obedience commands to ensure your puppy learns good manners.
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