Three “Must Dos” For Walking Your Puppy

While walking to the gym this morning I encountered a man walking his puppy on the other side of the street.   The puppy was trailing behind him a bit, not quite to the end of the six foot leash.  The puppy looked over at me in a friendly way, slowed down, and moved to the edge of the sidewalk.  It was clear she wanted to come over and see me.

I wanted to ask the man what kind of puppy she was (sometimes it’s hard to tell when they are very young, which of a few similar looking breeds pups might be) and if I could come over and say hi. But he was walking rapidly while texting on his phone, and as the leash got tighter he pulled on it to get the puppy to keep up with him.

The puppy had no choice but to pick up her pace and keep moving.  How sad I thought.  For the puppy’s owner, the morning walk appeared to be just one more thing on his ‘to do’ list, to be completed as quickly as possible.

For the puppy, this excursion had the potential to be a fun adventure with all kinds of things to sniff and new friends to make.  Instead, her happy exploration of the world was interrupted and she missed the chance to learn that indeed it is fun to meet new people.

If you have the chance to work with people and their new puppies, I hope you include in your training information about how important walks are.  They are so much more than just giving the puppy the opportunity to relieve himself or get some physical exercise.

The socialization opportunities and precedent setting expectations are enormous.  For puppy owners this is a time to focus on your puppy, not multi-tasking.  Stop and let your puppy sniff and explore.  Begin to teach him to follow along and come with you when you ask her to.  For goodness sake talk to your puppy, rather than relying on the leash to pull her along, just because you can.

It’s no wonder there are so many behavior problems associated with being on leash when the leash becomes the THING that constantly prevents the puppy from doing all the things she’d like to have the time to do on a walk.

Here’s the three most important things we thing people should be doing during a puppy walk:

1.  When the leash tightens, that’s your cue to talk to your puppy and use your voice to encourage her to come with you.  Make coming along with you more fun rather than something that just gets in the way of what she wants to do.

2. Give your puppy time to stop and smell the roses.  Sniffing not only is a mentally enriching activity for dogs, but also is the precursor to elimination.  If you are having trouble getting your puppy to relieve herself on walks, and you’re finding she does so as soon as she gets home, not giving her sufficient sniffing time may be part of the problem.

3.  Letting your puppy say hi to people is usually a good thing.  Take treats to help her overcome any anxiety and to encourage an over-exuberant puppy to keep all four feet on the ground.  While some may disagree, we say no on-leash greetings with other dogs.  There’s too much that can go wrong. Use your treats to encourage your puppy to keep walking rather than relying on the leash to just drag her away.

What your puppy experiences and comes to expect during walks can set the stage for life long behavior patterns, so take your walking time seriously.  And have fun!

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