So you just got a new puppy, and you’re ready to hit the streets. Wait! Before you go for your first outing together, make sure your puppy is ready to walk. You’ll have your whole lives to take strolls together, but for now, make sure you give your puppy the appropriate amount and type of exercise. Here’s what you should know about when you can take your puppy for a walk.
Yes, it’s tempting to take your new puppy out and show her off to the neighbours right away. However, puppies have developing immune systems, and until they’re fully vaccinated, they are highly susceptible to dangerous viruses like parvo and distemper. For that reason, vets recommend waiting until two weeks after your puppy’s final vaccination booster before taking them for walks. Typically that means that by the time they’re 16-18 weeks old, they’ll be ready (and protected enough) to explore.
Before your puppy completes their vaccinations, you can help them exercise and socialise at a puppy socialisation class or training class where all pups are at the same vaccination levels.
Once your puppy is fully vaccinated, you can start walking. Every puppy is different, but there are some common sense considerations that can inform how often you walk your puppy.
First, consider their energy level (physical and mental). All puppies love to play, but a high-energy breed like an Australian shepherd will probably be able to walk longer than a flat-faced pug. And a super-smart border collie may need more mental stimulation (and more outside time) than other types of dogs.
Also, consider your puppy’s size, both now and as an adult. Studies have shown potential links between over-exercise and orthopaedic disease in large- and giant-breed dogs. The bones and joints of large or giant breed puppies mature more slowly than those of smaller dogs. Big dogs like Great Danes and St. Bernards shouldn’t take long walks until they’re at least eight months old (but several short walks is OK).
Of course, a “long walk” means different things to different dogs. A short jaunt for a long-legged standard poodle might feel like a marathon to a tiny toy poodle. That’s why it’s important to consider your puppy’s specific size.
According to the Kennel Club UK, a good rule of thumb when deciding how much to walk your puppy is a ratio of five minutes of exercise per month of age. For example, when your puppy is three months old, walk them for 15 minutes a day. When they’re six months old, you’ll be walking 30 minutes a day.
As for how frequently to walk your puppy, the short answer is: as often as they need to go outside! Your puppy will be going to the toilet a lot, so it’s a good idea to schedule six to eight outings per day. Once they’re fully vaccinated, you can turn two or three of those outings into short walks.
Your puppy needs exercise, but walking too much can be harmful for growing dogs. Too much exercise, or “forced exercise,” can overtire your puppy and potentially damage developing joints.
So, what counts as “over-exercise?” According to vets, anything beyond what your puppy would engage in with puppies their same age. Playtime with other puppies is fine, but running around after adult dogs may be too much because your puppy might overdo it trying to keep up with the big dogs.
Similarly, puppies shouldn’t go running with their owners. They’re just not ready for that level of activity.
Before you start walking your puppy, consult your vet for advice. The puppy period is a lot of fun, but just wait until they’re all grown up. When your puppy is fully grown, between 8-12 months old, you’ll be able to take much longer walks together. And taking walks together is one of the best things about having a dog.