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How To Walk Your Puppy

February 01, 20244 min read

Stop And Smell The Flowers - How To Walk Your Puppy

Everyone knows that dog owners are expected to take their dog on a walk a couple of times a day.

It sounds fine in theory... until they try to get their ten week old puppy to leave the yard. Then their vet tells them not to take the puppy anywhere because it isn't vaccinated... but the dog trainer says to socialize it...

Cue screaming.

Yes, You Should Walk Your Puppy

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First of all, yes, definitely take your puppy out for walks.

The first four months of a dogs' life are vital for socialization. If you wait until your puppy is fully vaccinated, it will be too late. The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior has released a position statement strongly in favour of socialization.

Incomplete or improper socialization during this important time can increase the risk of behavioral problems later in life including fear, avoidance, and/or aggression. 

Behavioral problems are the greatest threat to the owner-dog bond. In fact, behavioral problems are the number one cause of relinquishment to shelters.

Behavioral issues, not infectious diseases, are the number one cause of death for dogs under three years of age.

--© 2008 AVSAB American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior

Note:

It is still very important that your puppy sees a vet regularly through puppyhood and receives their monthly booster vaccines!

Puppy Walks Are Not Exercise

If you're used to getting 10k in before breakfast, it's time to kiss that routine goodbye for a while. In fact, if you're hoping to go around the block before breakfast you might be aiming too high.

Because your puppy is learning about the world, walks need to be taken slowly. Your puppy may be unwilling to even leave your front step before they've had a chance to sniff the air, and look around, and mentally adjust to the world.

Then your puppy will want to stop to check out everything. We mean EVERYTHING. A twig! A bird! A smell! And after every one of these your pup may need to sit down and THINK about what they just experienced.

Be patient. Your puppy is not thinking about toileting right now, or about getting in their daily cardio. Your puppy is creating a mental database of All The Things. Sometimes they get stuck on the loading screen, and that's okay.

Beware The Opposition Reflex

The "opposition reflex" is a term coined by Pavlov, which basically means "dogs try to escape when they're trapped."

Now understand that when your leash tugs at your dog's harness or collar, your dog feels trapped.

Now understand that until you relax that leash, you're not going anywhere.

As far as we know, Pavlov didn't give a name to the human need to turn leashes in marionnette strings, but let's call it the Puppet Reflex.

Stop Puppeteering Your Puppy!

That leash is a safety line to ensure your puppy doesn't wander into the road or down the maw of a roaming cougar. That's it.

Every time you try to use the leash to guide the movement of your dog, you're making them balk, and pull against you. This can become a habit that is incredibly hard to break.

You're also setting a really bad example. How can you teach your dog not to pull on the leash, when you can't even stop doing it?

I mean, we can land a man on the moon, but we can't model good leash manners for a puppy?

We're In This Together

When you're tied to a dog, and the dog is tied to you, you must now engage in a team sport.

You're the team leader. You're older, your brain is bigger, and you have a GPS on your phone. You should be the one leading the way.

But ultimately this is also a six legged race. Neither of you can move without the permission of the other, unless you drag each other which you do not want to do.

Instead, stand there and wait. Wait for your puppy to thoroughly investigate the area within the boundary of the leash. Wait for your puppy to process everything and feel ready to move on. Wait for your puppy to realize they are tied to you. Wait for them to look up.

When your puppy looks up, get very excited, praise them and rush forward a few steps, encouraging puppy to follow you. You can use treats, peanut butter on a touch stick, a toy, anything to make moving with you - engaging with you - fun. As soon as puppy looks away from you and starts tugging toward a bush, stop again.

Repeat.

You may not get far today, or tomorrow, or the next day. But when you do get somewhere, you'll get there together, and you'll move together for the rest of your dog's life.

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Welcome to Canine Education

Wag The Dog delivers accredited dog training and service dog training in the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley of beautiful British Columbia.

We train at the forefront of canine cognitive science. We know that our dogs are capable of understanding so much more than people think.


You want to have the best possible relationship with your dog, but you don't know how to handle the problems that keep cropping up.

Or maybe you are getting a new dog and you want to feel certain that you are doing things right.

Or you are a dog enthusiast with dreams of training your own service dog, or even becoming a dog trainer yourself someday?

The important thing is: you want expert guidance from a dog trainer you can trust to be ethical, experienced, and educated.

Our highly-educated trainers hold science diplomas in Psychology, Animal Health, and Assistance Dog Education. We have a combined 30 years of hands-on professional dog training experience.

We are certified by the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers and accredited AnimalKind by the BC SPCA

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Don't miss this crucial period!

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Carol Millman, B.Sc, RAHT, CPDT-KA,CTDI

Coquitlam, BC

Amelia Kellum, B.Sc, CPDT-KSA, CTDI

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