Are you ready to take your puppy for his or her first walk? A puppy's first walk should ideally be done in a calm environment and should be a fun and positive experience!
Heel is the foundation of our training program at Suburban K9, and if you want a well-behaved dog on walks it should be for your dog as well! No matter the age, make sure to get started as soon as it makes sense. Even if you do not plan on teaching your dog the heel command, getting your dog acclimated to a leash is a vital life skill to have! It is a very important step in your dog’s development!
Should I train my dog to walk on a leash?
One of the key advantages of leash training from an early age is that it sets the foundation for dogs to learn to walk calmly and attentively by your side. This promotes good manners, prevents pulling, and minimizes the risk of accidents or confrontations with other dogs or pedestrians. It also allows you to maintain control over your dog in various environments, making outings and daily walks more enjoyable and stress-free for both of you.
Leash training early on provides an excellent opportunity for socialization. As you expose your pup to different sights, sounds, and smells in the outside world, they learn to navigate new environments and encounter various stimuli. This exposure helps them become more confident and adaptable, reducing the likelihood of fear-based behaviors or aggression as they grow older. It also allows them to interact with other people and dogs (assuming they're vaccinated), promoting positive social interactions and preventing potential behavioral issues.
Safety is another crucial aspect of leash training. Dogs that are accustomed to walking on a leash are less likely to run away or chase after distractions, minimizing the risk of accidents, injuries, or getting lost. Whether you're near a busy road, in a crowded park, or in unfamiliar surroundings, having your dog reliably walking by your side ensures their well-being and provides you with peace of mind.
Regular leash walks offer numerous physical and mental benefits for your dog. It provides them with the exercise they need to maintain a healthy weight, build muscle strength, and release pent-up energy. The mental stimulation gained from exploring new environments and encountering different stimuli keeps their minds sharp and wards off boredom, leading to a happier and more balanced companion.
What should I expect on my first walk with my puppy?
When working with a younger puppy, like in this video, it is important not to set your expectations too high for how this first walk will go. For many young puppies, just getting their feet moving can be one of the largest challenges they have faced!
In the video below, you can watch Matt working with Wallen on his first session working on loose leash walking. This is the first step to teaching a puppy how to heel, not your goal for a puppy's first introduction to a leash.
What should my goal be for my first walk with my puppy?
We don't really go into teaching the heel command here, with a puppy as young as Knut that has never been on a leash, just getting them walking is usually a success in our book. We do not want to over-stress a young puppy, so it is important for us to take our time. Some puppies take to this walk very well and very quickly, and some can take much more time! It is always recommended to do this in a calm neighborhood as fewer distractions are necessary when we are first teaching heel!
How do I get my puppy to walk with me?
It is important to find what motivates your dog. This can vary quite a bit from dog to dog.
Here are a few that we've had success with:
- Verbal praise
- Physical praise
- Another dog
- One of the puppy's family members
Will I always have to use treats to walk my dog?
That is an understandable concern. One of the main reasons we use treats sparingly when we train is because we believe a dog needs to do what we ask regardless of if we have a treat in our hands. We typically only use treats for very young puppies as is the case here, or extremely fearful dogs.
As you train, the better they begin moving with you, the less of the motivation we will need to give out. If you are using treats like Matt Covey does above, then begin to give them less frequently. If using praise, you can slowly lower the excitement in your voice, and increase the time between the verbal reinforcement. Eventually, we recommend you teach the dog the heel command and that will get you to the point you won't need treats again!
My dog is starting to walk well, how do I improve it from here?
Once the dog is moving with you well and not veering away from your path, we will slowly introduce turns. When we say a turn, we are talking about turning 180° degrees and then walking back in the direction you were just moving. We use turns quite a bit when working on leash skills with dogs of all ages. It can help you refocus the dog on you if they become too distracted by something. It can also be used to test how well they are paying attention to you.
With a young puppy, you may need to really encourage your dog here with treats, toys, praise, or a combination thereof. Once they have mastered their turns, we can slowly ween them away from treats and we can start expecting more from their walks. Through time we will increase our expectations and really begin to focus on the heel command!
What dangers are there in taking a young puppy on its first walk?
Always remember to be safe with your young puppy! Even if they are unvaccinated, you can find a safe and calm environment for them to walk in. Don't take them to a dog park or a place with tons of other animals, but walking in the neighborhood is fine! Waiting until 16 weeks to get them acclimated to a heel walk and socializing them can really create quite a bit more work for yourself.
Exposing your dog to walking on a leash early in their life is of utmost importance for their overall well-being and development. This early exposure plays a significant role in shaping their behavior, socialization skills, and ensuring their safety. By introducing leash walking during their puppyhood, you establish a foundation of discipline, obedience, and control that will benefit them throughout their lives.
If you're still struggling with your puppy on a leash, reach out to us! Our Dog Boot Camp and our In-Home dog training lessons are highly customized and designed to give you and your dog the best life possible. For those looking for the absolute best training packages, check out our One Year In Home Training Packages and Board and Train Plus Package. We focus on obedience commands, leash walking, off-leash training, in-home behaviors, socializing, and many other training goals.