How Far Can I Walk My Puppy?

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You want to show off your new labrador retriever puppy.

He’s adorable and your friends and neighbors want to meet him.

But can you walk him the mile to a friend’s house? Is it safe to walk your puppy outside? Will your puppy have the energy to make it 1/2 a mile, 1 mile, 2 miles? How far can you walk a puppy?

Or is it time for a puppy stroller?

Yellow Lab puppy out for a stroll on the sidewalk

There’s no firm rule. But generally it depends on how many vaccinations he’s had, his age, and breed.

At What Age Can I Walk My Puppy?

Until a puppy is fully protected by his core vaccinations, he shouldn’t be walked in areas where unvaccinated dogs may have been.

He also shouldn’t be exposed to dogs that may have not been vaccinated.

Puppies usually receive a series of vaccinations starting at six to eight weeks old.  Then they’re repeated every three to four weeks old until they’re 16 weeks old.

After that age, a puppy’s considered protected. Some say wait another two weeks until the vaccinations are fully effective before taking him to places where other unknown dogs may have been.

So, until he’s at least 16 weeks old, you can still walk your puppy on your property if no unvaccinated dogs have been there. 

Always check with your vet to see what vaccinations your puppy’s received and when you can walk him.

As far as getting our puppies out and about we follow the guidelines set forth by the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior.

The Primary and Most Important time for puppy socialization is the first three months of life. During this time puppies should be exposed to as many new people, animals, stimuli and environments as can be achieved safely and without causing overstimulation manifested as excessive fear, withdrawal or avoidance behavior. For this reason, the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior believes that it should be the standard of care for puppies to receive such socialization before they are fully vaccinated.

AVSAB Position Statement on Puppy Socialization

Things To Consider When Deciding How Far You Can Walk Your Puppy

There are many things to consider regarding how far you can walk your puppy, such as his breed and age. These factors include:

Your puppy’s breed or mix

Larger breed dogs may have problems with too much exercise. They grow more quickly than their smaller counterparts but mature more slowly.

Exercising a larger breed puppy too much can lead to orthopedic problems and arthritis.

Also, brachycephalic dogs with short muzzles like pugs and shih tzus have a lower tolerance for exercise because they can overheat more easily and have more difficulty breathing.

And some breeds, like working, herding, and sporting dogs have a higher exercise need even as a puppy.

So your border collie, golden retriever, labrador retriever etc. will generally need more exercise than your maltese.

Your puppy’s age

Very young puppies don’t have much endurance. They shouldn’t be walked too far.

A rule of thumb is a puppy can walk five minutes for every month of age starting at eight weeks. So a two-month-old puppy can walk about 10 minutes.

And a three-month-old can walk for 15 minutes; and a four-month-old for 20 minutes. And so forth.

Of course these are general guidelines. It’s always advisable to check with your vet regarding your puppy’s specific needs.

Important Considerations When Walking Your Puppy

In addition to how far your puppy should walk, there are many things to take into account regarding his excursions. These include:

Teaching your puppy to walk on a leash

Puppies don’t naturally walk well on a leash.

Usually they pull, chew the leash, and buck against the leash until they’re trained to walk calmly.

So it’s important to teach your puppy to walk properly on a leash so that he can get exercise and see the world.

Start with short walks with frequent breaks

Even if you have an older puppy, you don’t want to start walking him on a marathon.

It’s important to start with short walks of just a few minutes at a time. Over weeks, build his endurance.

And don’t forget to stop periodically for breaks. He may have to potty or be thirsty.

Avoid the hottest or coldest parts of the day

Young puppies can be susceptible to temperature extremes.

They may overheat and suffer from heat exhaustion, which can be deadly. 

Even when it’s too cold, they may become very uncomfortable. In cold weather, puppies may require a coat or sweater to help keep them warm.

Breeds with short muzzles such as shihs tzus or Lhasa apsos are especially susceptible to extremes of weather.

Plus, if it’s too hot or cold, the ground may damage your dog’s foot pads. And salt to melt snow can be dangerous to our dogs too.

Walk on safe footing

It’s important not to walk on surfaces that can be harmful or dangerous to your dog.

Places that are slippery can be dangerous for you and your dog to explore. Also, areas with sharp surfaces are hazardous.

Be sure that the surface isn’t too hot. This can especially occur with blacktop. 

If the walking surface is too hot for you to place your hand on, it’s too hot for your puppy to walk on. Err on the side of caution so that he doesn’t burn his pads.

Also try not to walk him on surfaces that have any chemicals, such as salt to melt snow or weed control, as some are toxic to dogs.

Walk on various safe surfaces

Get your new puppy used to walking on different surfaces that he’ll face throughout his life. It’s part of the socialization process.

Get him used to grass, pavement, and dirt trails. The more he’s exposed to in a positive way as a puppy, the better he should adapt to them as an adult.

Note From Colby: This is uber important for service dog puppies in training. If a service dog cannot walk across sand, grass, pavement, metal grates, etc without any kind of reaction, then the dog is not suitable as a working service dog.

Don’t over-exercise your pup

As was stated above, walks shouldn’t be too long, depending on the dog’s age.

A walk or two a day as well as other play should be enough.

Don’t jog or run with any puppy because their bones and joints are still developing and can easily be damaged.

Watch out for signs that your puppy is tired or lame

When on your walk–even on a short walk–make sure that you don’t walk too far.

If your puppy starts lying down, pants, or otherwise seems as if he’s walked far enough, end the walk. Remember not to go so far on other walks, as you have to take into account the portion of the walk returning home.

If at any point your puppy seems to be lame, limping or otherwise showing discomfort, end the walk. 

If your puppy shows any lameness, a vet visit is in order.

Give your puppy a few exercise sessions a day

You can break up his walk and give him two or three short walks a day.

But it’s also important that he has other types of exercise. A little fetching his favorite toys can help meet his needs. Some free running in the house or safely enclosed yard can be fun for him.

Stuffed Kongs and puzzle toys can help exercise his mind.

Remember: He needs physical exercise as well as mental stimulation. The walks provide both because, in addition to expending physical energy, he’s being mentally exercised by being exposed to new sights, sounds, smells, and experiences.

Remember to bring the essentials

Poop bags and water are important on your walks. You can bring a collapsible bowl or a water bottle with a built-in bowl so your puppy can drink. And don’t forget identification for your puppy.

Be visible!

If you’re walking at night, make sure you and your puppy can be seen. There are reflective and lighted vests, leashes, collars, and harnesses you can purchase.

Why Walk Your Puppy on a Leash?

He can get exercise other ways such as playing fetch or playing with another friendly pup.

But to be able to properly socialize your puppy, he needs to be taken to places on a leash. It’s not safe for him to run free.

And socialization involves not only having him meet friendly people and dogs but also exposing him in a positive manner to new sights, sounds, experiences, and footings.

There are many benefits to walking your dog, in addition to socialization, including:

Physical and mental exercise

Your new puppy wants to explore the world with you. 

In order to grow up to be a healthy adult, your pup requires both. New sights and sounds will stimulate him and help him grow into a well-rounded adult.

Weight control

Regular short walks will help keep your puppy fit and at the correct weight for his age and breed or mix.

Bonding time

Regular walks also provide a time for you and your puppy to bond.

You puppy will learn that fun, enjoyable things happen when you both interact.

And the walks will help provide a basis for a life-long bond with your pup.

Reduces unwanted behaviors

Exercise helps lessen destructive behaviors.

A well-exercised puppy is less likely to engage in destructive chewing, jumping, digging, and other undesirable behaviors.

Of course, the pup still requires training to understand what’s expected of him.

But the old adage that “a tired dog’s a good dog” still rings true.

Behavior reinforcement

You can use your walks to help practice your puppy’s training.

Have him perform a sit. Work with attention. 

Practicing training exercises he already knows while on his walk will help him learn to do them in everyday life, with distractions.

Lessens anxiety and stress

The socialization and real-life experiences help a dog cope better with everyday life.

Is Too Much Walking Bad For My Puppy?

There can be too much of a good thing. Even though we want our pups to get a sufficient amount of exercise, we can overdo it.

Following the above guidelines should lead to a safe amount of exercise. Also, check with your vet to be certain that you’re not overdoing it.

Too much exercise can harm them physically

Excessive exercise can negatively impact on a puppy’s musculoskeletal development. This is especially true of a puppy’s growth plates, which aren’t fully developed.

Too much walking and exercise can also lead to arthritis developing early in life.

Too much exercise can lead to severe exhaustion and limping

A puppy can get over-tired and even over-heat.

Just like when we overdo it, he may have sore muscles and may limp. A vet visit is in order if you see him limp.

Over-exercising even can lead your puppy to being more vulnerable to injuries.

Too much exercise can cause injuries to heal incorrectly

If you exercise a puppy with injuries, he may not heal correctly.

Final Thoughts

Walking your puppy has many health and socialization benefits. But it’s important that he’s had enough vaccinations before you take him to new places for walks. 

Also be sure to walk him on surfaces that won’t injure his pads and to stay visible–especially at night. And don’t overdo it.

But a walk with your new puppy can be a bonding experience. As a plus, you can show him off to your friends.

What about you guys?

How much do your walk your puppy?

Tell us about your experiences in the comment section below.

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Yellow Lab puppy out for a stroll on the sidewalk

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