A puppy

When can a puppy go for a walk?

By BBC Maestro

Your puppy has explored every corner of the house, and it feels like the right time to widen their horizons. When can your puppy go for their first walk? In this article, we take a look at finding the right time for this exciting new adventure, along with some handy preparation tips.

When can my puppy go outside?

Your pup can go outside two weeks after their primary vaccinations.  The primary vaccination course typically consists of two or three injections, with a two-to-four-week gap in between the first and second doses.

Until the primary course is completed, they mustn’t come into contact with other animals, or explore patches of ground where other animals might have been. This is because their immune systems are still vulnerable to infection.

So, you can take them out in a special backpack or pet stroller (expect a lot of attention) so they can see and sniff the big wide world. If you have a safely enclosed garden, they can start exploring this after their first vaccination. 

What age can you walk a puppy?

When you can walk a puppy outside depends on their vaccination schedule. The exact timings here vary slightly because puppies start their course of vaccinations when they’re between six and eight weeks old. Assuming your puppy had their first vaccination at eight weeks old, they should be ready for their first walk by 12 weeks (first dose, two-week gap, second dose, two-week wait). This age isn’t set in stone, because it’s based around your puppy’s immunisation dates, not their age.

In his BBC Maestro dog training course, dog trainer Steve Mann teaches a lesson about puppy socialisation. He talks about the importance of socialisation for dogs at all ages, but particularly when a puppy is around 13 to 14 weeks old. All being well, your eager puppy will be ready to enjoy all sorts of new experiences by this age.

A puppy

Can you walk a puppy after their second vaccination?

After the second dose, a puppy is almost ready to meet the world. Until they’ve completed the whole primary vaccination course (two or three injections given in two doses), your pup is vulnerable to infections. Vets advise pet parents to wait another two weeks after the second injection to let immunity fully develop.

Speak with your vet about exact timings, as there are slight variations between different vaccinations. 

Preparing for puppy’s first walk

You want this first walk to be a positive experience for your pup, so a bit of preparation is essential. While you’re waiting for W-Day, you can get ready by introducing the puppy to their new collar, harness and lead. After all, this is the first of many walks that you’ll enjoy together. 

Let them get used to the collar and harness first (with plenty of sniffing, praise and treats), then progress onto the lead. Eventually clip it on, and when your puppy is used to this, start going for short walks around the house and garden. Encourage them to stay close to you, using more praise and treats. Alongside this, keep working on their recall. 

Make sure that their flea and worm treatment is up to date before their first real outing – and of course, now they’re about to mix with other animals, you’ll need to check this regularly.

Plan your route in advance. Ideally, you’re looking for a walk from your house, which isn’t too busy with traffic, people and other dogs, and doesn’t go near anything big and noisy like a school or supermarket. 

You might also like to plan your strategy for meeting other dogs. If you come across another dog on your pup’s first walk, do you let them meet each other? The best move is usually to call over to the other dog’s owner, explaining it’s your pup’s first walk and you’d prefer it if the dogs do / don’t greet each other. Meeting other dogs is a really important part of puppy socialisation, but you might feel it’s a bit much on their inaugural walk. Try not to pick up your pup, as this reinforces the idea that other dogs are a threat.

A dog looks up at the camera

What to pack for your puppy’s first walk

Before you strike out into the great outdoors, always pack the following for your dog:

  • A handful of treats
  • At least two poo bags (Steve advises never to pack just one: you’ll soon regret that)
  • Water (a portable bowl and a bottle of water is an effective way of giving an on-the-go drink)
  • A clicker (if you’re using one)

As well as their shiny new collar, harness and lead, your puppy also needs to sport a smart ID tag when you go out together. It’s actually a legal requirement under the Control of Dogs Order 1992 that all dogs wear a tag engraved with their owner’s name and address.

If you can, bring along a human companion for extra support. 

If you have another dog at home who needs walking, it’s wise for them to sit this one out. Eventually you’ll be able to take them for walkies together, but initially, the focus needs to be on the puppy. 

How far can a 12 week old puppy walk? 

Think about time rather than distance at this stage, which is about 15 minutes’ of exercise, because these first walks will be more about sniffing than covering any distance. 

However, it’s good to know what level of exercise your puppy will need as they grow. This can vary so much between breeds – as you can imagine, a border collie has very different physical exercise needs to a dachshund. Speak with your vet about daily exercise recommendations for your individual dog.

Hopefully, your first walk together will be a great success, and you arrive back home with a happy pup. Keep the walks short and simple at first, then slowly introduce new and slightly longer routes. 

Alongside this, work on essential skills like recall. You don’t have to go out for a walk to practice loose lead walking: build in extra training sessions in the garden in between trips out. Above all, have a fantastic adventure with your puppy as they learn more about the great big world. As Steve says, “Enjoy the process!”

In his BBC Maestro dog training course, Steve Mann takes us through all sorts of valuable lessons for our puppies, ably assisted by the adorable Elsie.

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