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Walking with your Puppy

Alright, I know what you're thinking when you look at that title. "Walking with your puppy. Step one, put a leash on your puppy. Step two, walk." Simple, done, easiest blog post ever.

I only wish it were that easy! I'm writing this post as someone who has spent a lot of time recently working on polite leash walking with my own puppy, and seen a number of other puppies throughout the neighborhood on walks. I will tell you this, Phoebe is now five months old and just in the last few weeks have I started to actually walk her around the block fully. Does this mean that Phoebe never left the house outside of that? Nope. Does this mean we didn't do any work on leash? Definitely not.

When you are walking with your young puppy (when I say young puppy I generally mean ages 8 weeks to 6 months, however some of these could easily apply to adolescent dogs up to about a year as well) there are many things to consider. Listed below are some of my top concerns that I generally discuss with my puppy students:

1) How long is it appropriate to walk a young puppy for?

For this question I like to reference Puppy Culture's Exercise Chart (found here), which has recommendations from very experienced puppy raisers who specialize in breeding for competition and performance. It should be noted that there is a HUGE difference between relaxed sniff-filled walks and more structured walks where you expect your dog to "keep up" with you. I have heard the suggestion to walk a puppy 5 minutes for every month they are old, and think this is a nice rule of thumb and it's what I did with Phoebe. So, if you have an eight week old puppy then you can walk them for ten minutes, three month old puppy for 15, 4 month old puppy for 20, and so on and so forth. However, if you have any specific concerns always discuss with your vet!

Why the conservative time limits? Puppies have something called growth plates; according to PetHelpful.Com growth plates are "soft areas of developing cartilage tissue found by the ends of the dog's long bones. They are typically made of cartilage when the puppy is born, but gradually they calcify and transforms into denser bone as the puppy matures". If a puppy is over-exercised or consistently puts too much stress on their growth plates it can affect how the plates close and cause injury over time. Yes, our puppies need exercise and yes they do run around like lunatics for the better part of the day, but that is the puppy choosing to do so without direction from their human, and they know when they need a break.

On top of the physical demand long walks on concrete will put on your puppies, there is also the mental overstimulation and stress that is possible on walks. Remember, many young puppies have never seen the world before, and so they often need to take it all in stride at there own pace. I often see young puppies sit down or refuse to move; we need to resist the urge to pull them and make them keep moving forward, because this is often the puppy's way of saying "I need a mental break". If you let the puppy rest for a few minutes, or even simply turn around and head the other way where they were feeling more comfortable they often recover. On the opposite end of the spectrum are puppies who get revved up and agitate