Puppies love exercise and they are more than happy to take a walk with you, but the big question is how far should you plan to walk?
Unfortunately, there is no clear-cut answer to this question. A lot depends on the breed of the puppy, the age and the level of physical fitness of the dog.
If you decide to start a walking routine with your puppy, consult the dog’s veterinarian to make sure there are no problems with the heart, lungs and joints.
Once your puppy gets the okay to walk, plan a route that is not too strenuous. You want the walk to be beneficial, not stressful to the body. The idea is to improve muscle tone, cardiovascular fitness and joint flexibility while keeping the puppy fit and trim.
The size of your puppy is a big factor in choosing a walking route. Keep in mind that large breed dogs can walk farther than small dogs. Think about how many steps a miniature poodle has to take to equal one of a Great Dane’s steps.
Some experts say that a 20 to 30-minute walks is good for most puppies around the age of 12 weeks. However, while this may suit a border collie that requires a lot of exercise, it may be too much for puppies that are not work dogs. If you are uncertain of your puppy’s capabilities, try starting with two 10-minute exercise periods a day and work up to a 30-minute session. Another option is to start with a walk around the block. Add a little distance each day until you increase the length of the route to one that is comfortable for both of you.
It is important to pace yourself with the puppy whose short little legs are going to have trouble matching an adult person’s stride. You don’t want the puppy to have to run to keep up with you.
The terrain is a big factor in deciding how long to walk with a puppy. Pounding the pavement is a lot more stressful on a puppy’s joints and footpads than a relaxing stroll down a country lane. If possible, mix in walking on grass or dirt with walking on pavement and concrete.
Weather is another factor than can affect the length of a puppy’s walk. You may have to decrease the distance you walk with your puppy in hot weather because the dog can become dehydrated or overheated. Always carry a bottle of water so that you can offer your puppy a drink. There are fold-up bowls that are easily carried in one’s pocket.
Dehydration causes cramps and muscle spasms. It can be fatal, so try to walk your puppy during the cooler morning or evening hours.
Hot weather causes the temperature of blacktop paving to soar. Concrete is affected too. Keep in mind that your puppy has sensitive footpads that can burn. If you can’t stand on it in your bare feet, don’t expect your puppy to walk on it.
Extreme cold temperatures can also be detrimental. Be sure that your puppy is “dressed” for the occasion if he or she has short hair. You don’t walk barefooted on ice, so keep in mind that your puppy’s feet are sensitive to the cold too. If your puppy shows signs of being uncomfortable, discontinue the walk.
The most important thing you can do when walking a puppy is to pay close attention to the dog. Watch for signs of fatigue. Hard panting and trouble breathing indicate the puppy is tired. If the puppy slows his or her pace, chances are good that the dog is becoming tired.