Puppies benefit from daily walks, but they do not have to be a chore! Walks have many benefits for both you and your puppy. They can be a lot of fun too!
Benefits of Walks:
Health benefits for both you and your puppy
Burning off excess energy
Reduction of boredom
Cognitive stimulation and enrichment
Building of stronger bonds between you and your puppy
Socialization to the world
Opportunity to practice good manners
5 Types of Walks:
1. Elimination Breaks (aka "The Potty Break")
Elimination walks serve the purpose to give your puppy a chance to eliminate. These walks tend to be shorter and focused on the elimination. Once the puppy has done its business, they are rewarded with food and/or praise.
Pro Tip: After being positively reinforced for elimination, the puppy can be released to play or come back inside. If the puppy does not eliminate, bring him/her back inside for a moment or two, then back out for a second try. Set up a routine that teaches the puppy to eliminate before playtime.
2. Exercise Walks
Exercise walks are the most common walks. The main purpose is physical exercise. These walks can be long or short. It is a great way to decrease extra energy, prevent boredom, bond with your puppy, and increase health benefits for both you and your puppy.
Pro Tip: Your puppy is still growing, so monitor your puppy during the walk for fatigue. A rough guideline is about 5 minutes per month of age twice daily. It is always a great idea to discuss activity limits for your puppy with your veterinarian.
3. Cognitive Stimulation Walks (aka Enrichment walks)
Dogs need to engage their brains and naturally love to sniff. They "see" the world with their nose! So grab the leash and let your puppy lead the way sniffing as they go. A combination of engaging their brain and nose is as efficient in burning extra energy as a fast-paced walk. Stimulation walks are not as structured and may be shorter in distance (but not necessarily in time).
Fun Fact: Dogs have 300 million olfactory senses (which is 40x stronger than humans).
4. Socialization Walks
Puppies are learning about the world through all their experiences. Socialization walks are for the purpose of controlled, positive, exposure to new things. On these walks, puppies are able to see all types of people, other animals, different sights (cars, baby strollers, bikes, building, lawnmowers, trees, creeks), surfaces (grass, cement, wood, sand, water), smells (city smells is different than nature smells), sounds (kids, traffic, outdoor activities, shopping stores sounds, animal sounds, or the lack of constant noise- in the woods). Take your puppy to different areas to investigate. Do not push, pull, or put them into situations that is scary to them. If your puppy is worried, move away from the situation and revisit it at a later time at a distance the puppy is comfortable wit). Create a positive reward or experience with praise, treats, or toys.
Pro Tip: A positive aspect of social distancing is the decreased amount of flooding experiences for puppies. Since there is an increase of space between people, it allows more of a buffer for puppies to explore new situations at their pace without being overwhelmed.
4. Training Walks
Training walks are focused walks, either done by themselves or incorporated into other walks. During the "training sessions", the puppy is focused on learning manners or the meaning of a cue (for example "sit"). Make sure to keep training sessions short and give your pup lots of breaks. Practicing basic manners such as sit, wait, loose leash walking, etc. in different areas helps with the generalization of the meaning of cues. ("Sit" does not mean "hiney to the ground when Mom is in the living room with a treat; rather it means "hiney on the ground".)
Pro Tip: Reward for focus and check-ins on walks. If you puppy checks in with you at any time, praise or give a treat. It may be a quick look at you. Reward. This will help reinforce focus when working on basic manners or focus with distractions, like another dog coming towards you.