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When Can Puppies Go on Walks? A Guide for New Pet Parents

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

when can puppies go on walks

Expecting a new puppy is always exciting for pet owners and the rest of their doggy family. You want to ensure you provide the best care for your dog while keeping them active and happy. One of the most common questions you may ask when raising young canines is, “When can puppies go on walks?”

Regarding walking young dogs, it’s essential to consider factors like their vaccination schedule, breed, and the environment. By being aware of these aspects and tailoring our strolls accordingly, you can ensure your youngster gets the right amount of exercise and socialization, paving the path to a well-rounded and healthy adult dog.

In addition to my own experience as a dog trainer and behaviorist, I will also consult some of the best advice from Julia Robertson, the founder of the Galen Myotherapy organization that focuses on canine biomechanics.  In her work, “Exercising Your Dog: A Gentle & Natural Approach – Gentle Dog Care,” she offers a detailed outline of how young canines develop physiologically, along with appropriate exercises for each relevant stage of puppyhood. So, let’s jump right in.

Starting to walk puppies at the appropriate age is crucial for their physical and mental development, and this age varies notably across different sizes and breeds. Lets look at when to start walking puppies based on their breed size.

Teacup and toy breeds

For teacup and small breeds, short, supervised walks can begin as early as 8 weeks old, once they have received their initial vaccinations, but only in areas that are safe from contamination.  If you live in a highly populated city, wait until they have had all their shots before walking them.

These breeds generally mature faster and can start with brief, 5-minute walks, gradually increasing as they grow. It’s essential to be cautious with teacup breeds, as their tiny size makes them more vulnerable to injuries and fatigue. 

Medium-sized breeds

Medium-sized breeds can also start with short walks at around 8-10 weeks in safe areas. These walks can be slightly longer, around 10 minutes, increasing incrementally as the puppy grows and develops.

Large and giant breeds

For large and giant breeds, it’s advisable to wait until they are about 10-12 weeks old before starting short walks. These breeds have a longer growth period and are more prone to joint and bone issues, so it’s crucial to avoid over-exercising them in their early months. 

A conservative approach, starting with 5-10 minute walks and closely monitoring their response, is recommended. 

Short-nosed (Brachycephalic) Breed

Brachycephalic breeds, like Bulldogs or Pugs, require special consideration due to their respiratory challenges. 

They should start with short, leisurely walks around 8-10 weeks old, with a focus on avoiding exertion, especially in hot or humid weather. For all breeds, it’s essential to tailor walking routines to the individual puppy’s health, energy levels, and physical capabilities, with regular input from a veterinarian to ensure their well-being.

In my case, I began hiking my young dog off-leash at eight weeks because we live in a secluded area without the risk of encountering distractions and where there were no other dogs to risk Parvo.

Below is a video of little Arthur, on his first outing. (Keep in mind, he was first called Neo before it became clear he was really an “Arthur” and we changed his name.)

I allowed him to explore for a minute or two, then carried him for longer stretches, ensuring he wasn’t on the ground too long. This way, his total patrol time added up to a safe five to ten minutes, providing him with exercise and the opportunity to explore his environment without overdoing it.

Rules to remember when taking a puppy for their first walk

Now what’s important to understand here is that although Arthur was going for walks for two months, I was very mindful of his small frame. When taking a puppy on their first walk I stick to these rules:

  • Let them explore at their own pace (don’t micromanage your young dog and expect a perfect heel, allow them to sniff and take in their surroundings).
  • Keep the leash loose or let them walk off leash if it’s safe to do so (this is so that they are not forced to keep up with you). 
  • Carry water and a bowl.
  • Avoid areas that other dogs frequent, as parvo can contaminate surfaces for months, if not years.
  • Make sure they do not walk in the heat of the day (or in very cold temperatures).
  • Make sure they rest and don’t overdo it.
  • Keep it short and sweet, depending on age and size, puppies usually don’t need more than 5 to 15 minutes in a walk until they are at least four or fives months old.

Chart For Walking Puppies

The chart above illustrates the ideal walking duration for puppies of different sizes as they grow. It’s categorized into four size groups: small, medium, large, and giant, with specific recommendations for each age range from 2 months to over 12 months.

For small-sized puppies, the walking duration starts at 5 minutes for 2-3 month-olds and gradually increases to 25-30 minutes for puppies older than 12 months. Medium-sized puppies can also start with 5 minutes of walking, extending up to 30-40 minutes as they mature. 

Large breeds, starting at the same 5-minute mark, can eventually enjoy 35-45 minute walks in adulthood. Giant breeds follow a similar pattern, with their walking duration extending from 5 minutes initially to 30-40 minutes when they are older than 12 months.

It’s crucial to tailor the walking duration to the individual puppy’s health, breed characteristics, and energy levels. Over-exercising puppies, especially of larger breeds, should be avoided to prevent joint and bone issues. Regular consultation with a veterinarian can provide guidance tailored to each puppy’s specific needs.

Remember: Do not march your puppy at a fast pace. Keep things slow and easy. Let them sniff around and focus on using positive reinforcement to teach them to walk calmly at your side. See a daily short stroll as a chance to spend a few minutes working on leash manners, rather than an intensive exercise regime that can damage their growing bones.

To better understand the appropriate trekking age and time for different breeds and sizes, I’ve created the following chart:

For brachycephalic breeds, like Pugs, it’s essential to closely monitor them during exercise because they might experience respiratory difficulties because of the excess tissues between their nose.

With working breeds, like German Shepherds, young dogs might have difficulty regulating their exercise and even push themselves too hard without realizing it. Be attentive to any signs of fatigue or exhaustion, such as resting while hiking, and adjust the duration accordingly.

For large breed puppies, like Great Danes, it is essential to protect their joints during the early stages of growth. Keep the trek relatively short, gradually increasing the duration as they age. 

Structured versus Unstructured Exercise For Young Dogs

It’s important to remember that there is a significant difference between structured and unstructured hikes for pooches. Exercise should be adapted to their specific growth and development needs.

Let me share what I found out about these types of walks.

Structured Exercises are planned, controlled exercises where you lead the activity. It includes leashed strolls, guided runs, or other organized activities where you set the pace and duration. 

Unstructured Exercises are spontaneous exercises that allow your dog to play freely, following their instincts and curiosity. For puppies, this means playing in the garden, tossing a soft toy around, or a gentle game of tug-of-war — activities where he can stop and rest whenever needed. Most of a puppy’s physical activity should be unstructured playtime.

This study by the American Journal Of Veterinary Research suggests that allowing pups outdoor exercise on soft ground, like a garden, in moderately rough terrain can decrease the risk of developing joint problems like hip dysplasia.

While structured exercise is essential in discipline and training, dogs benefit more from unstructured strolls. It allows them to move at their own pace, ensuring they don’t overdo it and can rest as needed. 

Considerations before the First Walk

Consider a few critical factors before venturing outdoors when planning for your dog’s first patrol. These considerations will help ensure a safe and enjoyable trekking experience for you and your pet companion.

Age

Veterinarians typically recommend starting a hike once the pup has been fully vaccinated, which generally occurs around 16 weeks of age. This minimizes the risk of exposure to viruses and diseases that can harm an unvaccinated canine, such as parvovirus. You can walk your puppy earlier, but you need to make sure you don’t go to potentially contaminated areas, like parks or even public walking areas.

Breed

Some breeds, such as large and giant breeds, may require more caution regarding early escorts due to their delicate growth plates. Short-nosed breeds also have a lower tolerance for exercise and heat.

Energy levels

Smaller and high-energy breeds may benefit from wandering earlier, but discuss this with my vet beforehand.

Equipment

It’s vital for you to choose the right gear and to consider various factors before the hike. These include:

  • Collar or Harness: To prevent neck strain while the young canine is pulling, opt for a comfortable collar or a body harness that fits properly without causing any discomfort.
  • Leash: A lightweight, strong leash will ensure you control your puppy.
  • ID Tags: Identification tags attached to the collar or harness can help others identify your young canine if you get separated.
  • Environment: You should consider the environment and conditions you will be strolling in. Keeping your first trudge short and in familiar, low-stress surroundings can help your young dog become comfortable and accustomed to the experience. 

It’s best to avoid highly trafficked areas, as cars are the number one killer of dogs, and loud environments minimize anxiety and distractions for my dog. 

Considering these factors, you can set the stage for a successful, safe, and enjoyable first stepping out with your canine. Regular patrols will support healthy growth and development and strengthen the bond between you and your young pup as you explore the world together.

Top Tips for Puppy’s First Walk

Taking a pooch for their first hike is always exciting and concerning. From what I learned, these tips can make your experience enjoyable and stress-free, ensuring your young doggo gets the best possible start to their outdoor adventures.

1. Wait for the right time

It’s essential to wait until your young canine has received all their vaccinations before taking them out on a trudge. Typically, this is around 12-14 weeks.

2. Choose the right equipment

Use a comfortable collar or harness and a suitable leash. Use a fixed-length leash for better control, which can be especially helpful for young whelp who tend to get too excited or adventurous.

3. Start with short patrols

Young canines’ first strolls should be brief – around 10-15 minutes – to ease them into the routine. Gradually increase the duration and distance of the trek as they develop strength and become more comfortable.

4. Keep an eye on the weather

Pay extra attention to weather conditions. Extreme temperatures or heavy precipitation can be overwhelming or even harmful. Aim for a fabulous, dry day when possible.

5. Be mindful of surroundings

Be aware of potential hazards like traffic, other canines, insects, or plants that could irritate. Choose a noiseless, safe area for your dog’s first trek. Parks and quiet streets can be great options.

6. Positive reinforcement

Be sure to praise and reward your young dog during their strolls, especially for good behavior such as loose-leash hiking, not being intimated by other pets, or responding to commands. It helps reinforce the positive aspects of strolling and allows your pooch to learn more.

7. Encourage socialization

Allow your pup to sniff and interact with other pets they meet. This will help them grow into well-adjusted dogs that other pets will not easily provoke.

With these tips in mind, you and your dog will have a fantastic and safe time exploring the great outdoors together. Enjoy the journey as you both grow and learn from each other!

Planning for Regular Walking Schedules

Establishing a regular hiking schedule to create good habits for you and your canine. Aim for at least two strides daily, one in the morning and another in the evening. You can squeeze in a midday trek if time permits. 

However, stick to the midday routine, as your pup will anticipate it daily after introducing it. Dogs thrive with performance; consistency is vital in helping your dog become accustomed to a patrolling routine.

Follow these general guidelines when planning your hike: 

  • 5-minute walks for puppies aged 12-15 weeks.
  • 10-minute walks for puppies aged 16-20 weeks.
  • 15-minute walks for puppies aged 21-24 weeks.

Remember that every puppy is unique, so adjust the duration and intensity of marching according to your pup’s energy level and physical ability. Focus on your pup’s body language and adapt the hike accordingly.

Benefits of Regular Puppy Walks

I have noticed that the benefits of regular pup trekking are tremendous. Here, I have listed some of them:

  1. Outing with our cubs helps burn off energy and promotes their mental and physical health, which is the primary reason for stepping out.
  2. Going on patrols can aid in developing good socialization skills. We often meet other dogs and their owners while on treks, which provides an excellent opportunity for our cub to learn how to interact with new dogs.
  3. As we encounter various stimuli, such as new smells, strange noises, and different types of people, our dog learn to become more adaptable and confident in new situations.
  4. Regular patrols help keep our cubs in shape. Maintaining a healthy weight is essential for preventing obesity-related health issues, such as heart disease and joint problems. 
  5. A well-exercised young canine is more likely to be calm and content when at home, reducing the chances of destructive behavior stemming from boredom or pent-up energy.
  6. Marching with our dog can also be a bonding experience. Spending quality time exploring the outdoors together strengthens the trust and connection between us and our furry companions.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Pup hiking is essential to their early development, and doing it right can significantly impact their overall well-being. Some common mistakes you should include:

  • Starting too early. Young dogs need time to build their immune system to avoid illnesses they might pick up on the path. Waiting until they’ve had all necessary vaccinations is crucial to keep them healthy.
  • Not considering your dog’s breed and size. Different species have different activity levels, which should be considered when planning the length and difficulty of your trudge. Smaller breeds with shorter legs may tire more quickly, while larger species may have more stamina.
  • Avoid overdoing it with your pup. It’s essential to increase the distance and pace of your outing gradually. Cubs need time to build up physical and mental endurance, so it’s best not to push them too hard too soon.
  • Neglecting leash training can lead to problems with your dog pulling or not staying close to you during treks. Use short indoor practice sessions to teach your pup to stroll nicely on a leash. Reward good behavior with praise and treats to reinforce proper striding habits.

By being aware of and avoiding these common mistakes, you can ensure your young dog’s hiking experiences are safe and enjoyable, paving the way for a lifetime of healthy strolls together.

When to Consult with a Vet

Consulting with the vet is essential before we start regular patrols. Let me tell you why and when this consultation is necessary.

Not only does consulting a vet help ensure the dog is healthy, but it also gives us a chance to discuss vaccinations, deworming, and overall care.

During this initial check-up, we can discuss vaccination, or you can ask the vet about the earliest time to start taking the pup hiking. 

You can also raise any concerning issues like your pup seeming overly tired, in pain, or having difficulty walking. Young canines are still physically and mentally developing, and there might be underlying health issues that we must address before starting the strolls.

Conclusion

During the initial weeks, familiarizing the young dog with their new home and family members while waiting for your puppy to be fully vaccinated is recommended.  Once all vaccinations are complete, start with short treks and gradually increase the duration.

Remember that young pups have developing joints, and over-exercising may lead to long-term issues. Consider keeping the leash loose and allowing exploration, using treats and praises to reinforce good behaviors, being mindful of weather conditions to ensure the pup’s comfort, and offering plenty of breaks when needed.

Meet Your Experts

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Tamsin De La Harpe

Author

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.