Written by Jane Wardle
What a year for puppies!
What a year 2020 was for people welcoming canine companions into their homes! There was a surge in people buying puppies as a lockdown buddy: so many more were working from home and felt it would help them get through the difficult lockdown period. We had bought a standard Wirehaired Dachshund, Harry, in December 2019, a few months after losing our 15-year-old Cocker Spaniel the previous August. We were so thankful to have a wonderful distraction in such a difficult year: so much so, we welcomed a ‘brother’ for him, Ron, in December 2020 – yes, we are Harry Potter fans.
How to take care of my puppy?
The top searches on Google for puppy care are puppy vaccinations, neutering, balanced diet, crate training and looking after a puppy at night. In my personal experience, though, there is a major lack of understanding in general about how much walking your puppy needs.
When can I start walking a puppy?
Most people know that before you can walk your puppy for the first time you have to, wait until they have had their vaccinations to be safe. This is approximately a few weeks after their second jab but does vary from vaccine to vaccine. Always ask your vet when you take them for their jabs as they’ll
be able to give you exact timings
Walking my puppy
When we were looking for a puppy, we researched finding a responsible breeder via the Kennel Club website. From there we found the wonderful Ian and Fleur Smith of Salixian Wirehaired Dachshunds and members of the Kennel club Assured Breeders scheme . They were able to pass on a wealth of knowledge to us and provided us with a comprehensive puppy pack and ongoing advice and communication. I have been a dog owner my whole life but hadn’t got the understanding of how much walking a puppy could or should have.
My husband was walking Harry last week and bumped into a lady walking her smooth haired dachshund in the park, and as is usual for dog walkers, they struck up a conversation. He mentioned how we had another puppy at home, but he wasn’t able to do the long walks that Harry is doing.
Her reply was, “My puppy has so much energy: she can go for miles!” Therein lies the issue…
Can I walk my puppy too much?
“A common misconception is that puppies and young dogs need plenty of exercise to use up excess energy! While they do need exercise, it is only one of their many needs, along with mental stimulation, training, company and rest! Care should be taken with exercise until a dog has finished growing to minimise the risk of premature joint disease and soft-tissue injuries. Depending on the breed, this could be 6 months and up to 2 years for the giant breeds. From then, formal exercise can increase gradually to suit their intended lifestyle. Rest is essential for growth and mental development in young dogs and puppies,” says Victoria Mensley BSc PgDip MNAVP, veterinary physiotherapist and owner at Charnwood Veterinary Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation.
Ian Smith uses a good analogy: “Puppies are flexible and bendy, just like human babies; can you put your big toe in your mouth as you did when you were a baby?! The dog’s ‘growth plates’ have not fully formed and there are gaps between the bones which reduce as the puppy grows up. By over walking a puppy you are potentially damaging those immature joints, and permanently, even if the damage does not show for a while.”
How long can I walk a puppy?
We took some invaluable advice from, Harry’s breeder, Ian Smith: “This is not an exact science and there are a number of factors at play, but as a quick rule of thumb most veterinarians and the Kennel Clubs around the world suggest no more than five minutes formal lead walking per month of age. So, a four-month-old puppy should do no more than 20 minutes and an eight-month-old puppy no more than roughly 40 minutes. I have listened to people say with pride that their six-month-old dog has just done a very long walk. Yes, the dog can and will do it for you; largely because it wants to please you and because it is young and energetic. You must remember, however, that puppies have bursts of frenetic energy – then sleep – then have another burst of energy. They are very active individuals but for shortish periods, so the formal lead walking should perhaps be broken down into two walks a day, using the above rule of thumb. I know it can be frustrating, you have bought this dog so that it can accompany you on your long walks at the weekend. Have patience.”
Signs of overwalking your puppy
Watch your puppy for showing signs of fatigue: this can include excessive panting, slowing down and even refusing to move. Always take advice I have owned dogs all my life, but I know there is so much information and I still have so much to learn: “Learning is a life-long process”. Take advice from reputable breeders, the breed website and your vet. Then go and have fun with your puppy.
Where can I walk my dog?
Once you up to speed with your pawsome pooch, there are many amazing places to walk - our new number-one hobby over the last year. We have discovered so many new walks since lockdown which I wish I knew about when we had our previous dogs. Check out TeamDogs, a website that reviews all things canine but also lots of walks for you to try together.