It is important to ensure that your first walk together is not a bad experience and that the puppy is kept safe. Not all puppies will actively enjoy this first trip but as long as the owner ensures that no extreme stress or harm befalls it in that time, its confidence will soon grow. Use the following tips:
Puppy’s First Day Out Should Not be Puppy’s First Day OUT
Although your pup is not fully immune until 2 weeks after its second vaccination, it should not be kept holed up in the house until that time, as this would mean it misses valuable socialisation time and will be very scared when suddenly removed from the only safe environment it has ever known. If you can carry your pup, take it for short walks in your arms, allowing it to see people and traffic. Travelling on public transport and for journeys in the car is another good idea. If you cannot carry your pup take plenty of car trips and allow it to meet people in areas not frequented by dogs; e.g. their own homes.
Collar and Lead
Never put a puppy’s collar and lead on for the first time on the first day it goes out for a walk. Start by putting this on each time it leaves the house, even if only for a ride in the car. Let it wander around the house wearing the collar and lead, following it quietly, then once it is comfortable start to apply a little pressure on the lead and encourage it to walk with you. If you only put the collar and lead on on the day you take the pup for its very first walk, the feeling of something new around its neck will only cause anxiety, perhaps even panic, and mean it takes very little of the outside world in.
Use a Calm Canine Companion
Nothing gives a puppy more confidence than going outside with a nice calm adult dog. Ideally your puppy will have been able to meet a dog or a couple of dogs you know that are sensible and fully immunised and it will be a great help if he can go out with one of these dogs for the first trip. Let the two walk close together but not on top of each other, and if the puppy seems confident try to break them up for a little while so your puppy knows that it will be going out alone at times and that this is ok too.
Check the Collar is Secure
If the puppy panics it may try and slip the collar by pulling backwards to run away. This is not a time to leave one too loose. Never put a check chain on a pup, as the increasing pressure could frighten it and even cause it to hurt itself, but do ensure that the buckled collar is snug fitting. For most dogs you should be able to slip two fingers under it, but try putting gentle pressure on it to see if it can easily be pulled over the head. As an alternative, many people find a snug harness a better way to make sure their puppy cannot wriggle away from them. Whatever method you choose, check the fit carefully somewhere secure like the garden before you go outside.
Choose a Quiet Time and Area
Ideally take the puppy out early in the morning or late at night when less people are around and choose quieter areas, like suburban streets, not busy main roads or shopping high streets. There are a lot of new sights, sounds and smells to cope with when puppy takes a first walk, so trying not to subject it to a time when each or all of these will be very intense is a sensible move. That said, it’s worth planning walks in such busy environments for the future as part of your pet’s socialisation, just don’t rush into it. A steady approach is the way to build confidence.
Take the puppy for a short first trip and check its reactions. If it is interested and happy, keep walking on your pre-planned route, which should not be long anyway. If it seems very nervous make sure you are on an even shorter walk, so adjust the planned trip even if it means turning back on yourself. However, try not to end the walk while the puppy is still very nervous, or fall into the trap of constantly soothing the puppy as it will only start to think there is something to fear. Try to distract it with treats or a toy, and once it is behaving in a more relaxed fashion praise it and go back into the house. Ideally pop out again in a short time after the pup has rested. Give it most attention when it walks normally rather than cowering, but be patient, it takes longer for some to adjust.
Remember to ask your vet about the right amount of exercise for your puppy. Over-exercising growing bodies can cause permanent long term damage, so start slowly and only build it up gradually.