Like human babies, puppies are born helpless, without the ability to hold up their own body weight. As a result, they remain weak and delicate for the first few weeks. However, they then quickly grow and develop, physically and mentally.
It’s not long before their curiosity becomes too much, and they take their first steps looking to explore their surroundings. But when exactly do puppies start to walk, and when can you start taking them out? Read on to find out.
The first eight weeks of a puppy’s life are its most vulnerable. During this time, the pup depends on its mother for food, warmth, and comfort. However, throughout this time, puppies start to gain independence as they learn to do more things on their own. In addition, their bodies become more robust as their muscles develop.
If you’re wondering when do puppies walk, the exact time will depend on the individual pup. Still, it usually happens between 2 and 4 weeks old. By 2 weeks old, the puppy’s vision and hearing are developing enough to see what’s around them. This triggers their curiosity to explore the world beyond their scent.
Moreover, when they reach 2 to 3 weeks old, they have enough strength in their limbs, so they attempt standing up. Before this, their body was too weak to hold their weight, so they would move around by rolling and dragging themselves along the floor.
The process of walking takes time as they get confident on their feet and learn the mechanism of their legs. Thus, a puppy will first master standing up before they begin taking steps, at around 3 to 4 weeks old. You’ll notice your puppy is very shaky and unstable at first, and they do not wander too far until they feel confident. Then, over time, they find their balance enough to start running and playing with their siblings, usually at around 4 weeks of age.
Between the ages of 4 and 8 weeks, puppies grow more stable and confident on their feet. This, combined with their increased independence, means they start walking and running further away from their mother and chasing their siblings around.
One of the things most new puppy owners look forward to is taking their dog out for walks. Walking together is one of the best ways to strengthen your bond and an excellent form of exercise for canines and humans.
It’s essential to wait until your puppy can walk and run steadily before taking them out. At this point, taking your puppy for a short walk around the garden or close to home is fine. But make sure you start with very short walks and gradually increase the length; otherwise, you’ll tire your puppy’s little legs out and end up having to carry them home!
Also, note that the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) recommends waiting until one week after a puppy’s first round of vaccination before taking them for their first walk. If your pup is healthy, they can get their first vaccine at 6 weeks old, meaning you can start walking them around 7 weeks old.
You should wait until they are vaccinated because, before vaccination, your puppy’s immune system is highly vulnerable. Therefore, if you take a puppy outdoors before receiving a vaccine, there is a high chance they will get sick. What’s more, vaccinations take time to take effect, so you should not take them outdoors the next day.
Many vets will recommend waiting until after the second vaccination to be extra safe. This is because the effectiveness of the vaccine significantly increases after the booster. They can get the second dose at 10 weeks old (4 weeks after the first), so at 11 weeks, they should be healthy enough to handle the outside world.
Going outside for the first time can be scary for a young puppy. So if your pup is still with its mother, it can be comforting and reassuring for the baby dog if she goes for a walk with them. When walking a puppy, keep your eye on them to ensure they do not eat anything or hurt themselves.
Short walks can benefit young pups as it strengthens their bones and muscles and stimulates their minds, yet it is still considered a gentle activity. Running and jogging is much more strenuous, though. So if you are an avid runner and are keen to bring your canine out, you’ll need to wait a while. If you take a puppy running before its joints and bones are fully developed, you risk causing injury or damage.
The age when you can start running with a puppy will depend on their breed, but it should never be before six months old. For large dogs, it’s best to wait until they are one year as their big bodies take longer to develop. When you start running with them, start with slow and short jogs and gradually increase the duration and speed.
Note that Brachycephalic (short-nosed dogs) like Pugs, English Bulldogs, Boston Terriers, and Shih Tzus can not withstand running, even short distances. Due to their anatomy, they struggle to take in enough oxygen and overheat quickly.
While waiting to take them for runs, you can still challenge your puppy physically. For example, try extending your dog’s walks, taking them on playdates with other dogs, or engaging them in agility training. While agility training can be high intensity, you can tailor it to your puppy’s young age. Keep sessions short and choose the easiest and gentlest exercises and courses.
Avoid using obstacles like jumps and weave poles, and instead, focus on “flatwork training.” Flatwork is predominately mental training; physically, it only requires them to walk. You can start this style of agility training with a puppy from as young as eight weeks old.
We know how tempting it is to take your new pup for walks and introduce them to the big wide world. However, remember that young puppies are fragile, and they only start walking well at around 4 weeks old. You have their whole life to take them hiking and running, so don’t rush. Instead, enjoy the early puppy stage, as it doesn’t last long!
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