Teaching your four-legged buddy to walk on a leash at an early age makes him easier to control as he gets older. While you’ll surely want to take him with you on your morning walk, he might still be too young to start going with you.
While there isn’t an exact age you can start walking your lovable pal, your veterinarian will probably suggest waiting until he gets all of his core puppy vaccinations. Parvovirus, infectious hepatitis and distemper vaccinations require a series of shots. Your furry pal should be able to get his last booster around 16 weeks of age, depending on when he received the initial inoculation. You’ll also want to make sure Zeus is current on his rabies vaccination, which he can get anywhere from 3 to 6 months of age. Because it may take up to four months or longer for your four-legged chum to be fully vaccinated, you probably don’t want to take him out on a walk or to a dog park during the first few months of life.
Collar and Leash Tips
You’ll want to get Zeus used to the feel of his collar and leash as soon as possible so he’s ready for his walk when he gets a bit older. Slip his collar on while he’s eating dinner and attach his leash. He should be so focused on his grub he won’t care about what’s dangling from his neck. Always associate his collar and leash with positive things: playtime, getting treats or even a solid petting session from you. Any hesitation or uncomfortable feelings he has towards his neckwear should start to dissipate rather quickly.
Leash Training at Home
While you probably shouldn’t take your pooch out in public until he’s completely vaccinated, you can start leash training him at home, even if he’s only a couple months old. Rather than opening up the back door and letting him use the whole yard as his toilet, hook him up to his leash and take him out to the far back corner where you want him to “go.” If you have the space in your home, you can “walk” him to his bed, his food dish or even to the pillow in the corner of your office, allowing him to get more familiar with walking on the leash.
You’ll also want to teach Zeus from an early age to follow you on a walk. It might be cute to let him pull on the lead now -- he’s only 12 pounds. But when he’s 50 pounds, pulling you around on a walk can injure you or cause him to escape. Wait until he has all four paws on the ground before attaching him to his leash. You may be bending down several times, but he needs to learn that when he’s calm, he’ll get the reward of walking. Once you’re all hooked up, take as many steps as you can until he starts creating tension on the leash. If you feel pulling, turn around and go the other direction -- it may seem like you’re walking in a circle at first. You can use treats or praise to get him to walk nicely, as long as he is following you, not the other way around.
Melodie Anne Coffman specializes in overall wellness, with particular interests in women's health and personal defense. She holds a master's degree in food science and human nutrition and is a certified instructor through the NRA. Coffman is pursuing her personal trainer certification in 2015.