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Why Your Puppy Won't Walk

I've trained hundreds of puppies for clients and I've fostered three others for a local rescue and one of the most interesting discoveries was the fact that young puppies -- that is those under 4 months of age -- will resist walking away from home.

One universal truth is dogs love walks.

One universal truth is dogs love walks. In my house, we have to spell out the word "walk" because our dogs are so cued into it. Another universal truth is (young) puppies don't like walks. But this latter statement is really only half-true. Once she grows accustomed to the leash, your puppy will often enjoy walking with certain caveats.

What your puppy doesn't like is walking away from her home. My theory is puppies are born with an instinct not to walk far from the safety of the den. You can see why this echo from the puppy's wolf ancestry would be advantageous for survival and would be selected for. Wolf puppies remain in the security of the den while the rest of the pack hunts. If a puppy were to wander off, it would likely not survive.

Whatever the root cause, don't be alarmed by this behavior. Somewhere between 4-5 months* of age, as if on cue, this resistance will change to excitement and your puppy will change its tune. Until then, read on for the many ways you can exercise and socialize your walk-averse puppy.

Ideas to get your young puppy to walk.

The issue with walking around your neighborhood is in the walking away from home. Walking back to the house is almost never an issue (unless puppy is overtired). Most clients tell me their puppy will refuse to walk away from home but the same puppy will pull and even try to run all the way home. (The walk back to the house is a great opportunity to work on walking on a loose leash but that's a subject for another post.)

Walks are important as much for socialization as for exercise. Here is a list of ways you can take your puppy for walks.

  • Carry your puppy a block or two away from home then allow puppy to walk back

  • Use kibble or pea-sized treats to lure your puppy to follow you a block or two away from home then allow puppy to walk back (no lure needed on the return)

  • Drive to another neighborhood and walk a loop there

  • Have some or all of the family join in and walk ahead of the person who is walking the puppy. Most puppies will follow eagerly.

  • Walk with a friend and her puppy-safe dog. Most puppies will follow eagerly.

  • Drive to town centers, outdoor shopping areas and parks for your walk. Be sure to bring treats and go at puppy's pace. Treats, calm praise, petting, carrying should all be used to help puppy find such socialization trips fun. More on a puppy socialization in a future post.

Keep walks relatively short for the first week or two after the puppy arrive. Try for 1-2 blocks and gradually work up to longer distances. And rest assured that in no time at all, you'll be going on long walks and hikes with your canine pal.

*Is it a coincidence that this is the same timeframe that puppy's baby teeth are replaced by adult teeth? Hmm...

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