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Why won’t my puppy walk?

You’ve had your new puppy for weeks, they’re running wild round the house and you can’t wait to take them out for their first walk. It finally gets to the day they can safely go out, you put on their brand new harness and lead and head out the door ready for a wonderful stroll with your dog, just like you always imagined. But they won’t walk. You feel sure your dog much better broken, it doesn’t like Walkies!

This is something I get asked all the time by puppy owners. Their dog stops frequently on walks, wants to go home or won’t walk out the front door. It’s important to know that your puppy is not broken, they are just taking in the world and trying to process it. Imagine being 6 inches tall and walking out into the world for the first time, the wind blows some trees and the leaves russle, a car rushes past and hits a pothole splashing water, a dog barks through a gate, a bag blows in the road. All of these things are very normal for us but to a tiny puppy with accute hearing these are loud and scary things that need to be considered carefully. Not to mention all the unfamiliar scents there are outside the house!

The most important thing you can do for your puppy is allow them to take their time to process the world. Don’t go out with a specific route in mind, set yourself an amount of time and see where you get in half that time then head home. If you have 20 minutes and your dog wants to sit in the driveway for 20 minutes that is absolutely fine. The worst thing you can do is try and rush a puppy, this will only teach them that you don’t understand their feelings and will make them feel scared. They’ll develop less trust in you and it’s damaging for your relationship. Remember the most important part of training your dog is your relationship, you need to be a person they can trust to have their back in any situation and get them out of there if it’s too scary.

If I had a puppy now I would be prioritising driving them to a nice country park or some woodlands where they can safely mooch around on a long lead and explore the world without the worry of cars whooshing past or other scary street noisy. Skip the street walks to begin and build their confidence walking in places that are relaxed so they can learn about the world in their own time. Allow them as much time as they need to build the courage to walk past things such as street signs, don’t try and lure them with food as again they could loose confidence in you. If you lure them over to a street sign and the wind blows it over clattering onto the pavement it’s going to scare the living daylights out of your puppy and they’ll connect the scary thing with you encouraging them over to it. Let them take their time, and if you’re in a rush turn around and go the other way or pick them up.

Your first 3-4 months of walks with your dog should primarily be about them learning the world and feeling safe. You can train at home and in your garden but don’t put pressure on you or your dog to train on walks yet. There really is no rush and a dog that’s confident and feels safe in an environment is much easier to train than a dog who’s worried. So take your time allow your puppy as much time as they need, and walk in places they can move freely on a longline. You’ll have a happy and confident dog with a brilliant relationship with you!

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