How long should one walk a three month old Irish Setter? Since his second batch of vaccinations a week ago we’ve been going out for two walks on a 1.8m lead each day — one in the morning for about half an hour and one in the evening (around 5:30-6:00) for about 45 minutes. The morning walk is generally fine, but in the evenings Max either stops every few metres – sometimes sitting or lying down and staring at me grumpily – or he races on ahead. I wondered whether he might be tired (some websites suggest a three month old puppy should only walk for 45 minutes total in a day) but that doesn’t explain the racing. And when we get back home he’s feisty for a good while afterwards – barking and nipping and running frantically around the yard. Do you have any idea what might be going on?
Hi Dan, thanks for your questions. So, how long should you walk Max? As long as you like, is the answer. Be guided by Max, if he wants to stop, stop with him and relax for a little while. If he is happy to keep strolling along you can keep going. For baby puppies of Max’s age walks are all about the experience of being outside, rather than distance covered. You can not over socialise any puppy, so spend as long outside with him as you can manage.
The advice on only walking your dog for 45mins per day at the most relates to over-exercising young dogs which can cause problems with their growth. Your on lead walks need to be nothing more strenuous than he would get from walking around the house.
I’m so glad to hear that you are walking him on a 6ft lead, good on you! All puppies should be started on long leads. The way I see it, dogs should only graduate to a 5ft lead when they are walking nicely on a longer lead. The 5ft lead should become the hallmark of an advanced lead walker only. The longer the lead, the less likely Max will pull. The shorter the lead the more likely he will pull because he has no choice, as soon as he moves, he is at the end of the lead. I walked Ben on a 7ft lead that was adjustable down to 3ft.
When you are walking Max and he wants to lay down, that’s OK, just stop and wait for him to move. Eventually something will tickle his fancy and he will get up and walk again. The more pressure you put on a dog, the more they tend to dig their heels in.
When he surges ahead to the point of the lead being taught you will need to stop, stand still, not move your hand at all, and wait for Max to take a step back to loosen the lead, when this happens you can move forward again. This is the key point….. Max needs to be the one to loosen the lead, this is the only way he will learn, do not pull him back to you.
Max will be reinforced with forward movement when he relaxes on the lead. Over time he will feel pressure on his neck from the pulling, and he will slow down on his own because he will know you are going to stop.
Teaching loose lead walking this way takes a lot of time, patience and consistency. The best way to practice this is to drive to the local safe dog park, let Max off, and intersperse off lead walking, with on lead walking. This does a couple of things….
-Max will be tired after an off lead run so will be less likely to pull.
-You do not need to get to a destination so it doesn’t matter how many times you need to stop.
-If you are becoming tired of stopping all the time, just let him off lead again. This minimises frustration.
The barking, nipping and running frantically around the yard? Every puppy I have ever known has done some, or all this kind of behaviour. It usually occurs at sunrise and sunset. My advice would be to find something to get you through this time. You can give Max something edible to chew on; bones, stuffable chew toys, pigs ears etc. You can leave him outside to ‘run it out’ of his system, and/or you can play with him during this time.
The nipping? Max was bred to carry things in his mouth, expect lots of mouthing with him. Usually it will happen when he is excited. Whenever you play with him you must have a toy to interact through, and if he bites your hands or clothes, the play should stop immediately. You can start playing again when he calms down and he should be more careful. Teach him to ‘get your toy’ when you come home so that he starts bringing you things rather than jumping on you or biting you.
Congratulations on your new puppy Dan. It can be a really trying time, but, if you put the effort in now, you will reap the rewards in the long term.