The first few weeks of having your new puppy at home are the most crucial times of his life. The period between his third week and third month is when a pooch starts to learn about his place in the world.
So if you plan to help your puppy develop into a canine who’s always up for an adventure, that would be the best time to introduce him to the wonders of the outdoors.
A puppy’s brain is like a sponge that absorbs all experiences that will define his personality. So if you want your pup to be comfortable outdoors and do open-air activities, it’s important to get started early.
Here’s what you should do.
1. Make health and safety a priority
Before you rush outside with your new, adorable dog, keep in mind that puppies should ideally finish their first set of vaccinations by the time they are 16 weeks old. Until then, your pup can still be susceptible to diseases from dogs and other animals. Talk to your vet about the earliest and safest time that you can start taking your pup outdoors.
It’s also worth considering letting your pup wear a quality dog collar that’s suitable for his size. This way, he can get used to wearing a collar before he starts walking outdoors for his safety.
Besides diseases, your puppy may also face other safety risks, including:
- Mean dogs – At a young age, a puppy would not yet know how to properly interact with a bigger dog. If your puppy runs outside towards a dangerous dog, it may cause harm to his small, fragile body. It’s best to keep him on a leash, especially around bigger canines he doesn’t know.
- Environmental conditions – Extreme cold and heat, slippery rocks, flowing water, and hazardous plants can be quite dangerous for puppies (and for people, too). It’s crucial that you give your pup an opportunity to explore and learn his limits. But at the same time, you also have to strike the right balance and keep your young dog safe.
- Wild animals – If you plan to go camping, your pup may encounter wild animals that attack or secrete venom. An adult dog may survive a snake bite or a scratch from a big cat, wolf or bear, but a pup’s small body wouldn’t. It’s best to keep your pup close to you at all times and keep away from areas where wildlife encounters are common.
2. Engage him to do some training
Training is an important aspect of preparing your pup for the great outdoors. The most important skills that your pooch should get from training are:
a. Walking on a loose leash
Begin by walking your dog in an environment with low level distractions, such as your backyard. Concentrate on letting him walk by your side and rewarding him when he leaves slack on the leash. If he pulls the leash, stop right away.
b. Not eating or grabbing everything he sees
Once your dog starts going outside, he’ll see many cool things like flowers, leaves, sticks, abandoned snacks, etc. Many of these things lying around are not edible and training your dog to leave them alone will make your walk smooth.
c. Having strong recall
Keeping your pup on a leash while hiking is great, but there’s still a possibility that he can slip away or the leash could break. If your dog is trained to come back when you whistle or call his name, you can keep him safe. You may also want to train your pup off leash in permitted areas and use a strong recall to bring him back.
d. Socializing with other dogs
Outside, it’s inevitable that your pup will run into another dog. Some of them may even be off leash, so it’s good to socialize your pup with his own kind to make him comfortable.
With a gradual introduction to the outside world, your puppy will soon be ready for an active and adventurous life with you. What’s important is that you don’t rush your pup and wait until he’s comfortable stepping outdoors.
As a pet parent, it’s important that you put your pup’s well-being first above your thirst for adventure. Avoid difficult terrains and allow your pup to rest even if he doesn’t seem tired. This way, you and your pup can both enjoy your escapade without suffering huge risks.
Farah Al-Khojai is the Managing Partner of Pet’s Delight. A passionate entrepreneur, Farah holds a Bsc in Government from the London School of Economics. She is always on the lookout for new opportunities to develop and grow the pet and equestrian retail and wholesale market in the UAE and beyond, and is proud to be at the helm of the first and the largest pet care provider in the market representing world-class brands including Orijen, Applaws, Hunter, Savic, Flamingo, Ruffwear and Rogz.