Hello everyone, and welcome back to a brand-new episode of Dog Sense.
We can't really describe how exciiiited we are about this one, you guys!!
Simply because, today, Sarah and I will be discussing one of my all-time favorite subjects: Adventure walks!!
If you remember, a few episodes ago, Sarah and I discussed the concept of adventure walks and how important they are, especially for puppies.
Adventure walks are a great way to get your pup accustomed to the world around him by discovering different environments.
And that's not the only reason you should be adding adventure walks to your training!
Want to learn more?
Well then, let's dive in!
Why Adventure Walks Matter
Adventure walks have been a cornerstone of my puppy raising for decades now, ever since my Golden Retriever’s breeder, Gayle Watkins, told me about them and how important they are to a puppy’s development.
Taking advantage of the first 16 weeks in your puppy’s life is so important, and adventure walks are a great way to do so! That’s because your puppy will be at its most receptive to the world in those first few weeks.
The first lesson puppies learn during adventure walks is to always pay attention to where you are. As you know, a lot of dog owners have issues with their dogs not checking in with them and pulling on leash during walks. But dogs who go on adventure walks when they’re young tend not to do so.
These walks are also a great way to help develop strengths in your dog, such as proprioception and athletic ability. Walking on different terrains teaches dogs how to navigate different surfaces, stimulates their senses, develops their problem-solving skills, and also builds confidence.
Really, what’s not to love?
Adventure Walks 101
Having adventure walks with your pup is a great idea, but there are a few things you have to keep in mind.
Find the Right Place
The first thing you’ll want to do is find a number of safe outdoor areas where you can walk your puppy. It could be anything from a quiet, empty beach, to a woodsy walking trail.
Just don’t go anywhere too difficult for your puppy to navigate, so make sure the terrain isn’t too tough for him. Ideally, you’d find multiple places that can provide you with new paths and environments for your puppy (such as a forest). Novelty is critical to puppy development, so it’s important to keep it fresh.
I personally like to go to the woods for my adventure walks, and I do it with my puppies off-leash. However, I’m a professional, so if you want to use a very light dragline, you can do that as well. Just be aware that it might get caught on things.
How to Start
I start doing adventure walks with my puppies pretty early, usually at eight weeks old, in the woods. I simply put my puppy down on the path and start walking. I’ll still keep an eye on him by peeking over my shoulder to see how he’s doing, but still walking forward.
It’s actually this combination of your back being turned away from the puppy and your movement that triggers that “following” instinct that they have at this young age.
In the beginning, your walks shouldn’t be very long. Ten to fifteen minutes is enough, and from there, you can build up to longer excursions (depending on your puppy and the weather).
Typically, a young puppy is going to stay really close to you, aka “underfoot”. When that happens, try not to step on him, but if he gets on your feet, you can lightly shuffle into him and keep moving. This is the one of the tricks to raising a polite dog, as they learn not to get underfoot.
You can praise your puppy a bit when he’s walking with you, but ultimately, walking in silence should be the goal here. These excursions are for both of you to enjoy the outside world as well as accomplish some puppy training goals.
What to Do if Your Puppy Gets Fussy
If your puppy gets stuck behind you or starts whining, you can slow down to help him keep up. You will also want to look for challenges and obstacles that are appropriate for his size.
For example, if you see a log coming up, don’t walk around it; instead, step over it and encourage your puppy to figure out how to do the same.
Remember that you’re working through these obstacles with your pup. It’s a great way to train him, but also to build your relationship and his self-confidence at the same time!
You can also encourage him to chase you, but keep safety in mind!
Don’t Let Your Puppy Know You’re Watching
Keeping an eye on your puppy for his safety is, of course, crucial. But make sure not to let him know you’re watching. So, do it discreetly.
If, for example, your dog finds something interesting and stays at it, keep walking, and he should follow you. And, if he doesn’t, well then, this is your first teaching opportunity!
Hide somewhere nearby, and try not to make a lot of noise. Make sure to watch your puppy closely (you don’t want him to hurt himself), and wait for him to start looking for you. When he starts, don’t move, and don’t do or say anything.
If he starts running in the opposite direction, you can clap your hands or whistle. But, if he doesn’t, then stay quiet and wait for him to find you.
Of course, if your puppy starts really panicking, you can step out and give him the attention he needs, and then hide again.
When he finds you, don’t give him food! Instead, make sure to snuggle him and say things like “Oh my goodness where WERE you? I was so scared you were LOST!” (be very dramatic about it). This helps teach your dog that you’re the greatest reward he’ll ever need.
Vary Where You’re Going
Remember to vary where you’re going on adventure walks. If you go to the same place every single time, your dog is going to get more confident, and this is going to ruin the adventure part of the walk a bit.
Adventure walks are a great way to help your puppy develop all the skills he needs to be a great adult dog.
And, the best thing about them, is that you can start them even before your puppy is fully vaccinated (although still check with your vet first).
This is because adventure walks are usually done in empty places, which means your canine best friend is less likely to pick up some sort of bug or illness. Just make sure to keep an eye on him and use common sense.
What’s your favorite place for a great adventure walk? Let us know in the comments below!