In an ideal world I'd be asked this question by owners of small puppies, those who have just finished their vaccination courses and are just thinking about going out for their first walks. Unfortunately I'm usually asked this by people who have bigger, more boisterous and confident 6 month old plus puppies - youngsters who can't wait to stretch their running legs out.
Advice to young puppy owners
Why unfortunately? Well it's to do with the difference outlook on life between a very small puppy and a larger, more confident teenage dog. Young puppies care about where you are, very sensibly so too. Just in the same way a litter of puppies will follow their mother around, you'll find your new puppy adopts that same behaviour with you. This is especially marked if you go out for a walk with them - when they're young they don't have any desire to get too far away from you. If they do, they may well panic a little and need reassurance that you're still there.
All of my dogs came into my life as puppies, and as soon as we could we started exploring the world together. It's a lovely, eye opening experience to go for a walk with any dog as they notice far more than we do, but it's even more delicious viewed through the eyes of a small puppy. Everything is so new and wondrous - it really is a very special time :)
I would encourage you to let your puppy off the lead at this stage, or if you're worried about doing so, investing a lightweight long line (a longer that usual lead like the one below) attached to your puppy by way of a harness. This way you can feel more confident that you can still grab the long line in case of emergency.
- Find a quiet spot away from busy areas of people and other dogs, and set your puppy down on the floor.
- Either unclip the lead or drop the long line down on the floor and move a short distance away.
- If you manage to get away from your puppy (as some puppies will automatically follow you), give them a call such as "Pup, pup, pup" in a high pitched, exciting tone of voice.
- When they come towards you reward copiously with treats, praise and fuss.
I prefer to use a generic call such as "Pup, pup, pup" rather than their name, as quite often they're still learning their name and I don't want them to ignore it when they hear it. I start using their name when I'm certain that they know it's them I'm talking to and they reliably respond to it.
Advice to older puppy owners
Contrast this to a 6 month old plus puppy - perhaps one who has been to socialisation classes, possibly training classes too, and has a great deal of confidence and enthusiasm for other dogs and people. Letting this little monkey off is a different kettle of fish entirely! They may well dive off to visit the other dog who's just arrived on the other side of the park, or race up to those children playing ball, and will almost certainly want to explore what those people with nice, clean, non-dog walking clothes, have in their pockets. Sound familiar?!
Don't panic if you're in this situation, you'll still get to the point where letting your dog off the lead is something to look forward to rather than dread! I have plenty of ideas to help you in my next blog post.