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52–55 Weeks: What to Expect From Your Puppy

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A Guide to Longer Walks and Short Hikes with Your Puppy

If the weather is getting better and you long for a hike in the hills, it's a good time to bring your puppy with you. Introducing a puppy to hiking is a joy for everyone. By now, he should be up for some longer walks and short hikes which you can slowly lengthen. Longer treks benefit your puppy as much as they benefit you. They strengthen his leg muscles, his lungs, and his heart. A well-exercised puppy is more alert and learns training commands more easily. It may even give a boost to his mood.

Conversely, a puppy who isn't exercised enough will be naturally lazier, sleep more, and have a duller intellect. They are slower to respond to commands and overall have less interest in activities. It's easy to increase your pup's walks and to start hiking but it should be done correctly for safety and to avoid injuries.

Safety First

  1. Vaccinations - Make certain your puppy's vaccinations are up-to-date before starting out. Ask your vet about getting a Lyme vaccination if you will be going into wooded areas.

  2. Fleas and Ticks - Either apply flea and tick medicine ahead of time or check for them as soon as you return from your hike.

  3. Tag 'Em - Make certain your puppy's I.D. tag is up-to-date and that his rabies tag is on as well. Consider signing up for a lost pet service such as Dogster's Together Tag.

  4. First Aid Kit - Take along a first aid kit for you and your puppy that includes sunblock, gauze, pads, first aid tape, hydrogen peroxide, eye wash and scissors.

  5. Take An Extra Leash - Leashes can be worn out or torn on long walks.

  6. Check All Orifices - Check ears, eyes and nose after a hike, as well as your puppy's skin and paws.

Preventing Injuries

  1. Condition Your Puppy - Build up to a longer walk or short hike slowly. Go a little further every day and add hills in along the way.

  2. Watch for Signs - Look for signs of an injury starting, such as your puppy favoring a leg or shaking a foot. If he slows down, slow down with him. If necessary, pull off to the side and rest for awhile then return down your path even if you haven't reached the summit.

  3. Hydration - It is imperative to stop frequently for water breaks. If your puppy won't drink, pour a little on his head and drop a bit in his mouth.

Another way to make the hike enjoyable for both you and your puppy is to purchase a dog backpack. Dogs like to "work" and you'll enjoy lightening the load of your own pack. Make sure you get your pup used to the backpack before the hike and don't fill it with more than a few light things at first. Eventually, a dog can carry a load equal to 1/4 to 1/3 of his own weight.

And don't forget plenty of treats and praise along the way. You can encourage your dog with lots of "Good Boy!" exclamations and by touching his head or rump lightly as you walk along. Soon you'll both find your health is improving and that you suddenly have calves to die for.

Advice from Other Dog Owners 

Puppies Eat Less When They are Teething

When my dog was teething his appetite decreased quite a bit. Our vet recommended adding water to his food to soften it up, which worked great. He did not recommend that we do that all the time because the hard food helps their dental hygiene. That worked for us! Ice cubes and toys in the freezer also helped (i.e. water down a rope toy and freeze).

~TALIE D., owner of Labrador Retriever

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