Puppy Recreational Activities

Your Puppy and the Wonders of the Big Wide World Part 2

With every new adventure, your puppy’s world grows bigger and becomes filled with exciting smells, sights and sounds. Now that we’ve had our first encounter with a friendly furry, gone on our first walk and played a few games of fetch with Puppy Recreational Activities Part 1, it’s time to hop in the car and give our puppy a chance to experience the wonders of the big wide world. In this guide, we’ll review some puppy recreational activities that take us out into the open — and where your dog can truly come into their own.

Running with Your Puppy

Unlike with adult dogs, running with a puppy should only be done on the puppy’s terms. Also, you should only run with a puppy in the neighborhood or at the dog park if they are still young. Remember, your puppy’s bones and joints are still growing, and overexertion and shock can lead to growth plate injuries. Just keep your runs short and gentle, and everything should be ok!

Chances are, your pup will be so busy inspecting everything on your path that running for an extended period of time will seem impossible anyway! But if your pup suddenly wants to have a trot at your side, be sure to limit your pace and keep an eye on them to avoid any silly mishaps.

As we discussed in the previous article, you should walk your puppy for no more than 5 minutes for every month of age, so if your puppy wants to run the whole time, your walk should be limited to about half that, or even less.

Taking a Puppy to the Dog Park

Before taking your puppy to the dog park, it’s a good idea to do a brief doggie stakeout and make sure that the park is a safe and accommodating place for your puppy. Good dog owners will always practice courteous dog park etiquette, which includes controlling their dogs—whether they are free or on a leash—and cleaning up after their dogs. The park should also be well-maintained and have a fully-intact fence and be free of trash and small, dangerous debris such as pieces of glass, metal or other objects that your puppy can pick up with their mouth.

If your local dog park looks like the perfect place to spend time with your puppy, it’s best to use an extended leash at first just to see how your puppy behaves and interacts with other dogs. When exiting a vehicle, always pick your puppy up and place them gently on the ground, as their bones and joints are still forming and you should avoid letting them jump out of the car.

Because the dog park can be very stimulating and exciting for your puppy, make sure they feel safe at all times and try not to get distracted by your phone while your puppy is wandering off alone. Any negative experiences your puppy has at the dog park can impact their social development and cause them to be nervous around other animals, so you should only let them near other dogs after you’ve confirmed that the dog is friendly and will not intimidate or upset your puppy in any way.

Swimming with a Puppy

The weather is warm and the water enticing, so what better way to spend the day than by going for a swim?

Just like people, dogs have unique personalities, so your pup may take to the water like a fish or show hesitation at first. Be patient and try to gauge their reaction and interest in the water before letting them in. You should never force your puppy into the water if they seem scared or unwilling to do so themselves. This can cause them to panic, have a traumatizing experience and even develop a water phobia.

Pooch experts recommend starting young when it comes to puppy swimming, so in the case that your puppy is younger than 16 weeks and is not yet fully-vaccinated, the only place you should go swimming with your puppy is in a bathtub or in a private pool.

Your puppy’s first swimming lesson should always be performed in a shallow pool of water, such as a baby pool or in a bath tub to give them a comfortable sense of security. If you have a built-in backyard pool, your puppy may or may not take to the idea of going in. If they seem interested, make sure to practice in the shallow end under strict supervision only.

Before beginning your puppy’s first swimming lesson, always equip them with a puppy life jacket. This will not only keep your puppy safe, but it will make it easier for you to grab and control them while they’re in the water. Let your pup spend a little time in their life vest outside of the water and get used to it before getting in.

A great way to get started is by bringing some of your puppy’s squeaky toys along for a swim. Enter the water before your puppy and start playing with their toys. When your puppy sees you playing with their toys in the water, there’s a good chance they’ll jump right in. If they don’t, be patient and keep playing while trying to lead your puppy in. Don’t be discouraged if this doesn’t work on the first try. Some puppies might be afraid of the water at first, but it’s no reason to give up. Just try again on another day, and if it doesn’t work, try again! The more patient you are with your puppy, the more likely they are to overcome their misgivings about the water and eventually plop right in — to your delight!

Keep in mind that while swimming is a great exercise for your puppy and is easy on their growing joints, they will get tired quickly, so you should either be with them in the water or at the least very close by and fully-attentive at all times. As your puppy gets better at swimming, you can experiment with taking off their life vest and allowing them to swim on their own. Extra supervision is important at this stage as your puppy may feel slightly disoriented without the assistive buoyancy of a life jacket. Make sure to be in the water with your puppy during their first several attempts at swimming without a life vest.

Chlorinated water is safe to swallow in moderate amounts, so don’t worry if your puppy gets pool water in their mouth or even decides to take a little drink. After swimming in a pool with your puppy, give them a rinse or a bath to wash the chlorine off their fur, which can make it frizzy otherwise. Although rare, some dogs may have sensitive skin that becomes irritated by chlorine. If you see your puppy scratching itself an awful lot after swimming, it may be a good idea to take a break from the pool. In general, regular and extended swimming pool activities (in chlorinated water) are not recommended for dogs, as this can remove natural oils from their skin and fur, causing it to be dry and brittle to the touch.

Once your puppy is fully-vaccinated, you can explore the notion of taking a dip in a natural body of water, such as a river or a lake. Ocean swimming for dogs is generally not recommended. This is because oceans can have unpredictable currents and dangerous marine characters such as jellyfish and sharks, which makes it no place for a puppy.

Before taking your puppy for a swim in a river or a lake, it’s important to do a background check on the body of water to ensure that it is free of harmful seasonal algae, known pathogens or possible chemical spills. You may contact your local DNR with any questions about a lake or a river and in order to confirm that it’s doggie-safe. When taking your pup to a natural body of water, make sure that they’re equipped with a life jacket and that you are always with them. If you are not a swimmer yourself, you should not let your puppy go swimming in a lake or a river. Always make sure that the selected swimming area is free of fishermen and any leftover fishing gear such as hooks and barbs, which can harm your puppy. Remember, your puppy is your fur baby — so you’re not being overprotective!

Taking a Puppy on a Hike

Ahh the open trail, what fragrant wonders await a puppy’s insatiable nose? We can all agree that dogs are the ultimate hiking buddy, and a puppy can make your visit to nature even more refreshing and fun.

If you’re the outdoorsy type and feel like your pup has graduated their neighborhood walk and the dog park, then it may be time for an adventure in the sticks! Remember, the younger the pup, the shorter the walk, or about 5 minutes for every month of age. However, because this rule applies to flat surfaces such as a neighborhood street or sidewalk, it’s best to reduce the amount of walking time by as much as half when on a trail with your pup (use your best judgment to determine if the puppy is exerting more energy on your trail of choice than they would in the neighborhood or at the dog park).

You should never take your puppy on a hike until they’ve received their final vaccination booster and are fully-protected from common pathogens that affect dogs. Also, experts recommend never taking your puppy out on long and steep hikes or through difficult terrain until their bodies are fully-grown, which occurs between 12 to 18 months of age.

After your puppy has received their final vaccine and is familiar with going on walks, you can begin to slowly introduce them to walking on nature trails. While your puppy is still young, or under 1 year of age, you should always use a leash. As your puppy grows older and becomes more experienced with being leash-free while at the dog park or on a walk, you can consider taking them out into nature without one — provided that they can respond to your commands!

Remember, the outdoors is full of small animals that can seize your puppy’s attention and make them give chase, which can turn a pleasant stroll in the woods into a prolonged and stressful game of hide-and-seek. Also, depending on where you live, the woods can be full of toxic plants such as poison ivy, poison sumac, mushrooms, poison berries and others. Typically, letting your dog run off in the woods is not recommended, unless you are well-informed of the natural surroundings, plant life and geographic features.

If you decide to take your puppy on a nature walk while they’re still young, a great tip is to bring a puppy carry pack where they can rest when they get tired without slowing you down. Always bring plenty of water and snacks for both yourself and your puppy when wandering in a natural environment. If you enjoy an evening or nighttime hike, you can equip your puppy with an LED leash and their own flashlight while keeping a close eye on them at all times. Keep your puppy from jumping on rocks or getting too physical when outdoors, as their bones and joints are still forming and strong shocks can result in growth plate injuries. For the same reason, too much exercise and exertion is not recommended for younger dogs.

When hiking with your puppy, take frequent rests and keep an eye on their energy levels. You certainly don’t want your puppy to be exhausted after hiking, so always stop before they look too tired. Give them a frequent drink of water, and the older they get and the longer the hike, an occasional snack can offer a well-deserved energy boost. When introducing your puppy to rougher and more challenging trails as they grow into an adult dog, make sure that you are working them up through experience levels and that they are ready to tackle the trail at your side.

Happy trails!