If you’ve just brought home your furry bundle of joy, you probably can’t wait to start taking your pup everywhere you go and enjoying adventures with your new furry friend. And your pooch is probably just as excited and raring to go!
But you will need to hold your horses. Just like human babies, puppies need to have a few vaccinations to strengthen their immune system before they can go out into the big wide world and start making new furry friends.
Young puppies are very vulnerable to illness and infection, and taking them outside exposes them to new risks and diseases, so it’s best to wait until your puppy has developed some immunity before taking them outside.
To help you understand when you can take your new pooch outdoors to explore, we’ve created this guide explaining when puppies can go outside safely.
In an ideal world, your puppy won’t go outside until 1-2 weeks after their second vaccination, which will be when your puppy is about 14-16 weeks old.
This gives their body time to develop their immune system and for the vaccine to give them protection against highly contagious and potentially deadly diseases like parvovirus, leptospirosis, and distemper.
Although it can seem overprotective to keep your puppy inside for so long, it is to protect them and to keep them safe and healthy.
If your garden is secure and safe from potential risks, you can take your puppy into your garden as soon as you bring them home. Taking them into the garden can help to get your pup used to the outside world and begin toilet training.
However, there are still potential risks associated with taking your dog outside, even if it’s only into your garden. If there are free-roaming cats or wild foxes that can access your yard, or you share your garden with other dogs, they may spread illness that could potentially make your puppy sick.
So be aware that until your puppy has been fully vaccinated, even going outside into the garden can have risks. A small risk, but a risk all the same.
Before you take your puppy into the garden, you must make sure it is a safe environment for them. Clean up any urine or faeces left behind by other pets or animals. Make sure there are no holes in your fence where your puppy could escape. And finally make sure there are no slug pellets, poisonous plants, plant food, pesticide, or other potentially toxic chemicals that your puppy could ingest.
Your puppy can go outside into public spaces or go outside for a walk 1-2 weeks after their second vaccination. The amount of time the vaccine needs to take effect and protect your puppy can vary, so remember to ask your vet when your pup will be allowed outside.
Usually, your puppy will be about 14 to 16 weeks old when they will be allowed to go outside safely.
Your puppy should also be microchipped before they go outdoors for the first time, and if you go out into a public place they will legally need a collar with a dog tag on it.
When you do take your puppy for their first walk, remember to keep it very short (5-10 minutes) and make sure it’s a positive experience.
At that age, pups can be easily overwhelmed by all the new noises and experiences, and their body is still growing, so you don’t want to put too much impact on their growing bones and joints.
If you want to exercise your puppy before they’re big enough for walks, simply playing with them in your home or garden should be enough to tire them out. Training sessions will also help to provide plenty of mental and physical stimulation for them. You could also get them on the lead and walk them around your house and garden, which is great practice for when they do get to go outside!
Whether or not puppies could or should go outside before their vaccinations are complete is a hotly contested topic.
Vets say your puppy should never go into any public places or meet other dogs before they have had all their jabs because of the risk of catching serious and potentially deadly diseases like distemper, parvovirus, or leptospirosis.
This is a very real danger and one that you must take seriously, because your puppy could easily pick up a life-threatening illness by simply sniffing, licking, or eating another dog’s poo, urine, or by sniffing or licking contaminated ground or surfaces.
However, some dog trainers and behaviourists believe it’s important that your puppy can go outside during their socialisation period when they’re 5-16 weeks old. This is a crucial time to socialise your dog and get them used to different noises and experiences like loud noises, grooming, water, cars and traffic, bikes, children, cats, and other people and dogs so that they can grow up to be a confident and well-adjusted dog.
If you want to take your puppy outside during this socialisation period but before your puppy’s vaccination series is complete, there are ways you can take them outside and reduce potential risks.
Firstly, make sure your puppy has had their first vaccination. This way they at least have a small level of immunity.
If you do go outside with your puppy you should always carry them, or keep them off the ground inside a carrier or pram.
This way they can experience the outside world and all of its sights, smells, and noises but they won’t be on the ground coming into contact with any contaminated surfaces or animal waste. They also won’t be in contact with other people or pets that could be carrying illness or infection. (And as hard as it can be, try to resist letting strangers stroke your puppy until they’re vaccinated as they or their pets may be infected).
You could also ask your vet about local socialisation classes or puppy classes. These are safe and controlled environments where puppies can socialise with other puppies and new people.
Finally, you could keep their socialisation indoors. This way you can keep your puppy safe and control the environment around them, minimising any risks to them and limiting potential triggers so they won’t be overwhelmed.
Invite people you know to meet your dog inside your home. If you know any adult dogs or other animals that have been vaccinated (so they aren’t going to pass on any infectious diseases), you could invite them to your house to meet your puppy and socialise too.
Your puppy can meet vaccinated animals in your home as long as they have had their first vaccine and the other dog is up to date on their own vaccinations.
It’s important to remember that socialisation is not just about your puppy meeting or playing with other people and dogs. It’s a crucial period in your dog’s development where your puppy should be introduced to as many new experiences as possible so they can learn how to behave around them and don’t become fearful of new things.
To find out more about puppy socialisation and how to give your puppy the experience they need to become a confident and balanced adult dog, read our quick guide here.
Written by: Dr Andrew Miller MRCVS
Andy graduated from Bristol University in 2010 and sees nutrition as a foundation for our pet's wellbeing and takes a common-sense approach. We are what we eat, and it shouldn't be any different for our pets.