When Can Puppies Go Outside? What a Vet Wants You to Know
You have to find a bit of a compromise on when puppies can go outside. We know socialization and exposure to the outside world is extremely important, but we also need to consider potential diseases unvaccinated puppies could pick up during outdoor adventures. Puppies can go outside sooner then you might think—there are just a few steps to take first.
"Speak with your vet about risk factors in your area to consider when deciding when and how to exercise and socialize your puppy," says Brian Evans, DVM, the medical director at Dutch. "Also, it's important to make sure if they'll be going outside that they're protected from fleas and ticks, so ensure they're on a vet-recommended parasite preventative."
When Can Puppies Go Outside for the First Time?
Most pups finish their primary series of puppy shots between 12–16 weeks, but that doesn't necessarily mean you have to wait that long to take her outside to potty and investigate her own backyard (and you could miss out on the crucial socialization period). Your vet might decide it's all right for your dog to go outside a few days after her first round of vaccinations when she's about 8 weeks old, but work with your vet to determine the safest age for your particular puppy.
Evans says early socialization helps puppies adapt and become well-rounded. "Often, keeping them completely isolated in your home until their vaccine series is complete risks making them fearful of the outside world and all of the normal noises, sights, and textures," he says.
He suggests finding a secluded space and avoiding feces from other dogs to minimize disease risk while still providing your curious pooch with the benefits of training and life experience. You can also carry her around outdoors so she can sniff the air and get used to a different environment while staying safe.
When Can Puppies Go On Their First Walk?
With all their rambunctious energy, it might seem that puppies will dash out the door and be ready to roll and tumble. However, Evans says really young ones have a hard time at first going for a walk on a leash, so take things slowly. And as mentioned earlier, make sure they avoid feces from other animals to minimize disease risk.
"They need to get used to the process. I would start training leash walking as early as possible. Just don't push it and make it a negative experience," Evans says. "Short, frequent training sessions are much more effective than long, daily sessions." A few walkies of five minutes or so between all those snuggly puppy snoozes throughout the day should be just fine.
When Can Puppies Go to the Park?
Evans advises waiting to take your little friend to the dog park until after the full series of her first-year vaccinations is complete. Depending on the canine contagions common in your area, she'll likely be almost 4 months old before she finishes rounds for the DHPP vaccine (also known as the 5-in-1 vaccine) and those for Lyme disease and leptospirosis. Afterwards, she'll be safely protected and able to play with other dogs at the park, take longer walks, and meet more of her two- and four-footed neighbors.
But if you want your puppy to go outside a little sooner, it's fine in the right environment. "It's ideal to expose them to as many dogs as possible while they are young and impressionable," Evans adds. "If you have friends or family members with dogs who are healthy and up to date on their vaccines, get them together to play as often as possible, even before your puppy is fully vaccinated."
He also recommends starting puppy training and socialization classes as early as possible. "While there's always a risk, the benefits tend to far outweigh the actual risk."