Free 2-5 day delivery | No minimum purchase required | Now Shipping to Canada, UK, &Australia
Free 2-5 day delivery | No minimum purchase required | Now Shipping to Canada, UK, &Australia
by K Marie Alto March 16, 2023 8 min read
Whenever you get a new puppy, it's cause for much joy. You want to bring them out and show them off, get them to see new things and have new experiences, and have that camera ready for all the puppy foibles and adventures that are sure to make pet parents everywhere go "awwww!"
How soon can you get to it, though? Is it safe to take your new puppy on a walk or let them romp through the local dog park?
To put things in simple terms, the soonest you should let your puppy out to explore the world or bring them to a dog park, doggy daycare, or anywhere else they can socialize with other dogs is when they're vaccinated.
While the array of puppy vaccines is large, and they vary on their schedules, a puppy is generally considered to be fully vaccinated around 18-22 weeks of age. You can read a more complete rundown of puppy vaccinations in the post I wrote about it over here.
Now, full vaccination is recommended, but 22 weeks is pretty late in the development of a brand-new puppy. After all, they get their best habits and fresh socialization when they're even younger, from 3-12 weeks old, so if you isolate them until they've had their full series of shots, they're already past that time.
That's why many vets recommend allowing limited exposure to new things and new adventures starting around 8 weeks old or a few days after their first round of shots. They'll still be cute, bleary, and wondering at everything, but they'll have at least a little bit of protection from the things that would do them harm.
The key here is moderation. Don't take your eight-week-old puppy to the doggy daycare; instead, bring them on careful walks and let them explore your backyard, maybe meet with a neighbor's dog, and not a lot else. As they get older and get more shots, you can expand their horizons.
Note: There's a difference between being let outside for the first time, and going for the first walk, visiting the dog park for the first time, or just being left in the yard unsupervised. Generally, you can bring a new puppy outside any time after they reach 8-10 weeks old, but the younger they are, the more supervision they need. An 8-week-old puppy might never leave your arms; they get to see new sights and sounds, but they aren't in any danger.
Trust me, your brand new puppy may be happy to explore anything and everything they can, but you're going to overload their little puppy minds with just a few new experiences anyway; you don't need to bombard them with everything everywhere all at once.
Puppies are new to the world, and the world is new to them. As fun as it is to see them experience everything for the first time (and who doesn't love a good video of a pup's first encounter with rain or snow), you still need to protect them from the things that would wish them harm.
Sometimes, that means other animals. Some dogs don't have the socialization or are aggressive enough to snap at or even hurt a curious off-leash puppy that doesn't know any better. Other non-dog animals, whether it's domestic cats that don't want to be bothered, chickens that are oblivious to the harm they can do, or snakes that would rather mind their own business, can all cause problems for your curious new pup.
More than almost anything else, though, the biggest risk of a new puppy experiencing the world is disease. You can't exactly keep disease away from your puppy since they're microscopic and impossible to control. That's why vaccinations are so important.
A new puppy visiting the dog park and encountering droppings or other dogs might also encounter:
In extreme cases, you could even have a close encounter with something as dangerous as rabies, though it's pretty unlikely.
It can also be worth noting that dog-borne diseases aren't limited to just the outdoors. Taking your new puppy to the local pet store to pick out their first favorite toy can be a fun adventure, but not if someone else brought their sick pup through and left a trail of invisible harm behind. Be careful anywhere dogs frequent!
Let's look at a sample life of a newborn pup and see what kind of timeline you're looking at.
Week 1: Your puppy is barely coordinated enough to move and is more than happy to spend time with mama, probably whining if they're ever pulled away. There's no reason or incentive to bring them outside at this age, and it's irresponsible to try.
Week 2: More of the same; they're young, they're babies, and they need to be protected and cared for.
Week 3: Your puppy may start to be able to do a few important things for any puppy to know, like being able to see, hear, and even defecate on their own around this age. They're also growing and starting to look a little less like a fuzzy potato and a little more like a tiny doggo. Adorable! Still not safe to bring outside, just yet.
Week 4-5: This is when your puppy is finally starting to be a bouncing bundle of joy, experiencing the world around them instead of just the safety and comfort of their hideaway and their mama. They're starting to learn how to eat solid food, they're smelling everything, and they're making messes and getting into trouble.
Week 6: This is when your first set of vaccinations should start to come into play. From 6-8 weeks of age, your new puppy should visit the vet to get their core vaccinations started, most notably DHP/DHPP. Other vaccines may be important depending on what diseases are prevalent in your area, like Lyme.
Week 8: Skipping week seven here (it's more of the same); week 8 is around when you can start letting your puppy explore things other than just your house. They can be let out, under supervision, to your yard, assuming you have one. You want to keep them in a controlled area where they're not likely to encounter anything contaminated, interact with potentially dangerous animals, or get into more dangerous trouble.
Puppies are curious, energetic, and lovable, but that doesn't mean the world itself protects them. I knew someone whose new puppy, in the course of playing with the world in their backyard, tripped and severely hurt their eye with a stick. Ouch! The poor pupper ended up losing the eye, but they're still a happy and healthy pup today, no less energetic or happy to be your friend. She just has a little less depth perception, that's all.
I tell the story just to say, there's not really any way to protect a rambunctious puppy fromeverything. You can do your best to keep them safe, but they're going to get into trouble, and it's just a matter of what kind of trouble it will be. Your job as a parent to this adorable fuzzball is going to be reducing the chances of anything truly harmful happening and giving them the best life you can.
Things to keep your puppy away from:
Your puppy might be overwhelmed the first few times you take them outside, especially if you live near a busy street. You might want to just carry them around, so they can see new things while knowing they're protected and safe in your arms.
Walks aren't quite as simple as they seem, as anyone who has raised a newborn pup will know. Dogs aren't born with the knowledge of what a leash or harness is, what they're expected to do on a walk, and how to behave themselves. All of that comes down to training.
Training your puppy for their first big walk is going to be a time-consuming process. I've written a lot about different kinds of dog training, which you can check out in posts like:
The key to any kind of dog training is behavior and reward. You want your dog to associate doing a specific thing with getting a reward. Eventually, you can even train them to not do something and get a reward, which is part of how you train dogs not to bark at every sound.
With a new puppy, you aren't going to be doing anything that advanced. You'll want to put a leash on them, let them experience it for a few minutes at a time, and give them a treat for it. You're getting them used to the leash and how to behave on it and making it a positive experience.
Once your puppy is comfortable on their leash, you can work on more advanced kinds of leash training, like keeping close to you and avoiding pulling or going after things. Some dogs have more inherent instincts to chase or hunt than others, so keep that in mind.
Once your puppy is leash-trained enough to be trusted on a walk, you can take them on short walks around the yard and around the neighborhood. Remember, they'll tucker out quickly, even with all of that puppy energy, so don't go too far from home unless you're willing to carry them back.
If possible, consider walking your route ahead of time and taking care of any possible hazards along the way. Be sure to keep an eye out for any leftover animal droppings (or other dog droppings an irresponsible pet parent didn't pick up.)
While you technically should avoid exposing your puppy to other dogs, especially unknown dogs, until they're fully vaccinated, there's no way you can get away with keeping them isolated that long. You need to socialize your puppy when they're young so they don't end up with behavioral problems along the way.
The key is control. If possible, you want to bring your puppy to the dog park or the doggy daycare or play place as soon as possible, usually around 8-12 weeks old. But, the earlier on you do it, the more control you need over the environment.
So, instead of bringing your puppy to the dog park when it's packed full, bring them when it's less crowded, and there are only a few dogs around. Instead of bringing them to a doggy daycare full of dogs you don't know, bring them to a gathering of pups of friends and family, so you know the dogs are all well-socialized, cared for, and up to date on their shots.
The older your puppy gets, the broader their horizons can be. Finally, once they're fully protected from the risks of other dogs, other animals, and the dirty outdoors, you can bring them anywhere and everywhere. Just do what you can to keep them safe.
Do you have fun stories of the first time you brought your new puppy on a walk? How old were they when you did it, and what mischief did they get into? Tell me all about it in the comments! I love hearing your stories.
K. Marie is an animal lover, wife, kitty mom, dog auntie, writer, and co-founder of Toe Beans, a proud American family-owned online boutique pet supplies store focused on the improvement of the life of furry family members via pet parent education, better products, and advocacy. She has over 20 years of experience as a pet momma. She loves sharing her personal journey and experience as a pet parent via her blog and Facebook page where she currently has more than 40K followers (@furrytoebeans) and counting :-).
Comments will be approved before showing up.
by K Marie Alto March 31, 2023 8 min read
by K Marie Alto March 23, 2023 8 min read
by K Marie Alto March 09, 2023 9 min read