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 silliness and adventures that are sure to make pet parents everywhere go "awwww!"
Some questions many pet parents have are related to age. How soon can you get to it? Is it safe to take your new puppy on a walk or let them romp through the local dog park🏕️ right away?
The answers to these questions might surprise you😲, so read on before you bring your pup out.
And of course, before you even think of walking your pup 🐕 outside you need to start by leash training them.
This week I’ve added a great educational video 📽️ on how to leash train your puppy by the world’s most re-known dog behavioral expert👨🏽🏫, (at least in my opinion), Cesar Millan!
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 fully 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, while full vaccination is recommended, 22 weeks may be very late in the development of a brand-new puppy.
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 (when they begin potty training), 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.
The Hazards of Outdoor Excitement
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.
In extreme cases, you could even have a close encounter with something as dangerous as rabies, though it's pretty unlikely in the US.
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!
A Timeline of Adventures
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 is starting to get their basic senses, 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. You can start early socialization at this stage. However, this stage requires the highest level of control.
“Before their first vaccination, your puppy should not be walked in public areas. Puppies should still be exposed to new sights, sounds, smells and experiences, but they should be carried, and not allowed on the ground in public areas. Access to your own secure garden is generally safe, as long as you have not previously had a dog with an infectious disease.” - Orchard Vets
Week 6-7: 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 DHPP. Other vaccines may be important depending on what diseases are prevalent in your area, like Lyme.
Week 8: You’ve finally reached the point 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.
It’s always wise to consult with your veterinarian and to follow their recommendations.
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 pet 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:
Dangerous pests and other animals. Wild animals, stinging insects, fleas and ticks, and droppings can all be dangerous at this young of an age. You're trying to keep your puppy healthy and sociable, so anything that punishes them for going out and playing is a bad thing. Droppings, in particular, are very attractive to dogs and their sensitive noses, but they can carry any number of possible diseases, so keep your pup away.
Other dogs. Older dogs that have been fully vaccinated can still carry diseases they can't catch themselves. The only dogs your puppy should interact with are your other household dogs, their siblings/littermates, and their parents. Even the neighbor's dog should probably wait to be introduced.
At the Vet. Contrary to popular belief, visiting the vet may be a dangerous proposition for your young pup. Allowing your pup to walk where other dogs have walked increases your puppy’s risk of contracting disease. So, make sure to carry your puppy in your arms and keep him on your lap while waiting in the lobby.
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.
Taking Your Puppy on Their First Walk
Always consult with your vet, but generally, it is safe to walk your dog one week after the second vaccination.
“As long as your puppy is 10 weeks old or older at their second vaccination, they will be immune to distemper, hepatitis and parvovirus one week after this vaccination. So, one week after their second vaccination, your puppy can be walked in public areas, and usually attend puppy classes. They will not be protected against leptospirosis yet, and areas that are high risk for lepto – for example stagnant water, areas with rat infestations, livestock farms – should be avoided.” - Orchard Vets
Now, first 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:
How To Leash Train Your Puppy | By Cesar Millan | 6:49 Min Video
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.)
Careful Socialization is Key
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.
“While protecting your puppy’s health is important, many veterinarians and dog behaviorists stress that early socialization is equally as important as vaccinations when it comes to safe-guarding your puppy’s overall health and well-being.” - American Kennel Club
Socialization begins with their littermates. When they play and get too rough, their brother or sister will yipe to teach their sibling to tone down their biting. It’s an important skill that a puppy won’t receive if it’s removed from its litter too early.
When moving socialization out of the home, the key is control. If possible, you want to bring your puppy to a low populated dog park as soon as possible, usually around 8-12 weeks old. But, the earlier on you do it, the more control
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 Alto
K. Marie is an animal lover, wife, kitty mom, dog auntie, writer (https://www.amazon.com/author/kmariealto), 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 45K followers (@furrytoebeans) and counting :-).