When you get a puppy, not everyone understands how important socialization is to his development. We all know to feed him and play with him, but you also need to teach him how to interact with other animals as well as people in his environment. This will help him understand what is safe in the world as well as appropriate behavior for him around others.
In order to prevent behavioral problems in your puppy, he needs to receive lots of positive interaction with people and other dogs during an important socialization period between nine and 14 weeks of age. But, if you are a seasoned dog owner, you also know that a puppy isn’t totally vaccinated and completely protected by vaccines until they have finished all three sets of shots, which usually happens by the time he is 16 weeks old.
So, when can puppies go outside to safely interact with other dogs? Here are a few tips at different stages of your dog’s puppyhood that help you find safe places to start his early socialization safely.
Puppy Vaccines for Beginners
When you decide it’s time to take your new puppy outside, it’s important to find out how the vaccines he needs work in the decision-making process. A puppy usually gets several injections with the same vaccine at six to eight weeks. The vaccines are repeated every few weeks until your puppy is 16 weeks old.
With the first vaccine, your puppy’s immune system is primed to create a lot of antibodies in response the puppy is vaccinated over and over with the same virus. Called boosters, these additional vaccines help to boost your puppy’s immune system.
Initially, a puppy will already have a bit of protection from his mother’s milk. But these antibodies from his mom tend to interfere with the vaccines he is getting. These maternal antibodies decrease in a dog’s body at different rates, so you have no way to know when those antibodies have decreased enough to let the vaccines he is getting begin to work. That’s the reason why a puppy is vaccinated several times and isn’t considered completely protected until he has received all his boosters by 16 weeks old.
How to Protect Your Puppy
To protect your new puppy against dangerous diseases, you need to take the following precautions for a puppy that is younger than 16 weeks old:
- Get your puppy all his vaccines as recommended by the veterinarian.
- Do not take your puppy to a place that other dogs tend to frequent like a pet store or dog park.
- Make sure to carry your puppy in and out of a vet office or hospital. Veterinary staff will take every precaution in order to protect puppies from infectious diseases, but there may be a sick dog that contaminates a rest area, the floor, or furniture before the veterinary staff can disinfect it. So, be safe and make sure to carry your puppy.
- Do not let your puppy interact with any animal feces as he is walking and don’t let him interact with other dogs if you aren’t aware of their vaccination history.
- Always make sure that the other dogs in your home are current on their vaccines.
- Only let your puppy access a fenced yard, and, if your neighbor has a dog, make sure to let them know your pup has not been completely vaccinated yet.
Socializing a Puppy
It is recommended by the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior that dog owners begin to take their puppies out of their house as early as a week after the first set of vaccinations, which should put them at about seven weeks. This means you can take him on a walk or a public outing since the first three months of your puppy’s life is really the best time to properly socialize him. Puppies that do not get this socialization time until after their vaccinations have ended only get a really short window in order to become correctly socialized. This can, unfortunately, result in possible behavioral issues that can be a bigger threat to your dog’s well-being than that small possibility they will get a disease.
If you are concerned that when your puppy mixes with other people or dogs before he is done with his shots, it is recommended that you just hold and carry him when you take your puppy out into public. This period of time is so important for a puppy to be exposed to as many smells, sounds, objects, animals, and people as possible. But it is fine to keep a bit of distance between your puppy and everything around him until he is completely vaccinated. Until that time, let him explore his own backyard or play animals you are sure are healthy and are completely vaccinated.
Remember that there is a chance that your puppy may get overexcited and overstimulated during the first few times he gets to play outside. In case this happens, just have him take a break or even call it a day so that he can have an opportunity to calm down and rest awhile. Just make sure that you don’t overreact to his hyperactive behavior and stop taking him outside regularly. It’s important to remember that overstimulation in a puppy that is going through the socialization process is not as big a deal as overstimulation in an adult dog that was never socialized properly. It’s incredibly important that you expose your puppy to as many things as possible or you can end up with an older dog that suffers from fear and anxiety.
Also, when you spend time outdoors with your dog, it’s just such a great bonding experience for both of you. It’s important that your puppy knows that as he is exploring and learning this whole new work that you are there to protect and take care of him. By creating such a strong bond, you will train your puppy to come to you and your family when he wants to go on a walk or needs to go outside to go potty. And, since puppies are only just learning, it’s a great opportunity to teach him what is acceptable and not acceptable behavior when he is outdoors or around other people. And, if you stay close to him in your backyard, you can easily help him to learn which areas are off-limits.
How to Socialize a Puppy Safely
Once you have ensured that your puppy is healthy and safe, you can now get him socialized properly during a critical socialization period for a dog. Here are a few situations that are typically considered a safe zone that allows your puppy to try out his new social skills in an environment that is disease-free.
- Interaction with a fully vaccinated dog who is owned by your family or friend
- Interaction with another puppy in a training class. Remember that all puppies that attend these classes are required to present evidence of a proper vaccination schedule.
- Interaction with people in an environment where there are no other dogs present.
When you socialize your puppy, always ensure that you pair all of his interactions with praise and treat to help him learn good social skills. It‘s also helpful when you follow the rule of seven which states that each day, your puppy should have seven positive, new experiences which will help him create positive relationships with the outside world.
When Can Puppies Go Outside for a Walk for the First Time?
After the second round of vaccinations, a puppy can go out for his first walk after seven days. Keep in mind that your puppy may be more resilient than he was only a few weeks prior, but it is still important that you continue to keep him away from anything that could make him ill.
As you both walk, keep your puppy on paved surfaces like a parking lot or sidewalk. Make sure to stay off dirt or grass trails where feces or urine of an unvaccinated dog is more difficult to avoid. A puppy that has had his second round of vaccinations may also go to the beach but remember to go on locations or times of days where the beach is not as crowded.
Always avoid unfamiliar dogs as you both walk, and if other dog owners come up to you and ask if their pet can say hi to your dog, just politely tell them that your puppy hasn’t completed his vaccinations yet. Usually, other dog owners will understand.
After the second set of vaccinations, then your puppy will be ready to go to a puppy social or a playgroup that is designed for a puppy under 18 weeks old. These are typically held at local dog training facilities, veterinarian offices, and pet supply stores. While some socials allow puppies to attend after their first round of vaccinations, it’s important to wait until your dog has safely had his second set.
When Can You Take Your Puppy to a Park for the First Time?
You will want to wait until after your puppy has had his third round of vaccinations, which is typically at 16 to 18 weeks of age. Not only will your puppy be ready to finally go to the park, but he will now be completely protected against the worst puppy diseases. This also means that your puppy can now say Hi to an unfamiliar dog that he meets at the park.
However, if you want to take your dog to a dog park, you should wait until he is at least six months old, or even older. This is due to the high tensions that can happen in a dog park, especially enclosed ones, where a boisterous and excited puppy can annoy the adult dogs, which can turn into a negative experience for your pup creating bad memories of an otherwise fun place for your puppy.
Can I take my 8-week old puppy outside?
Typically, a puppy will remain with his mother until he is eight weeks old. It’s at this point in his life when he will generally go to his forever home, but it is also an important time during his socialization period. When you get your eight-week-old puppy, you will need a few precautions to take him outside safely.
It’s important at this time in his life to start potty training him outside and also start activities in your home that need to be limited to an area that isn’t used by any unvaccinated animals. Remember that at eight weeks, a puppy’s vaccinations will not be complete, and he won’t have a lot left of his mother’s immune system.
Also, you should not take your puppy around dogs whose vaccination status, temperament, or health is not known to you. Also, avoid areas that are dirty or could conceal diseases like the woods or parks. During this time, socialization classes can be beneficial for exposure experiences, but the other dogs need to be vaccinated for them to be safe. Also, continue to take precautions throughout your puppy’s vaccinations. After your puppy has had a final round of vaccines, usually between 14 and 16 weeks, you can then take him to areas where there are unfamiliar dogs safely.
Can I carry my puppy outside before vaccinations?
Yes, you can, especially to begin potty training him. However, it’s imperative that you keep your puppy away from any unvaccinated animals as well as areas where there could be urine or feces left behind by an unvaccinated animal.
Can I take my puppy out before 12 weeks?
Typically, a dog should have their last vaccination between 12 and 16 weeks. However, you will want to wait about five to seven days after the last shot before taking him around a dog that may not be vaccinated. Until then, only take your puppy out to areas that are free of urine or feces that were left by an unvaccinated animal or any area where you may run into an unfamiliar dog that may not be vaccinated. If you do encounter unfamiliar dogs, remember to pick up your dog and carry him to prevent him from getting sick.
Can puppies go in the garden after the first injection?
Yes, you can, especially to begin potty training him. However, it’s imperative you keep him away from unvaccinated animals and areas where there could be urine or feces left behind by an unvaccinated animal. The best way to take him outside is just to carry him and make sure he doesn’t get too close to anything that could make him sick.