When can puppies go outside?

If you’re the owner of a new puppy, you’re no doubt wondering when it’s safe to pop the lead on and take them out for the first time. Here’s all you need to know to get your new dog enjoying the great outdoors.

If you’re the owner of a new puppy, you’re no doubt wondering when it’s safe to pop the lead on and take them out for the first time. Here’s all you need to know to get your new dog enjoying the great outdoors.

Mubina Pirmohamed
Insurance expert
minute read
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Posted 1 JUNE 2021

Can I take my puppy out straight away? 

Welcoming a new puppy into the home is an exciting time for the whole family. It’s understandable that you want to show your bundle of joy off to friends and family, and start taking them out on adventures as soon as possible.

But puppies, much like babies, are incredibly vulnerable in their first few weeks. Taking them out too soon will expose them to a number of risks and potentially dangerous diseases. They also need time to adapt to their new home and surroundings – the big wide world can be pretty overwhelming for a new pup.

Take it slow, wait until they’re fully vaccinated, and you’ll soon be able to enjoy a happy and healthy outdoors life with your new family member.

When can I take my puppy outside? 

Vets tend to recommend not taking your puppy into public places until about a fortnight after your puppy has had its second vaccination, at around 14-16 weeks. This is because they can easily pick up nasty viruses like parvovirus and distemper. Just sniffing or licking a surface that’s been contaminated by an infected dog can pass the parvovirus on – and unvaccinated puppies are particularly at risk.

When do puppies need vaccinating?

New puppies need two vaccines – the first is usually given when they’re between six and nine weeks old. Because all puppies should stay with their mothers until they’re at least eight weeks old, reputable dog breeders and rehoming centres tend to arrange the first vaccination. The second vaccination can take place four weeks later. Be sure to ask for their vaccination records to pass on to your vet.

Most owners take their puppies home when they’re between eight and 12 weeks old, so you’ll need to set up the second vaccination as soon as you bring your dog home, if the breeder hasn’t done it already.    

If you’re planning on putting your puppy in kennels or places where they’re likely to mingle with lots of other dogs, they’ll need an extra vaccination that covers them for kennel cough. Kennel cough is a type of infectious bronchitis which, although not normally dangerous in full-grown dogs, can be more serious for puppies. 

And if you want to take your puppy abroad to the EU with you, they’ll need a rabies vaccination too. They’ll need to be at least 12 weeks old before they have this, and they’ll need to have been microchipped before they have the jab. (It’s required by law that all dogs must be microchipped by the eighth week of their life.) 

Before you go to your vet, it might be worth asking what to do when you’re waiting for your puppy’s appointment. Check whether they want you to keep your puppy away from other pets in the surgery. Ask if you’ll need to hold your dog in your arms so it doesn’t go on the floor. Your vet should be able to tell you what’s safe to do. But remember, most pets in the surgery will already be vaccinated, so your dog should be safe. 

After their initial sets of ‘puppy’ vaccines, your dog will need booster jabs each year. It’s important to make sure their vaccinations are kept up to date

Will my puppy need microchipping? 

Yes, your puppy will also need to be microchipped. This is a legal requirement and it needs to be done by the time they’re eight weeks old.

A microchip is a tiny device implanted under your puppy’s skin. It contains a unique code with your contact details which must be entered onto a Government-approved database. If your puppy goes missing, authorities can scan the microchip, find your details and reunite you both quickly.

As well as their vaccination records, you should also ask the breeder or rehoming centre for a microchip certificate before you take your puppy home.

When you eventually take your puppy out in public, they’ll also need a collar and a tag with your name and address.

Find out more about microchipping your pet 

How can I give my puppy exercise if they can’t go outside? 

Playing outside in the garden will give your puppy a chance to get used to an outdoor environment. Your garden should be clean and safely enclosed with solid fencing. A safe and secure garden area will help build your pup’s confidence and also get them ready for toilet training.

Puppies are energetic, but they’re still very young and can tire easily. Just like babies, they need lots of sleep in the first months – sometimes up to 20 hours a day.

How can my puppy start to learn to socialise if they can’t go outside?

While it’s vital to keep your puppy safe from disease in the early weeks, it’s also important that they learn to socialise as soon as possible.

Socialising will help your puppy become a happy, confident, well-rounded dog that you can confidently take out and about.

If you’re keen to socialise your puppy with other animals, you can start doing so indoors in your home as soon as they’ve had their first vaccination, provided they socialise with other vaccinated dogs. Make sure you know the vaccination status of any dogs that come into your home and also their temperament, so you know if they’ll play nicely with your pup.

It's also important that they get used to other adults and children. The more people they meet, the more friendly and sociable they’ll become. Invite friends and family to your home in the first few weeks, so your puppy can meet a variety of people. Just make sure that children especially are careful and calm, so your pup isn’t overwhelmed or gets too tired.

Once your puppy has had all the necessary jabs, you can start taking them out in public and enrolling them in puppy training classes.

What happens if I take my puppy out in public before I’m supposed to?

It’s tempting to take your new puppy for walks when you first get them home. But there are risks involved with taking your dog out too early: 

  • They may be exposed to serious diseases  
  • Everything will be new to them, which could be overwhelming – especially bustling high streets and traffic noise   
  • You risk over-exercising them, which can cause joint problems later

Are vaccinations covered by my pet insurance? 

Vaccinations, microchiping and vet fees for routine check-ups aren’t usually covered by your pet insurance. Pet insurance is there to help you if your dog suffers an injury or illness that needs treatment.  

Not vaccinating or microchipping your puppy could invalidate your pet insurance. If you take your puppy out in public places before their vaccinations are complete, you might also find you’re no longer covered if something happens and you need to make a claim.

How to prepare your puppy for going outside

There are a few things you can do to prepare your puppy for their first trip outdoors:

  • Take them into the garden. You should do this often, for toilet training, but don’t leave your puppy alone in the garden. Not only could they destroy your flower beds, they might also eat plants that are poisonous to them.  
  • Introduce them to new things. Create a safe obstacle course in your garden, using dustbin lids, sticks, tennis rackets, etc. This will get your puppy used to seeing new things, so their senses aren’t overwhelmed when they discover them out in public.  
  • Gradually increase walks. Once your puppy’s allowed outside, you should continue to take things slowly. Over-exercising them at an early age could stress growing joints and muscles, leading to health problems later on. It’s recommended that puppies are given five minutes of exercise for every month of their age. 
  • It’s recommended that puppies are given one or two, five-minute walks a day, per month of age, once they’re allowed outside. So, for example, at the age of four months, they could be taken for four, 5-minute walks a day (a total of 20 minutes). A 10-minute walk three times a day is enough for most dogs under the age of six months. Short walks are the perfect start to training your puppy to walk on a lead. After that, you can start to gradually increase how far you go.

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