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
8
minute read
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Last Updated 5 JANUARY 2023

Can I take my puppy out straight away?

In a word, no. It’s understandable that you want to show off your bundle of joy 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 could 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 one or two weeks after your puppy has had its second vaccination. The time you’ll need to wait to make sure your puppy has immunity depends on the type of vaccines given, so it’s best to check with your vet when you take your puppy in for its jabs. They may also advise you to avoid certain higher-risk places, such as farms or rivers, for a little longer.

It’s important to wait until your puppy has full immunity because they could easily pick up nasty viruses like parvovirus and distemper. Just sniffing or licking a surface that’s been contaminated by an infected dog could 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. When you pick up your pup, be sure to ask for their vaccination records to pass on to your vet.

The second vaccination can take place between two to four weeks after their first course of jabs. 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 many 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, could 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 checking 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.

Find out more about puppy vaccinations.

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 on to a government-approved database. If your puppy goes missing, authorities could 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?

If you have a garden, you can start introducing your puppy to the great outdoors before they’ve received their second vaccinations. Playing outside in the garden will give your puppy a chance to get used to an outdoor environment, help build your pup’s confidence and get them ready for toilet training.

Before you take your puppy out into the garden, make sure it’s safe and secure. Your garden should be clean, safely enclosed with solid fencing and inaccessible to any unvaccinated dogs. Keep your pup supervised to avoid them eating anything they shouldn’t. Look out for any cat or fox poo and keep them away from plants like daffodils, tulips and crocuses that could be poisonous to dogs.

Puppies are energetic, but they’re still very young and can tire easily. Just like babies, they need plenty 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?

If you’re keen to socialise your puppy with other dogs or 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.

Before your puppy is fully immunised you can carry them around on short outings to expose them to the world and its various smells, noises and experiences. You could try holding them for a walk in the park to listen to the other dogs or carry them down your street so they can meet the neighbours. Just remember to keep puppy in your arms and off the floor. Be prepared for a lot of gushing and attention – but keep admirers at a distance; it could be overwhelming for your puppy to have strangers touching them. 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 and traumatic – especially bustling high streets and traffic noise
  • You risk over-exercising them, which could cause joint problems later.

Are vaccinations covered by my pet insurance?

Vaccinations, microchipping 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.

Did you know?

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 steps you can do take 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 objects. Create a safe obstacle course in your garden, using dustbin lids, sticks, tennis rackets, etc. This will get your puppy used to seeing new items, 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 it slowly. Over-exercising them at an early age could stress growing joints and muscles, leading to health problems later on. 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.
  • Don’t overdo it. Some people use the general guide of giving puppies one or two five-minute walks a day, for every month of their age, but no two puppies are quite the same. How much exercise your puppy needs will depend on factors like their age and breed. Look out for any signs of tiredness whenever you’re playing or walking and take little rest breaks. Avoid long hikes or taking your dog with you running or cycling until they’re fully grown.
  • Start training. Learning new skills and basic commands is a great way to stimulate your puppy’s mind and it could help tire them out too. Remember to keep training sessions short and give your pup plenty of time to rest up in between. For more mental workouts (and to keep your puppy out of mischief) you could also try puzzle feeders and feeding toys.

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