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When Can Puppies Go Outside for the First Time?

Nicole Cosgrove

When getting a new puppy, housebreaking is often at the forefront of everyone’s mind. Few people want to be cleaning up pee for very long and want to ensure that they’re able to leave their puppy home while they work safely. But when can puppies start going outside? The short answer is when they’re around 16 weeks old.

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The Long Answer

jack russel terrier puppies
Image Credit: OlesyaNickolaeva, Shutterstock

Puppies are safe to be taken outside at 8 weeks of age when they’re removed from their mother’s watchful eye. However, they don’t receive their last round of vaccinations until they’re about 16 weeks old, so taking them outside too young can leave them vulnerable to illnesses that they’re not yet vaccinated against.

This time is also a crucial period for house training. You can take your puppy outside for pee breaks and help them get the hang of housebreaking, but you’ll have to take special precautions until they’ve received their last round of immunizations.

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Puppy Vaccination Schedule

Taking your puppy to the vet multiple times in their first year of life and then again for booster shots might seem like a hassle, but it’s the best way to protect your dog against potentially life-threatening illnesses.

Puppies will receive a series of vaccinations over their first year of life, and most of them will take place between the 8 and 16-week marks. Let’s look at the timeline and what we’re vaccinating against to get a clear picture of the risks.

1. 6-8 Weeks: Distemper & Parvovirus

Distemper is a severe disease passed between animals either through coughing and sneezing or shared water, food, or other equipment. Distemper attacks the respiratory and nervous systems and can cause vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, paralysis, and death.

Parvovirus affects all dogs but is more likely to be contracted and deadly to an unvaccinated dog or one younger than 4 months old. The virus attacks the gastrointestinal system, causing loss of appetite, vomiting, and severe, bloody diarrhea. The dehydration can kill a dog within 48-72 hours if left untreated.

There is no cure for parvovirus. The only way to beat it is to keep the dog hydrated under veterinary attention until their immune system manages to fend off the virus.


2. 10-12 Weeks: DHPP (Distemper, Hepatitis, Parainfluenza, Parvovirus)

Canine Hepatitis is unrelated to human illness. The disease attacks the kidneys, liver, spleen, lungs, and eyes. While many dogs can catch a mild form of it, a severe infection can be deadly. There is no cure for hepatitis. Once the dog has contracted it, veterinarians can only lessen the symptoms.

Canine Parainfluenza is one of the pathogens that can cause kennel cough. It infects the upper airways and is very contagious. It causes dry coughing that can sometimes be severe enough to cause bouts of retching or vomiting. While Parainfluenza is very treatable, severe and untreated cases can become deadly.


3. 16-18 weeks: DHPP, rabies

The rabies vaccine is the big one. A bite usually transmits rabies from one rabid animal to another. The disease attacks the central nervous system and causes headaches, hallucinations, paralysis, fear of water, and death. Treatment for rabies is necessary within hours, and the disease regularly causes death. By the time symptoms of rabies begin to show up, death becomes unavoidable.

Even vaccinated animals should be taken for veterinary treatment if bitten by another animal. Animals should be given veterinary attention even if the biter is also vaccinated against rabies. Transmission of the disease is highly deadly, and the best chances of survival are in animals who are vaccinated and receive immediate veterinary attention.

At 12-16 months, your puppy will get boosters for DHPP and rabies that will be given yearly to every three years, depending on the dosage. Though once they’ve got their final puppy booster, they’re ready to explore the world on foot with you!

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Taking Your Puppy Out Before Vaccination

Adorable appenzeller puppies
Image Credit: SubertT, Shutterstock

Puppies cannot fend off a lot of the diseases that we associate with animals because they are not old enough to be vaccinated. So how can you get a head start on housebreaking without putting your new family member at risk?

You’ll want to stick to places where viruses and parasites are unlikely to thrive until your puppy is vaccinated. Staying to paved areas like concrete sidewalks and lots will help protect your puppy against viruses that they can’t yet fend off on their own.

If you want to explore the great outdoors with them, you might consider getting a bike basket for your puppy to sit in while you take them around. This perch keeps them safely off the ground and out of reach for most illness transmission.

You can also visit puppy-safe dogs that you know are up to date on their vaccinations with your puppy since they won’t pose any threat to your vulnerable dog. Seeing safe animals can help with essential socialization needs while keeping your puppy safe from any pathogens that might be present at a place like a dog park.

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Conclusion

Unvaccinated puppies are vulnerable to many threats that their older siblings don’t have to worry about. So, it’s up to us to take care of them and ensure that they’re kept safe from anything which might harm them during this critical growth period. With proper precautions, you can take your young puppy out without fear that they’ll contract something from an unknown animal. Safe travel and have a good playtime!


Featured Image Credit: sima, Shutterstock

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.