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When Can My Puppy Go Outside?


After you bring home a new puppy it is natural to want to begin the socialization process immediately by having your puppy go outside for long walks or to the dog park.  However, many veterinarians and canine professionals recommend waiting until your pet is 4 – 5 months old before doing so.

Your Puppy’s Immune System
While your puppy is rapidly growing and developing during the first few months of age its immune system is not fully developed.  During this time, your pet will be especially vulnerable to diseases such as Parvo and Distemper, both of which have low survival rates among puppies.  For this reason, many veterinarians recommend that your dog not be introduced to other animals or spend too much time outdoors until 1 – 2 weeks after the puppy’s final vaccination booster, at approximately 16 – 18 weeks of age.

Safe Socialization
However, not going outdoors or visiting with pets until your puppy is older is not good for your dog’s socialization.  In order for your pet to develop into a well-rounded, well-behaved individual, he or she should be exposed to as many new animals, experiences, sights, sounds, and smells as possible, preferably from a very young age.  Here are tips for safe socialization:

Interact with “Safe” Dogs
Your puppy can only become infected with dangerous viruses if he or she comes into contact with a dog that is carrying the disease.  However, by interacting with dogs that you know to be fully vaccinated you can essentially eliminate the risk that your puppy will become infected.  Set up indoor play dates with the dogs of friends or family members, ones that you know for certain have received the proper immunizations.

Be Vigilant Outdoors
Your puppy should know what it is like to feel grass beneath its feet and sun on its back.  However, your puppy will also want to sample things like dirt, bark, and feces that are on the ground.  Watch to ensure your dog does not eat anything that it finds outside, particularly the feces of other dogs or animals.

Socialize with Humans, Children, and other Species
Socialization is about more than simply interacting with other dogs, it is also about interacting with other human and non-canine species as well.  During the first few months of your dog’s life you should socialize him or her to humans as much as possible, particularly children.  If you want your dog to get along well with other animals, such as cats and rabbits, now is a good time to do so.  Just be sure your dog doesn’t eat any animal droppings.

Puppy Preschool:  What are the Risks?
Puppy preschool is a great way for young dogs to begin the socialization process in a safe environment.  However, pet owners are often concerned about the risks because puppy preschool is for dogs under 16 weeks of age.  While there are risks in exposing your pet to unvaccinated animals, the chance of a puppy contracting a disease from another puppy is very low.  Therefore, many veterinarians recommend this practice.

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Anna Weber

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