When Can Puppies Go Outside?

Dr. Ragen T.S. McGowan, PhD
By Dr. Ragen T.S. McGowan, PhD
Updated: 6/3/20242-4 minutes
A small boy hugging a smiling puppy

As a new puppy parent, you want to do everything you can to protect your pup from anything potentially harmful. But because these early weeks are important to your puppy’s development, you also want to make sure that they have every opportunity possible for experiences outside your front door, including socialization with other people and pets. These types of experiences are essential to helping your puppy grow into a confident, happy adult dog without fears and behavior problems.

Achieving a balance between your puppy’s health and safety, and their future development, can seem challenging. So you might be asking, When can I take my puppy outside?

When is it Safe for a Puppy to Go Outside? What Are the Risks?

If you are adopting a puppy from a breeder or shelter, they should be at least eight weeks old before they can come home with you. At this tender age, however, they are too young to be fully vaccinated. If they go out in public or even outside, they can be at risk of contracting potentially life-threatening diseases.

Puppies who go outside without the protection of vaccinations can be at risk for diseases like parvovirus, adenovirus, leptospirosis and distemper, which they can get from coming into contact with infected dogs or dog feces. These diseases can cause symptoms including fever, coughing and more.

Can 4-week-old puppies go outside? Four weeks of age is too young for puppies to leave their mothers.  

You may also ask, Can I take my 8-week-old puppy outside? The answer to the question of what age a puppy can go out involves not just age, but also vaccination status. You and your puppy can enjoy going outside and visiting public places together after your puppy has had their second round of puppy vaccinations. If you’re wondering, Can I take my puppy out after first vaccination? you should wait until about two weeks after that second round to give your puppy’s immune system enough time to kick in.

What Shots Do Puppies Need Before Going Outside?

During the first four to five months of your puppy’s life, you’ll be seeing a lot of your veterinarian because they will want to see your puppy every two to four weeks. Before you begin vaccinating your puppy, be sure you share all paperwork from your breeder or animal rescue group, so your veterinarian knows which, if any, vaccinations your puppy has already received.

During these veterinary visits, your puppy will receive core vaccinations for diseases including: 

In addition, depending on where you live, your veterinarian may recommend other non-core vaccinations for diseases such as Bordetella and Leptospira. To ensure that your puppy is properly protected, be sure to keep your puppy’s vaccinations on schedule

How many Parvo shots do puppies need before going outside? The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) recommends Parvovirus vaccinations starting at six-to-eight weeks of age, then every two-to-four weeks until your puppy is 16 weeks or older, followed by a booster at six months or one year of age, then vaccinations at three-year intervals. 

How long after Parvo vaccine can a puppy go outside? To allow your puppy’s immune system to fully benefit from the Parvo vaccine, you should wait about two weeks before you take puppy outside of your backyard.

If you’re thinking that a puppy can go outside without shots, you’re partially right. But beyond the supervised protection of your backyard, your puppy needs the protection that only vaccinations can provide. So don’t walk puppy before vaccinations—wait until they are fully protected before your puppies’ first walk outside.

How Can I Potty Train My Puppy if They Can’t Go Outside?

One important thing you’re likely thinking about when wondering, When can I walk my puppy outside? is potty training. Before your puppy is fully vaccinated and can be walked in public is fortunately a time when puppies can go outside at home, in a yard, under supervision.

Can my puppy go in my backyard? Yes, they can. To help reduce the risk of disease, make sure your puppy doesn’t have access to other dogs, except for those whose vaccination history you know, like other dogs in your family. This may not eliminate the risk of your puppy picking up an infectious illness, but it does lessen that risk. Plus, it provides the experience of puppies going outside, in a safe environment. 

How Can I Exercise My Puppy if They Can't Go for Walks?

Until your puppy is allowed outside on walks, you’ll need to be creative to make sure they get the exercise they need. Prior to their first puppy walk outside, engage them in play in your backyard so they can enjoy the sounds, smells and sights of the environment outside your home. Especially for a very young puppy, this world is more than large enough to give them the stimulation and exercise they need.

The world inside your home also offers plenty of space in which to entertain and exercise a spirited puppy. Play a game of fetch, teach your puppy new tricks…even a game of tug-of-war can help provide mental stimulation and an outlet for puppy energy.

How Can I Socialize My Puppy if They Can’t Go Out?

Before your puppy’s vaccinations are complete, and puppies can be outside in public safely, there are ways you can provide your puppy with the all-important socialization opportunities they need for healthy growth and development. 

Sitting with your puppy in your own front yard will give them the opportunity to watch and listen to people and other pets, and even wildlife from a distance, without threat of disease. This can give your puppy an introduction to the world beyond your home before the time when a puppy can go out in public. Additionally, if you have friends with dogs that have not just recently come from a setting with other dogs and have remained up-to-date on their vaccines and parasite prevention, you can begin socializing your puppy with them. Just be sure the older dogs are friendly with puppies.

If you’ve wondered, Can I carry my puppy outside before vaccinations are complete?—the answer is yes.  Another way to safely give your puppy the stimulation of new environments is to carry your puppy outside. Take your puppy to the park, or any other safe public place where you can both watch people and other dogs coming and going. If there is a dog-friendly outdoor café that you enjoy, a favorite farmer’s market or walking route—anywhere that will become part of your lifestyle with your puppy—carry them and start experiencing those places together.

Outdoor Safety for Puppies

Whether in your backyard or in public, always keep your puppy’s safety top of mind. Even after they are fully vaccinated, be sure to supervise them in your backyard to ensure that they don’t pick up and chew on anything they shouldn’t. While on walks, avoid letting them sniff or sample animal feces, or letting them come into contact with dogs whose vaccination history you don’t know. 

Because puppies are adorable people magnets, also be vigilant about your puppy attracting attention they might not want. The socialization process takes time, so don’t force your puppy to interact with people if they are wary. Also, if someone showing symptoms of sickness approaches your puppy, be polite but keep your distance.

The outdoor world offers so many experiences for your puppy. With your care and protection, your puppy will have a long, healthy lifetime ahead to enjoy them. 

For more expert tips on getting a puppy, explore our other getting a puppy articles.  

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