Your new puppy is landed on Earth and is raring to go. She can see the world outside the window and she wants a piece of it. So just when can a puppy go out? There’s no easy answer to this one.
Vets and experts are divided. So ultimately the decision is down to you. Let’s take a look at some of the things you need to think about before you decide. The best solution may be to take your dog out soon – but taking certain life-saving precautions when you do so.
When can puppies go outside: the vaccination issue
Your puppy needs important vaccinations from the vet in her first few weeks of life.
When she’s very young and hasn’t yet had her jabs, she is vulnerable to a number of serious dog illnesses that are surprisingly easy to pick up in the outside world. Diseases like parvovirus. A dog doesn’t need to be sick to pass a disease on to your puppy – so taking her out to meet new friends can be a major risk.
And other dogs are not the only source of such diseases. Your puppy will be super-curious about everything she smells. And if she investigates the pee or poo of a diseased dog too closely, it could all end very badly.
The vaccinations that she gets to protect her from these diseases will probably finish in her eleventh or twelfth week of life. It takes a couple of weeks after her final jab for the vaccine to take full effect. This is why you will often hear that it’s wrong to take a puppy outside the boundaries of your home and garden before 14 weeks.
When can puppies go outside: the socialisation issue
The reasons for taking your puppy out despite the risk of disease are more concerned with a long-term safety issue: socialisation.
The younger and more often a puppy gets to meet other dogs and humans, the better accustomed she will be to being with them. A well-socialised puppy is far less likely to show aggression towards or cause damage to other dogs and people when she grows up.
This can end in injury or death for the victims. But it also results in dogs being sentenced to death if they are deemed to be an ongoing risk.
When a dog responds in an unnecessarily aggressive or violent way, it is because she is afraid. That fear often comes from a lack of confidence among people and other animals.
If you wait until your dog is nearly four months old – towards the end of puberty – before introducing her to other critters, that confidence doesn’t have firm foundations from which to develop.
This isn’t your puppy’s fault. Nature has designed dogs to be wary of other critters because, in the wild, they can be a threat. That’s why it’s important to deal with your dog’s fearfulness before it becomes part of her personality.
The permanent effects of a lack of socialisation can start to take hold as early as eight or ten weeks. By thirteen weeks, she’ll switch to anxiety by default when confronted with a stranger.
So you can see why some experts say that waiting until her vaccinations have taken effect is not a good idea.
Take your puppy out with caution
There is a third way. You can consider taking your dog outside the house before 14 weeks under certain careful precautions.
She can go into your garden if you haven’t had other people’s dogs in there.
She can leave the house through the front door as long as you carry her in your arms wherever you go.
She can meet human beings from the safety of your arms, so she begins to get socialiaed to our wretched species.
And she can meet pre-approved dogs who belong to people you trust and who have definitely had their vaccinations. This way, she gets to know what her fellow hounds are all about while she’s still young enough to develop intra-canine social skills.
You still need to be super-careful about exposing your puppy to dangerous diseases if you take her out before 14 weeks. But introducing her to safe new friends from the start will make her less likely to become a danger to society herself!
Like a baby, that puppy of yours is a delicate and sensitive being. Avoid easy answers and stay in good contact with your vet to make sure she gets the start she needs.
Dog facts and tipsAll about Animal Behaviourists: Who they are and what they do
Dog facts and tipsTop 14 coolest Pug facts that everyone should know