If you type into Google ‘what are the most googled questions’ (other search engines are available), you are presented with lists that might just make you question the thought processes of some of the people with whom you share this planet. The one question that is probably googled first and more than once by every new dog owner is ‘when can I (a bristling proud dog parent) take my new puppy (an increasingly inquisitive bundle of unbridled energy) out? Is it now (I want it to be now)?’ This question of when owners can start taking the new puppy out are often the first words to greet vets, sometimes even before the exchange of pleasantries.

If you have found yourself here reading this then congratulations on the new addition to the family. Here’s hoping it has been plain sailing thus far. Taking a puppy out is more than just going for a walk and showing them to friends, it also plays a crucial role in ‘socialisation’.

Why is socialisation important?

Socialisation is the process of introducing your puppy to new sights, sounds and experiences. The first few weeks and months of your puppy’s life are crucial for learning new skills and forming life-long habits. A puppy’s socialisation period lasts up to 16 weeks of age, meaning it is crucial to expose them to as many new experiences as possible prior to this age. 

Skills such as toilet training and new experiences including travelling in the car, meeting new people and hearing loud noises such as traffic are important for creating a relaxed and sociable dog.

Why can’t we go for a walk straight away?

Dogs can pick up potentially life-threatening diseases including parvovirus and distemper from other dogs. The viruses can be spread by direct contact with infected dogs, but importantly can also be present on surfaces where an infected dog has been. For example, parvovirus can survive for a year or more on the ground where an infected dog has been to the toilet, meaning that anywhere that other dogs have access can pose a risk to your unvaccinated puppy.

Importantly, we are able to vaccinate puppies to protect them against a number of these diseases. But this means that until your puppy is fully covered by its vaccinations, it is at risk of picking up infections while on walks.

Your puppy can start going for walks once it is fully covered by its primary vaccination course, which is usually 1-2 weeks after their second vaccination. The timing varies depending on the vaccine brand, so check with your vet before you start going to the park.

So, what can we do?

The good news is that your puppy does not need to remain inside the house during this time. As long as you have a secure garden that other unvaccinated dogs do not have access to, you can allow your puppy out into the garden straight away. Great news, because it means you can start toilet training outside immediately. 

However, be careful if you have problems with rats or stagnant water in your garden, as your puppy will not be protected against Leptospirosis. This is spread by rats/rodent urine, so can carry a risk until fully immunised.

While you can’t allow your unvaccinated puppy to go for walks, you can take them out in the car or carry them on day trips, exposing them to the outdoor world without risking their health. Although you may want to check out our post on socialising in a socially distanced world.

Time to stop googling, it is not long now before your need to walk them at least twice daily come sun, rain, blizzard or hurricane becomes the norm. Always remember they will love you for it!

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