Puppy vaccinations – when to walk

I personally believe it’s OK to walk your puppy before he’s had his vaccinations.

Exercising a puppy, socializing a puppy and training a puppy to go potty outside are all very important.

But some new puppy owners hold back on one or all of these in order to keep the puppy “safe” until he’s had all his puppy vaccinations. (Usually around 4 months old.)

I get a lot of comments and emails along the lines of, “I have to use puppy pads because I can’t take my puppy outside for another two months.”

Or, “How can I exercise my puppy? He’s barking all day, but my vet said to keep him indoors for three more weeks.”

OK … yikes.

I’m not sure if vets are truly telling people to keep their puppies indoors at all times or if people are misunderstanding the advice.

When can I walk my puppy after vaccinations? English bull dog puppy

That approach is extreme. I can’t imagine isolating a healthy puppy.

Of course there are real risks of disease, but there are also risks to not socializing and exercising a puppy.

See my post: Am I doing everything wrong with my puppy?

Puppies and vaccinations – How do you find the right balance?

A big thank you to blog reader Sean for his thoughtful comment on this post that got me thinking about this topic. He wrote:

“… Parvo and lepto and other illnesses are serious, but there are definitely ways to balance risks in a way that lets puppies experience more of the world …”

Well said. If you read a bit further, I list tips on how you can safely socialize your puppy before he’s had his vaccinations.

Each dog owner must find a realistic balance. The right balance will be different for each of us, depending on where we live, the age of the puppy and our general views on vaccinations.

Walk a puppy before all his shots

When can I walk my puppy after vaccinations?

My rule of thumb here is to use common sense. Just because I chose to walk my puppy right away doesn’t mean that is the right choice for you. Everyone’s situation is a little different. I recommend talking with a vet you trust as well as your puppy’s breeder or shelter/rescue and see what their opinions are.

When I got my 8-week-old weimaraner puppy, he’d had his initial vaccinations from his breeder. That meant I still had to schedule additional vaccinations through our vet over the next few weeks.

During that time, I walked my puppy on the sidewalks in our neighborhood. I did not take him to heavily dog-busy places such as the dog park, the dog beach or Petco. Taking him outside for potty training and walks was worth the tiny risk of my puppy getting sick.

I live in a middle-class neighborhood in San Diego County where nearly everyone vaccinates their dogs and spays and neuters their dogs. Of course, there is still a chance my puppy could’ve gotten sick, but I was willing to take that risk and walk him regularly. (Read on for two more examples from other puppy owners.)

Puppy vaccinations, when to walk?

Since I took my puppy outside, he had an easy time with potty training. My puppy was better behaved because he had enough exercise. He also had a chance to start socializing around different people, noises, sights and sounds in the neighborhood. Socialization is so important for a powerful breed like a weim.

To be honest, I don’t know how I would’ve managed my high-energy puppy had I not been able to walk him. He was hyper enough even with walks.

Yes, there are risks that your puppy could contact diseases such as parvo if you take him for walks. However, these risks are lower in some areas and pretty much non-existent in others.

Also see my post: How far can I walk my puppy?

Zeus the English bulldog puppy - When can I walk my puppy after vaccinations?

Tips on how to socialize your puppy before he’s had all vaccinations

I’ve made my opinion on this topic pretty clear, but I want to share some ideas from other puppy owners. I have two examples for you below.

In the comments section, there are also some good examples for your consideration. The consensus is most people do walk their puppies or start taking them to safe areas like friends’ homes with vaccinated dogs for socialization. However, there are also examples in the comments of puppies getting sick.

And by all means, of course you can take your puppy out into your own yard!

Another great resource is behaviorist Dr. Patricia McConnell’s book, “The Puppy Primer.”

Here are two examples from other puppy owners. These will help you decide if you should walk your puppy before he’s had his vaccinations:

1. Invite your friends over for puppy play dates.

Blogger Kimberly Gauthier recently raised two puppies – littermates Scout and Zoey, pictured below at 6 months old. I wanted to hear how she found the right balance. (Beautiful dogs, right?)

Zoey and Scout, heeler mix puppies - When can I walk my puppy after vaccinations?

“I was really worried about canine parvo virus with our puppies, so dog parks, which have a host of risks, were out of the question,” Gauthier said.

One thing she did to help socialize her puppies was to invite friends over.

“No one can pass up an opportunity to spend time with puppies,” she said. “Everyone stayed for at least an hour just basking in puppy breath.”

She also signed the pups up for a training and socialization class once they’d had the required vaccinations. And, she took them to a “puppy play hour” on Sundays.

“This helped prepare them for pack walks,” Gauthier said. “We go on those with a friend with a puppy a few times a month and once a week with another friend who has two dogs.”

2. Visit places where there are not a lot of dogs.

Colby Morita is a volunteer puppy raiser for groups such as Guide Dogs of America and Canine Support Teams. He writes about his experience on his blog here, and you may remember my interview with him on how to be a guide dog puppy raiser.

When Morita raises a guide dog puppy, he said he brings the puppy home at 7-8 weeks of age and attends guide dog puppy kindergarten right away.

Adelle the guide dog puppy in training

It’s important to socialize the puppies while also being cautious of infectious diseases like parvo, he said. Avoid places frequented by unknown dogs, such as dog parks and pet stores, until the puppies have had their final series of vaccinations around 16 weeks.

He said he gets emails every day about this subject.

“My main thought is there is definitely increased risk of your puppy dying from infectious disease if you take him out of the house,” he said. “But there is far greater risk of your puppy ultimately getting euthanized because of behavior problems.”

He suggested some ways to socialize pups such as attending puppy classes, visiting friends’ homes, taking car rides and exposing the pups to different sounds and surfaces.

“The list could go on and on,” he said. “When we first got Linus – not a guide dog pup – we grabbed a bag full of treats, a mat, and brought him outside the post office and asked people to give him a treat.”

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Should you walk your puppy before he's had his vaccinations?

Here are more tips for walking a puppy before he’s had his vaccinations

I also thought of these ideas:

  • Take your puppy for walks around the neighborhood. Avoid walking in busy places like dog beaches until she’s fully vaccinated.
  • Set up play dates with vaccinated, adult dogs that are tolerant of puppies. Invite them over, or take your puppy there.
  • Safely secure your puppy in the car, and take her for rides to get her used to the car. I like this dog seatbelt from Mighty Paw.
  • Ask pet-obsessed friends if you can bring your puppy over for a half-hour or so.
  • Get your puppy used to different things at home such as nail trims, having a bath & the sound of the vacuum. Also, the sound of your kid’s band instrument, seeing family members dressed in big hats and coats, etc.

For more on socialization:

Puppy socialization tips

Common socialization mistakes

So how about the rest of you?

Have you recently raised a puppy? How did you find the right balance of when to walk your puppy?

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