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Should You Walk Your Puppy Before He’s Had His Vaccinations?

Should You Walk Your Puppy Before He’s Had His Vaccinations?

Puppy vaccinations – when to walk

I personally believe it’s OK to walk your puppy before he’s had his vaccinations. Use common sense and keep the walks to your own yard and neighborhood. Avoid areas with a lot of dog traffic such as dog parks and dog beaches.

Exercising a puppy, socializing a puppy and potty training a puppy are all very important. But some new puppy owners hold back on walks 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. Yes, it’s good to be a bit cautious. But you do not have to totally isolate your puppy, either.

Walk a puppy before all his shots

There are real risks of diseases such as parvo and distemper, and that is why some vets recommend keeping your puppy indoors. But there are also risks to not socializing and exercising a puppy. Many young and healthy dogs are surrendered to shelters every year due to a lack of exercise, socialization and training.

So … you have to weigh the pros and cons for your own area. Parvo is a more serious risk in some areas and a very low risk in other areas. Your dog’s vet will be able to give you the best advice for your area. You could also call another vet for a 2nd opinion and check with local animal shelters or animal control.

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

We all have to make the best decision for our own puppy. So just because I am comfortable walking a puppy in my own neighborhood, that doesn’t mean it’s the right decision for you.

A reader of my blog left a comment on this article 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. Later on in this article, I list tips on how you can safely socialize and exercise 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.

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Can I walk my puppy before she's had her shots?

When can I walk my puppy after vaccinations?

My rule of thumb here is to use common sense. I recommend talking with a vet you trust as well as your puppy’s breeder or shelter/rescue and see what their opinions are. Also talk with dog owners in your area who you trust. If there is a dog training club in your area, they might also have some suggestions.

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 would never consider keeping him indoors 100%.

But I lived in a middle-class neighborhood in San Diego County where nearly everyone vaccinated their dogs and spayed or neutered their dogs. Of course, there was 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?

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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 from parvo.

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
  • 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 use the 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.
  • Use lots of treats to make new experiences positive for your puppy. My favorite are the Zuke’s minis training treats

For more on puppy socialization:

Puppy vaccination schedule

Puppies in the United States are typically vaccinated against:

  • parvovirus
  • distemper
  • rabies

Every region is a bit different and not all vaccines are the same, so talk with your own vet and your puppies breeder or rescue for the best plan for your own puppy.

I live in Montana, and our vet vaccinates all puppies against the three diseases I mentioned above. These are the most serious diseases and can cause severe illness or death.

Parvo and distemper vaccinations for puppies

Our vet gives parvo and distemper vaccines together in a combo starting when a puppy is 6 weeks old and again every 3 weeks until the puppy is 16 weeks old. The dog will get a booster one year later and then a vaccine every 3 years.

Rabies vaccination for puppies

Our vet gives puppies the rabies vaccine at 14-16 weeks. Then the dog will get a booster one year later. After that, it’s every 3 years.

Optional vaccines for puppies

Bordetella (kennel cough) is an optional vaccine and there are several other optional vaccines such as Lyme disease, Leptospirosis and a rattlesnake vaccine. Depending on where you live and what you do with your puppy, you may want to consider these vaccines. Bordetella is typically required if you want to board your puppy or take your puppy to dog daycare, for example.

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?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

My Favorite Products for Exercising Puppies:

  1. Zuke’s Minis training treats
    If you have them on hand when you’re out and about, you can always reward your puppy for good behavior. These treats are small, soft and most puppies love them!
  2. Long training leash
    This allows you to exercise your puppy in safe environments, even if you don’t have a fenced yard. Your puppy can run, play, sniff and stretch but you don’t have to worry about going to a dog park or other busy area.
  3. Kong Flier Fetch Toy
    The Kong Flier Frisbee is a durable toy that’s soft on the puppy’s mouth. It’s great for playing fetch in the yard and getting in some much-needed activity!
When can I walk my puppy after vaccinations? English bull dog puppy

Related articles:

If your specific problem was not addressed here, you may be interested in our personal one-on-one dog training. Ask us dog training questions by email and we’ll give you specific ideas for your exact situation. Just $9.99/mo (cancel anytime). Learn more here or email Lindsay@ThatMutt.com.

Lindsay Stordahl is the founder of That Mutt. She writes about dog training and behavior, healthy raw food for pets and running with dogs.

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Jennifer

Thursday 3rd of September 2020

I am late to this old post but I love it. I looked up this issue because my neighbors got a Rhodesian Ridgeback and refused to take her outside even for a quick pee in the garden outside the door until she was five months old! I couldn’t believe it. A dog like that. What a disaster waiting to happen.

I have a Canaan dog, another high-energy, reserved breed. I did not wait to take her out. We stayed right in front of our home and walked within a block in either direction. I took her everywhere in the car, on all my errands. I took her to visit friends at their homes. I walked her up and down the walk for hours in front of strip malls so that she could get used to all types of people coming and going and sliding doors opening suddenly. I did not take her to dog parks. I introduced her to vaccinated dogs one-on-one.

When people think of socialization, they think of introducing them to other dogs. To me, what is important is making young dogs comfortable with constantly experiencing sudden or unusual new people and situations. If you wait until they are four months old to do that, you are losing incredibly valuable time while they are still soft and trainable. What a terrible mistake.

Charlie

Sunday 25th of February 2018

I appreciate these perspectives. My vet was telling me backyard only for the first 6 months (Buck the weim pup was 7 weeks at the time). About a week after that I did a bit of my own research - including finding this website - and decided to take take a day off work so I could bring him to a fairly secluded beach and to a dog friendly restaurant at a non-busy time. Buck, my son and I ate on the outdoor patio and he met probably 15 people that day and no dogs. Just what I was hoping for. We'll do the dog meetings in the controlled environment of the puppy socialization classes. After reading some more here I've begun extending his walks in the hood out to about 20 minutes. Really good for him - helps him get his energy out (a tired weim is a good weim!). I too estimate that my neighborhood is very low risk. I might take a different path if I felt differently about the neighborhood pooches.

After reading this blog and talking with friends who have dogs it seems to me that the vets advice is to be tempered in about the same way you would temper your physician's advice if he was counseling you on the 10 cigars a year you might smoke, or taking up skydiving, or suchlike. Risk-averse group, I suppose.

I'll be very patient about getting young Buck out there jogging but very much looking forward to that - he may well leave me in the dust with his energy level!

Cheryl Hoglund

Thursday 11th of January 2018

I will be getting a 9 week old puppy next weekend. I have two fenced yards, one being a pea gravel filled dog run. Also a large backyard. I have two adult dogs, one is almost 12yr old Collie and the other is a 4 yr old Lab mix. I assumed I would let her potty in the dog run and come in the house.

chris

Thursday 11th of January 2018

I have had numerous puppies that were not vaccinated for anything (the only thing we vaccinate for is rabies which is required by law) and they were out of the house since day one. Never had a sick dog and never had a dog catch anything. We have gone to pet stores and out in public places, places where coyotes live (the woods) and they have all lived long healthy lives. If you do your research, the body builds up its own immunities to diseases by being exposed to them (small quantities at a time such as being out in public). Most cases of dogs catching parvo (and this is just in my research) is from dogs that were vaccinated against it. That right there told me to stay away from the vaccine. And if you research on the net, there are alternatives besides the thousands of dollars the vet charges you to get your dog through parvo (parvaid, hydration with pedilyte, homeopathy, etc).

Johnna

Saturday 9th of December 2017

I am a new puppy owner of a 13 week old shihtzu/lab. He received his second set of shots today and after reading the comments in this section, I'm a bit nervous about my past behaviors. I live in NYC and usually took my puppy outside to potty twice a day. The potty session usually lasts for about 5-10 mins. After reading this article, I kind of want to keep him inside until after his third round of shots, which will be in the first week of Jan. My only fear is house training, he does not take to the wee-wee pad, so going outdoors has decreased the amount of poop and per I clean up daily.

lauren

Sunday 4th of August 2019

I am using Fresh Patch innmy apartment for my puppy until he has had all his shots. I also live in the city. Fresh Patch is hydroponically grown grass the dog uses to pee on. Lasts about 3-4 weeks. No smell. Depending on the size patch you get, it stays either in a tray or box. Read the reviews on the website too. I love it. So easy and my pup loves it too.

https://www.freshpatch.com/?gclid=Cj0KCQjwhJrqBRDZARIsALhp1WTEXWGUGgfp5nMSsbgVJHy0Kk_6X722atonXc8L1ywMJA7mSLnAGLkaAuv_EALw_wcB