Skip to Content

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 and comfort level. 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.

*If you just got a new puppy, download my free puppy training guide. Click Here

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.

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

*If you’re enjoying this article, I’d love to send you other helpful puppy tips in my weekly newsletter. Click Here

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 first found of parvo/distemper vaccinations from his breeder. That meant I still had to schedule additional boosters 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?

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.”

*If you’re enjoying this article, I’d love to send you other helpful puppy tips in my weekly newsletter. Click Here

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

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

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 Wellness Well Bites 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.

The breeder or shelter will typically give your puppy that initial round of vaccines around 6 weeks. Ask them for a record of this and bring it to your puppy’s first vet appointment.

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!

*If you’re enjoying this article, I’d love to send you other helpful puppy tips in my weekly newsletter. Click Here

My Favorite Products for Exercising Puppies:

  1. Wellness Well Bites 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 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

Other resources:

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

This post may contain affiliate links. That Mutt may earn money from the companies mentioned in this post.

Previous
Why we need dog awareness, not pitbull awareness
Next
How shelters and rescues failed when I adopted my first dog