The outdoors is an exciting world for a pup.
Everything must be sniffed, and everyone must be greeted.
For them, it all sounds rather good. But we understand how parenthood can make you raise new questions you’d never thought of before. At the same time, things that once seemed mundane (like ducks or cars) now seem dodgy – with a good potential to make a dog’s dinner out of a simple walk.
But we’re here to help you glide safely outside for the first time. We’ve also thought ahead about your questions, and explained further the risks and benefits of going outdoors.
It’s only a matter of time until a walk to the park feels like a doddle.
When can your new puppy go outside safely?
Puppies are safe to go outside as soon as they are fully vaccinated with the core vaccines. You’ll need to wait until they are 12 to 14 weeks old to get all four which include:
- Canine Parvovirus
- Canine Distemper
But if they’ve not been vaccinated yet, it’s often still safe to go outside in the following scenarios:
- Your own garden (if there aren’t many visiting foxes or wildlife)
- A friend’s house
- A Veterinarian’s office
- If carried in your arms or a puppy bag
- In Puppy Socialisation or Puppy Training classes
Just to make it clear, your puppy is safe to go outside as long as there’s no risk of them being exposed to nasty viruses or diseases. If that’s that’s out the picture, you’re all set.
How soon should I take my puppy outside?
The sooner, the better. Taking your puppy outside during the first weeks is one of the best things you can do for their emotional development.
The idea is to get a head start for introducing your pup to the many surprises life can bring.
Imagine who you’d be if you had grown up prepared for people pushing into queues! Maybe there’s a chance you wouldn’t get so frustrated.
What can I do to prepare my puppy to go outside?
As you may know from living so many years on this planet, there are many things to see outside. Not only that, but learning about how to live in it is sometimes a mystery, even for us.
Here are three sets of exercises you can try to prepare your puppy for life outside.
Exercise 1. Watching the world go by
This exercise is all about building positive associations with the outside world. Big postboxes are good places for a wee, not scary monsters. No need to rush things! The goal is to boost their confidence with everything that lives outside.
Before you start:
- Pick a time when there are people around, but not so busy. Avoid going for a place that looks like Piccadilly Circus on a Friday night.
- Have a good handful of treats in your pocket
- Carry your puppy to the end of your garden or drive, or just outside your building if you live in a flat. Let them see what’s going on outside.
- Let them watch the world go by at a safe distance for 10 minutes. This might be brightly dressed joggers, some of the many cocker spaniels living in England, and a speedy red Mini; among many others.
- Give your puppy the occasional treat around every minute or so, particularly if something new has gone past like a loud double-decker bus. This will teach your puppy that the outside world is a good place.
- If your puppy seems worried by something, move further away rather than ‘showing them that it’s safe’ because it will just be overwhelming, and make them more fearful, not less!
- Unless they’re fully vaccinated, remember to keep your puppy in your arms! It’s not safe for them to be on the ground just yet.
- Try to repeat this exercise every day to ensure they continue having more positive outside experiences.
Exercise 2: ‘What’s under my feet’
You’ve probably already experienced walking on unsteady ground which can be difficult! For this exercise, the objective is to teach them to feel confident on different surfaces outside of your home.
Before you start
- Make sure the surfaces you use for this exercise are safe – nothing slippery or wobbly.
- Do this exercise in the room that your puppy spends most of their time in, it will help set a safe environment.
- Set up three different surfaces on the floor such as A towel, scrunched up paper, a square of AstroTurf, a large piece of cardboard, or a rubber doormat.
- Let your puppy explore them in any way they choose; 15 minutes should be all right. Sniffing, walking, or having a go is a great way to let them build confidence in front of them too. It will also be highly entertaining for you, so enjoy the show!
Don’t worry if your puppy takes a long time to explore. As long as you stay close to them, it will help make them feel more confident and safe.
PRO TIP: Try and aim for three new surfaces per week. This will help build their confidence in a variety of situations. Don’t get too excited now, no need to dig pieces of gravel up or bring piles of sand inside your home. They’ll get to meet those soon enough.
Exercise 3: Meeting people you know
Just like Auntie Pat looked quite scary to you as a young lad with her uneven red lipstick and loud kitten heels, your puppy may be frightened of her too. What’s important is that you show them her good heart; they’ll learn to love her – Just like you eventually did. Obviously.
The goal of this exercise is for your puppy to learn to be social and interact with unknown people, so letting them explore at their own pace is very important.
Before you start
- Set a date for friends or family to come and meet your puppy
- If they have dogs, make sure you know their vaccination status so that your puppy is kept safe. And no, it’s not awkward to ask.
- Remember the last time you were the only newbie at a party? Let’s keep them from experiencing such terror. Invite visitors to come to your house one or two at a time to avoid overwhelming them.
- We know it’s excruciatingly tempting, but make sure everyone knows not to grab, or hug your puppy. It’s way better to ask your visitors to sit on the floor and allow your puppy to come to them.
- Let your puppy sniff them in their own time.
- When you can see your puppy being happy and confident with your guest (you can tell by their tail helicoptering away), you can now ask if they’d like to stroke them.
- Congratulate your guest for keeping their hands to themselves all this time, and let them play a gentle game together. Have treats ready to reward them! (We mean the puppy. But we sure think having a couple of human treats around such as tea and cake would make your guest happy too)
- Only invite people you can trust to follow your instructions. Also an interesting introspective exercise.
- If you have a regular postal or delivery worker, you can ask them to do the same. At least give your puppy a treat when the mail comes!
- Invite as many people as possible to come over in the next few weeks to make sure your puppy is happy meeting all kinds of different people. This means people of all genders, older people, people in wheelchairs, burly builders in high viz, people on bikes or wearing hats and headscarves.
The key is variety so that they learn not to be worried about people different to ‘their’ people. Funny how puppy training could be so easily applied to humans too.
How to prepare your puppy to meet other dogs
How lovely are dog friendships?
Prepare your puppy to meet other dogs by:
- ‘Watching the world go by’ like in the exercise above to allow your puppy to see other dogs outside.
- Schedule play dates with your friends’ dogs – pick the ones you know are friendly and vaccinated.
- Take your puppy to well-run puppy classes – those where they teach Life Skills and allow supervised off-lead play are ones you’ll get the most out of.
How to teach your puppy to explore the garden
Your own garden is probably the safest space to explore the outside world for the first time. But make sure your collection of poisonous plants are out of reach.
Taking their time to touch, smell and have a first wee on fresh grass will feel safe and exciting to them. Especially thanks to you and your mastered rewarding skills.
Checklist for taking your puppy outside for the first time
- Make a plan of where you’re going on your outing
- Have your puppy in their carrier or bag. Believe us, puppies get heavy quite quickly so you’ll probably want to have one since it’s likely they’ll tire easily. Don’t worry, you’ll look fab.
- Pack treats – the Golden Rule of rewarding can’t be done without them. Food is useful for building positive associations, just like mince pies and Christmas.
- Stay away from main roads on this first trip – nobody likes to get startled by raging traffic. Let’s start off slow and steady – small parks or boring residential areas are good places.
- Sit on a bench and allow your puppy to watch, observe and enjoy the treats you’ll reward them with every so often.
- As for yourself, remain calm and confident. Positive vibes are a real thing, let that rub off on your puppy!
FAQ about puppies going outside for the first time
If you can make sure they don’t come into contact with areas where unvaccinated dogs or wild animals may have been around, then yes.
This probably means you’ll have to carry them in your arms so that they don’t touch the floor or so that you can run off in case excited park-goers refuse to let you go without a good selfie of your puppy.
It’s way too early to be catching diseases or fame. Catching rubber balls in your garden will do for now.
But we don’t want to discourage you completely from introducing your puppy to the outside before they’re fully vaccinated.
Jokes aside, the The American Veterinary Society (AVSAB) says that the benefits that come with socialising your puppy with the outdoors (including friendlier and better integrated adult dogs) outweigh the risks of disease. People showing admiration for your dog aren’t that bad, really.
A puppy should be fully vaccinated before you take them out for walks or they go on the floor outside or in the park.
These core puppy vaccines are:
– Canine Parvovirus
– Canine Distemper
Don’t worry about knowing what they’re for. We’re sure your vet will be happy to explain them all. Ask about the kennel cough vaccine, your puppy might be required to have one for their doggy daycare or petsitter.
The date your puppy can go outside after vaccinations will vary depending on the vaccine maker. Make sure you ask your vet or call them for advice for your individual puppy.
In our experience, it usually doesn’t take more than two weeks after the second round of vaccinations.
Canine Parvovirus (or Parvo, depending on your slang skills) is the biggest risk to puppies’ health when taking your puppy out before they are fully vaccinated.
To avoid running into Parvo, follow these simple instructions:
– Don’t put your puppy on the ground where other dogs may have toileted, or in areas where wildlife such as foxes may have wandered through.
– Only allow your puppy to play with vaccinated (and friendly) dogs.
– Consider taking them to a well-run puppy class. CAPBT or APDT are our best recommendations; they offer great socialisation classes with other puppies.
– Don’t be afraid to say yes to puppy carriers. They combine the best of all worlds: puppy can still go outside without touching the floor, and you won’t get your arms sore.
That’s it: Have a pup-tastic day! ♥️