When can puppies go outside? Letting a puppy outside for the first time can be frightening. Your pup's small and delicate frame combined with his helplessness, curiosity and penchant for getting into mischief seems like a recipe for disaster. But going outside is an important part of a puppy's development. Follow these tips on the best time to start taking your little guy outside and introducing him to the world.
Going Out in the Yard
In mild weather, even newborn puppies can be taken out to your own garden or backyard, as long as they're supervised and confined to a small, safe area. Of course, nursing puppies would likely be taken out along with their mother and the rest of the litter. Once they're big enough to start wandering around on their own and going to the bathroom without Mom's assistance, they're big enough to start going outside to be potty trained, says Christopher Carter Veterinary Surgery. Again, they should be closely supervised, and trips outside should be kept short.
If you're not raising a puppy from birth, chances are by the time you adopt your pup he'll be fully weaned and big enough to explore the yard under your watchful eye. Dogtime recommends taking your newly adopted puppy outside for potty breaks every one to two hours. By this point he's also old enough to be introduced to a collar and leash in preparation for going on walks or being taken out to public spaces.
Weather is a major factor in whether it's safe for your pup to venture outdoors. Puppies are extremely vulnerable to temperature extremes, says Dogtime. In sub-freezing temperatures, very young puppies or toy breed pups should be kept inside and allowed to do their business on a puppy training pad. Older, larger pups, especially those that are bred for cold weather, such as huskies or St. Bernards, may be able to take short trips outside in cold weather to do their business, but should return inside as soon as they're done.
Similarly, puppies are particularly susceptible to heat-related illnesses. If you're facing hot weather, keep visits outside short, and never leave your puppy outside unsupervised on a hot day.
Socializing Your Puppy
If you're wondering when can puppies go outside away from home, the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) recommends that pet guardians begin taking puppies on walks and public outings as early as one week after their first round of vaccinations, at about seven weeks old. The first three months of a puppy's life are the prime time for proper socialization, says AVSAB. Puppies who are kept from socializing until their vaccinations are complete end up with a very short window of opportunity to become socialized. Unfortunately, this often results in behavioral problems that are a much greater threat to a puppy's well-being than the small chance of contracting an illness.
If you're worried about your pup mixing with other dogs or people before he's had all his shots, Veryfetching.com recommends simply carrying and holding your pup when taking him out in public. It's important for your pup to be exposed to as many new people, animals, objects, sounds, smells and situations as possible, but it's okay to keep a little distance between him and his environment until he's fully vaccinated. In the meantime, he can explore your backyard and play with animals that you know are fully vaccinated and healthy, to his heart's content.
There's a chance your pup might get overstimulated and become overexcited during his first few trips outdoors. If this happens, simply take a break or call it a day and give him a chance to rest and calm down. But under no circumstances should his hyper behavior keep you from taking him out on a regular basis. Over-stimulation in a young puppy that's still becoming socialized is much less serious than over-stimulation in an older dog that hasn't been properly socialized. If you don't expose your pup to as many new things as possible, you could end up with an adult dog that suffers from anxiety and fear, says PetHelpful.
Spending time outside with your puppy is also a great bonding opportunity. As he is exploring his new world, knowing that you are there to take care of him and protect him will help form a strong bond. It will train him to look to you and the rest of your family when he is ready to go outside to potty or go on walks. Additionally, because puppies are still learning, this is the perfect opportunity for you to help teach him the do's and don'ts of the world. Keeping close to him in your backyard will help him understand that the rose bushes and going under the deck are off limits.
Going outside and exploring is a major factor in raising a dog that is well-mannered and at peace with his environment. As long as you follow these guidelines, your pup should be safe and sound as he learns how to live in this big, wide world.
Jean Marie Bauhaus
Jean Marie Bauhaus is a pet parent, pet blogger, and novelist from Tulsa, Oklahoma, where she usually writes under the supervision of a lapful of fur babies.