We are supported by our audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Thank you!

When you get a new puppy, it’s incredibly important to spend a lot of time socializing them. Socializing your puppy involves taking them places, and exposing them to a wide variety of people, places, and things. But is it safe when you puppy hasn’t been vaccinated yet?

The critical window of socialization in new puppies starts at around 4 weeks of age and ends by the time your puppy is 12-16 weeks old. This means there’s not a lot of time to waste when you bring your new puppy home.

However, your puppy won’t finish their vaccination series and be fully protected against common diseases until they are 16-18 weeks old. So, is it safe to take your puppy outside before they finish their shots?

Where can you take an unvaccinated puppy? In this article, we will explore when you should take your puppy outside, as well as where you can take your unvaccinated puppy to ensure good socialization while remaining safe.

Is it Safe to Take my Puppy Outside Before Vaccinations?

Using some precautions, it is safe to take your puppy outside before vaccinations have been complete. In areas of uncertainty, carry your puppy and avoid them touching ground surfaces or unknown dogs. Your backyard is considered low risk, as well as friends and family whose dogs are vaccinated.

One of the biggest risks to unvaccinated puppies is the risk of contracting Canine parvovirus. This potentially fatal disease is easy for puppies to catch, and causes intense gastrointestinal symptoms, including severe bloody diarrhea.

While keeping puppies away from unvaccinated dogs is an obvious first step to keeping your pup safe, it’s also important to keep them away from any place that may have been contaminated with parvovirus.

This virus can survive in soil, on the bottom of shoes, in kennels, and is resistant to varying temperatures and humidity levels.

Be sure to read our new eye-opening post, Is Pet Insurance Worth It: 5 shocking facts you need to know... You might be in for a shock!

This means that not only should you avoid taking your puppy around unvaccinated dogs, but you should also avoid taking your puppy any place that unvaccinated puppies or dogs may be congregating.

Dog parks, the floors of vet clinics, and training classes that don’t require vaccinations are all places where it’s not safe for your puppy to walk on the ground until they have finished their vaccinations.

But that doesn’t mean your puppy can’t go outside other places, though!

Are you interested in reading this article: Can Unvaccinated Puppies Be Around Cats? (Yes or No)

Where Can I Take My Unvaccinated Puppy?

When your puppy is not yet fully vaccinated, you will need to be extra careful with the places you take them to prevent them from contracting a severe illness, such as parvovirus.

Places that are often a great place to take your unvaccinated puppy include:

  • Your own backyard. If you haven’t had unvaccinated dogs in your yard, it’s usually a relatively safe place for your puppy to spend time outside.
  • The yards of friends and family members. Assuming that your friends and family are responsible dog owners, and have their dogs vaccinated, their yards can also be a great place to spend time socializing your puppy.

Carry Your Puppy

If you need to take your puppy somewhere that you are unsure about being safe, it’s best to carry your puppy.

Your puppy can get very important socialization while being carried at the vet clinic, around pet-friendly stores, or other places in public where you are unsure of the vaccination status of other dogs that have been in the environment.

The most important part of socialization is the exposure itself, rather than the puppy meeting people or other dogs directly. Save the exploring of surfaces and learning about how the world works for safe places.

And for exploring the rest of the world, be sure to carry your puppy around prior to their vaccination series being completed.

Puppy Vaccination Schedule

The exact schedule of puppy vaccinations is dependent upon your local area and risk factors for your individual puppy. Make sure you follow your veterinarian’s guidelines regarding the specifics of your puppy’s vaccination schedule to protect them the best you can.

Here is a guide to get an idea of what is required for your puppy’s vaccinations:

Age Vaccination
6-8 weeks Distemper, Parvovirus, Hepatitis, Parainfuenza.
Possibly includes Leptospirosis.
8-10 weeks Booster
10-12 weeks Booster
12-14 weeks Booster and Rabies
14-16 weeks Booster and Rabies if not yet administered
16-18 weeks Booster
Annual Bordetella (Canine/Kennel Cough)

In general, puppies start to receive their first set of vaccinations at 6-8 weeks of age. While typically known as the distemper vaccination, it actually protects against several diseases.

At a minimum, the distemper combination vaccination protects your puppy from canine distemper, parvovirus, hepatitis, and parainfluenza. Some distemper vaccinations also include protection against leptospirosis, which varies depending on your location and local risk factors.

After starting their vaccination series at 6-8 weeks of age, your puppy will usually need to receive an additional booster vaccination every 2-4 weeks of age until 16-18 weeks of age.

Puppies need these boosters to ensure they are protected as their mother’s antibodies wear off in their system. The maternal antibodies help to protect puppies until they are 6 weeks old, and they wear off, leaving your puppy unprotected between 6-16 weeks of age.

In order to prevent the puppy from being at risk, frequent vaccinations during this time help to ensure that the puppy becomes protected from disease.

The rabies vaccination is another “core” vaccination, meaning all dogs should have it. However, the rabies vaccination is not given at 6-8 weeks of age. Instead, dogs are first given the rabies vaccine usually around 12-16 weeks of age.

Besides rabies and distemper vaccinations, there may be others that your veterinarian recommends for your puppy such as bordetella. This will depend on your area in which you live and your puppy’s lifestyle.

Once puppy vaccinations have been completed, dogs usually only need additional vaccines once every 1-3 years.

The frequency of vaccines necessary will also vary depending on what your veterinarian recommends, based upon risks and laws in your local community.

How Old Does My Puppy Need to be to go Outside?

Puppies should begin to safely go outside as soon as possible. The first 3 months of a puppy’s life are the most important in terms of socialization. Missing out on socialization can lead to severe behavior problems in the future, including fear responses and aggression.

In fact, the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) suggests that the risks of contracting a disease such as parvovirus are minimal when proper precautions are taken. And this is a low risk compared to the risk of a behavior problem in the future due to a lack of early socialization.

Because of this risk of behavior problems, it’s vitally important to take your puppy outside instead of waiting until their shots have been completed.

In fact, the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior states that the standard of care for puppies should be to receive socialization experiences and outings before their vaccination series is complete.

In order to ensure your puppy is well protected, it’s recommended that your puppy has started their vaccination series at least one week prior to a puppy socialization class or other outings in public.

If your puppy’s breeder has started their shots at 6 weeks of age, prior to your puppy coming home, then you will be able to start socializing your puppy at 8 weeks of age when you bring them home.

It’s still important to keep your puppy up to date on their vaccinations as they age but taking the precautions in this article will help to keep your puppy healthy and safe while you spend time socializing them.

Puppy Vaccinations: Conclusion

There are obviously some considerations when determining when and where to take your puppy before their vaccinations have been completed, however, it’s also critical to take your puppy outside prior to completing their shots so you don’t miss out on their critical socialization period.

In addition to the information provided in this article and in consultation with your puppy’s veterinarian, you can ensure that your puppy stays healthy while avoiding missing out on socialization.

In short, while there are risks with taking your puppy outside before completing the vaccination series, the risks can be mitigated and missing out on proper socialization is an even greater risk in most cases.