Getting a new puppy can be a wonderful and exciting time, but it can also be full of questions and concerns. Making sure that your puppy is healthy is a top priority for any dog owner, and vaccinations are a key means towards that end. How soon after their shots can a new puppy go out for walks and socialization?
Technically, you should wait at least 5-7 days after the last round of vaccinations before allowing your puppy to go out into public so they won’t contract serious diseases like distemper or parvovirus. But practically speaking, in order to promote healthy socialization, puppies can be allowed to venture out before that if certain safeguards are taken.
We commonly get asked how long after at the 2nd puppy vaccination can they go out. Before answering that more specifically, let’s look at why we vaccinate puppies, how puppy vaccines work, some of the diseases they prevent, and typical vaccine schedules. Then we’ll talk about what are the safest and most beneficial ways to allow your dog out into public spaces.
Bringing a New Puppy Home
New dog parents may have a lot of questions about how to give their puppy the best possible start in life, just as one wants the best for a new baby. This involves a lot of factors such as timely vaccinations, proper socialization, a healthy diet, and housetraining. It can seem like a lot to wrap your head around, but any experienced owner will tell you that it gets easier with time.
Another important resource to take advantage of during the initial period of adjustment, both for you and your pup, is your vet. It’s extremely important to have a good vet on your side during those times when you’re overwhelmed and have to ask somebody what to do with your pup. Unfortunately, just taking the word of a family member or friend who has pets isn’t good enough.
Why Are Vaccinations Important for Puppies?
There are numerous potentially deadly diseases that can infect dogs. Some of these are parvovirus, canine distemper, parainfluenza, and more. We’ll be going into more detail about these later, but these can be transmitted in many ways.
Vaccinations are the most powerful tool you can employ to ensure that your puppy doesn’t get infected with diseases that can cause long-term damage and even death. Diseases like rabies can even be transmitted from dogs to people, meaning that vaccinations can help keep you and your family safe too.
If properly done, vaccinations will keep your dog from contracting any diseases that they could receive from other animals or infected matter they may come into contact with.
When Are Puppies Vaccinated?
Generally, puppies receive three sets of vaccinations, but sometimes vets will recommend four sets. They are given in 3-4 week intervals. The first set is often arranged by the puppy’s breeder or shelter before they are placed in their permanent home. The next two are generally the responsibility of the new puppy’s owner or whomever is caring for the puppy at the time they are eligible, be it a shelter, breeder, etc.
First Set of Puppy Vaccinations
The first set of vaccinations is usually given at 6-8 weeks. It is a combination vaccine called DHPP and includes immunization against distemper, adenovirus/hepatitis, parainfluenza, and parvovirus.
Second Set of Puppy Vaccinations
The second set of vaccinations is given at 9-12 weeks and is another dose of DHPP.
Third Set of Puppy Vaccinations
At 14-16 weeks, the final puppy vaccinations are given. These are comprised of another DHPP vaccine as well as a rabies immunization (although the rabies vaccine is sometimes given earlier depending on local laws).
The DHPP combination vaccine includes several “core” (essential) immunizations:
Canine Distemper Vaccine
Canine distemper is a virus that is transmitted dog to dog through urine, blood, or saliva. It affects the dog’s respiratory, gastrointestinal, and central nervous systems. Initial symptoms include coughing, sneezing, and mucus discharge from the eyes and nose. Vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and lethargy are other symptoms that may occur.
Canine Andenovirus / Canine Hepatitis
Canine adenovirus is a virus that causes respiratory infections in addition to causing infection canine hepatitis. It is contagious and can be transmitted through a dog’s saliva or feces.
Infectious canine hepatitis (ICH) is a contagious disease that affects the liver and can be fatal in a third of dogs who contract it. And dogs that do live through it can still transmit the virus through their urine for up to nine months.
ICH has become relatively uncommon in areas where dogs are regularly immunized, but outbreaks in the wild among foxes, wolves, coyotes, and other animals can spread to dogs, reinforcing the need for vaccinating canines.
Canine parainfluenza is a highly contagious virus that, like several other viruses, causes kennel cough. It affects the respiratory system and outbreaks commonly occur in environments where several dogs are kept in close proximity to each other, such as boarding kennels and doggie daycare facilities. Although it has similar symptoms to canine influenza, the viruses are not related.
Parvovirus is one of the most insidious diseases your dog can come into contact with. This killer virus causes a dog’s digestive system to break down and make the dog unable to process food. What makes parvovirus especially dangerous to new puppies is that it can live and infect for up to a year, even in the soil! Any infected dogs that have been in your yard or surrounding areas where you’ll walk your pooch will endanger your dog before they’ve been vaccinated.
Additional Non-Core Puppy Vaccinations
Depending on the geographical area and dog’s environment, veterinarians may recommend additional “non-core” vaccinations which are given at the same time as the “core” vaccines. These include:
The Leptospirosis vaccine immunizes your dog from a bacterial disease that is transmitted in urine from other animals including as squirrels, rats, raccoons, and possums. Your dog may come into contact with it in bodies of water like puddles or other standing water, or from cats that have been in contact with the animals carrying the virus.
Depending on the strain, leptospirosis can be transmitted to humans, so the consequences of not vaccinating your dog can be even more significant.
Bordetella, commonly known as “kennel cough”, is a bacterium associated with respiratory disease in dogs. One of the symptoms is a harsh cough, which gives it its name. It is very contagious and easily transmitted between dogs.
The bordetella vaccine is usually required for a dog to travel on a plane, go to a groomer, or enter a boarding or dog daycare facility. They often require proof of vaccine administration every six months, but there is no evidence showing that the vaccine does not remain effective for a full year. It can be administered in injection, tablet, or intranasal form.
Lyme Disease Vaccine
The Lyme disease (Borrelia burgdorferi) vaccine immunizes dogs from certain ticks which carry this disease. If you live in an area where the disease is prevalent or plan to visit such a place, your vet will probably recommend this vaccine. This is especially true if your dog spends a significant amount of time outdoors in wooded or other areas prone to ticks.
Rattlesnake Vaccine for Dogs
If you live in, or travel to, areas where rattlesnakes are common, you should consider getting them a rattlesnake vaccine. The vaccine works by stimulating the dog’s immune system to produce antibodies which fight the effects of snake venom.
The goal of the vaccine is to reduce the reaction your dog may have to a snakebite, and give you more time to get them the emergency help they should receive. The vaccine may also limit the amount of pain and swelling that your dog experiences as a result of the snakebite.
Occasionally, dogs do have adverse reactions to vaccines. The most common side effects are slight swelling and/or discomfort at the injection site as well as decreased activity. This usually goes away in a day or two.
If your dog got an intranasal vaccine, symptoms of what appears to be a cold may develop, including sneezing and a runny nose. These, too, should subside in 24-48 hours.
Less common side effects include vomiting, diarrhea, skin rash, facial swelling, and difficulty breathing. These are very unusual but should be considered an emergency and the dog should be taken immediately for emergency care. These types of reactions usually happen immediately or within a few hours of vaccine administration.
Socialization Before Vaccinations
Why Is Puppy Socialization Important?
Early socialization is critical to the psychological development of your puppy, and it can return great rewards later in a dog’s life. It is especially important early in life because the first few months of life will shape their expectations and behavior for their entire life. If you put your puppy in a bubble, so to speak, they may grow up to be anxious and afraid of other dogs and humans. This can compromise a dog’s chance at a happy and full life.
Ideally, you would expose your puppy to a wide variety of people, dogs and other pets, environments, walking surfaces, sounds, etc. There is little dispute that a well-socialized puppy makes for a more confident dog, and many problematic issues including aggression, suspicion, skittishness, and noise-sensitivity are less likely to occur.
How to Socialize a Puppy Before Vaccinations are Complete
So a common question you may have before your puppy is cleared following their final vaccination is: “If I can’t take my dog outside, how can I socialize my puppy?”
Existing Dogs in the Home
If you have dogs already, you’re likely safe to let them meet as long as your other pets have had all their shots and haven’t come into contact with any other infectious material. If you’re concerned, ask your vet.
Puppy Socialization Classes
You can also ask your vet about socialization classes. These are increasingly popular opportunities to let your puppy meet other young pups around their age so that they can receive the socialization they need in order to become well-adjusted later in life.
Carrying Your Puppy on Walks
Another thing you can do is take a walk with your puppy without actually walking them. Carry your puppy in your arms or a sling carrier around the areas you’ll walk them, giving them the opportunity to get out of the house, see new sights, and potentially meet future friends. This will prevent your dog from actually coming into contact with potentially infectious material or animals.
Many of the benefits of socialization can be achieved in this manner, including exposing your puppy to various noises (garbage trucks, sirens, motorcycles) and meeting many different humans — you’ll find no shortage of people who want to pet a puppy when you’re out in public.
Finding Relatively Safe Environments
A lot of puppy owners are willing to take come low, calculated risk to socialize their pets. While it would irresponsible and dangerous to allow your puppy to, say, run in the woods or go to a dog park, there are some areas where you can feel reasonably confident that the risk of infection is low.
A walk down a lightly trafficked sidewalk, for instance, poses minimal risk for exposure to viruses. Letting them run on fresh snow or walking in a light rain introduces them to these elements does the same. Finding a set of stairs where a lot of dogs don’t travel is a great place to teach them how to climb steps.
Use your best judgment and weigh the relative risks of various situations vs. the advantages that socialization afford. Because most dogs are vaccinated, the presence of serious diseases like Parvo are fairly rare and can be avoided if you are smart and practical in your choices of socialization environments.
While socialization before vaccinations may be challenging, it’s perfectly doable to give your dog a headstart on this crucial step.
House Training Before Vaccinations
Another topic of major importance is to what extent you can start your pup on house training before your vet clears them to go outside. While extensive walks may be out, you have some options that will help you get a jump on house training.
If you’re certain that your yard hasn’t been visited by any dogs with parvovirus, you can start by walking them in the yard. This is generally a safe step, though one risk is wild animals such as foxes that can transmit diseases to dogs. Just don’t let your pup wander too widely or investigate unknown debris in your yard that may have come into contact with infected animals.
House training is a critical skill for your dog to learn, and the earlier they learn it, the easier it is for everybody involved. Don’t put off house training for fear of infection; rather, limit your dog’s outside access to a safe area for them to eliminate. You’ll be happy you did this.
Bringing home a new puppy is a wonderfully exciting time that may also come with some concerns, but it isn’t insurmountable. With some patience, research, effort, and help from your vet, you can give your new pooch a safe jumpstart on a long and happy life.