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When is it safe to let your puppy meet other dogs and go for walks?

Getting a puppy is definitely an exciting time and you're probably anxious to have her meet and play with other dogs and have her hike on trails and go to dog parks. So, when is it safe to do so? Puppies do not yet have a mature immune system and will not be protected against serious pathogens for many months.

To answer this questions we must consider 2 important considerations. First, when is your puppy going to be fully vaccinated against the core vaccines, such as distemper, adenovirus/hepatitis, parvovirus and leptospirosis (DA2PPL/DHPP)? Assuming a typical vaccine booster schedule of 8, 12 and 16 weeks of age, your puppy will likely be fully protected by 5-6 months of age. Second, we must appreciate that the majority of puppy learning and social development occurs at a very young age, throughout the vaccine booster schedule. Therefore, if you let your puppy go off leash, go to the dog parks and play with other dogs during this window, you are puppy them at risk because they are not yet fully vaccinated. So, if you isolate your puppy throughout the vaccine series to protect them against serious infections, you are putting them at risk of developmental and behavioural disorders.

In the interest of keeping your puppy protected and safe as well as developing good behaviours, we recommend that you take your puppy on leashed walks as much as possible but to avoid areas in which there are other dogs (e.g. dog parks), walking trails and off leash activity. We do feel it is appropriate to have your puppy meet and play with dogs that you are familiar with and know they are up to date on their vaccinations. Never let your puppy drink from puddles or standing water sources.

We do acknowledge that you are assuming some risk of your puppy contracting serious pathogens, but there is an equal risk of isolating your puppy only for them to development behavioural issues and lack of social development.

Ultimately, do what you feel is best for you and your puppy with your individual circumstances, and hopefully this guide is helpful so you can do what is right for your particular puppy.