When can I take my puppy outside to potty train? Sep 26, 2018

When can I take my puppy outside to potty train?

Original Question: Can I take my dog outside to potty train him even though he has not had all his vaccines? I live in an apartment complex and I don’t like the puppy pads. - Brent

Hi Brent,

Thanks for your question. It’s a great one and I have been asked it often.

Many owners are afraid to expose their puppies to the outside world before they have received all of their vaccines. This ‘primary series’ of vaccinations are given at 8, 12 and 16 weeks of age. However, there is a period in a puppy’s life called the socialization period which starts around 12 weeks and continues just beyond 16 weeks. This is also a time where they can be trained and you could run the risk of them developing bad habits or anxieties if they are not exposed to the world at this age. For example, if a puppy has never encountered a streetcar or bus during the socialization period, it may become tremendously fearful of it later on. The fact that the socialization period begins before the full set of vaccines are administered means that you in order to properly socialize them, you’ll need to expose them to people, places and good behaviours before they are fully protected.

For this reason, most practitioners recommend that you wait about a week after the 12 week round of vaccinations and introduce them to some of these entities in a limited way. In your case, yes you can take him out for a walk and train him to eliminate in an appropriate location just after 12 weeks but I would take some precautions. I would visit an area that is not frequented by a large population of dogs in the neighbourhood. It’s possible that one of those dogs could of had a Parvovirus, which is known to survive on surfaces and in the environment for a long period of time, and could risk exposing your ‘not fully protected’ puppy to this virus’. Keep in mind that the level of protection offered by the 2nd round of vaccines is very high. It’s close to 95%+ protective. The third shot is really to ensure full protection.

Despite this answer, which I have given out for the duration of my career, I would like you to inquire with your veterinarian as well.

I hope this helps.

Dr Clayton Greenway

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