Getting a new puppy is always exciting, and you probably want to take them everywhere! Knowing when puppies can go in the backyard depends a lot on the area your home is located, as well as how many stray animals or other dogs have access to it.
While it may seem like your backyard is a safe bet, you do need to be cautious. A young puppy is more susceptible to getting diseases from other animals, such as parvo. In this article, we’ll discuss when it’s safe for puppies to go in the backyard or dog park, as well as keeping your yard safe for them.
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Protecting Your Puppy When Going Outside
Just because you want to restrict the length of time puppies are outside, you should be fine to take them out for potty breaks. Longer walks and playtime are a little different, however, because they require a lot of sleep for optimal growth and development.
When Can Puppies Go in the Backyard?
Taking your puppy outside with you in the backyard isn’t completely off-limits. However, you do want to limit the time the newborn puppy is outside until they are 16 weeks old and their vaccinations are up-to-date.
Puppies typically get their first round of vaccines when they are 6-8 weeks old and should be repeated every 3-4 weeks until they reach 14-16 weeks old.
Their mother’s milk can interfere with vaccines, and there is no way to know when the interference decreases enough for the vaccines to work completely. This is why puppies need to get their full round of vaccines for parvovirus and other diseases.
Others may argue that while going to parks or walking on the sidewalk is unsafe, your backyard is fine for your new pup. It really depends on where you live and how many animals have access to your yard. Either way, puppies won’t require much exercise, so other than potty breaks, they shouldn’t need to be outside for long.
Keeping Your Puppy Safe Until They Are 16 Weeks Old
- Be wary of other dogs: Before you get a new puppy, make sure that any pets you have are up-to-date on their vaccines. Because you can’t know if every adult dog you see is vaccinated, it’s important to keep your puppy away from the potentially unvaccinated dog – even if the dog owner says it’s okay. Keep your puppy from smelling another dog’s feces, as they can get sick from that as well.
- Keep puppies in a fenced yard if possible: You can feel a little safer to let your puppy out in your backyard if it is fenced and keeping out other animals. It’s also a good idea to let neighbors who have dogs know you have an unvaccinated puppy.
- Keep puppies at home: Your backyard is going to be safer than walking your puppy in other public areas, even if you don’t have a fence. There is no telling how many dogs walk through parks, on sidewalks, or in other public places, so it’s best to avoid them until your pup is older.
- Be safe at the vet: Vets do their best to create a sanitary environment where all dog owners can feel safe with their pup. However, if a sick dog is visiting, there is a chance they could leave something behind for your puppy to contract. Carry your puppy in, and keep them away from other people, other dogs, and even off the floor if possible.
When Can You Potty Train Puppies Outside?
Luckily, puppies can go in the backyard right away when potty training as long as it’s for shorter amounts of time. If you don’t have a fenced-in yard, go outside and do a quick check to make sure there aren’t any other animals outside (such as a neighbor’s dog) and that there are no other animal feces.
If you want to be extra cautious, you could get a playpen specifically made for puppies to help keep them in a safe space. However, you could also designate a spot in your yard, specifically for your puppy to use the bathroom.
Here are some additional tips on potty training your puppies:
- Schedule feeding times: Do your best to feed your puppy at the same times each day. Doing so will create a routine, and you can better understand how soon after eating, they’ll need to go out.
- Take out often: Puppies have tiny bladders, so by taking them outside frequently, they have more chances to go potty. Take them out first thing in the morning, after naps, and every 30 minutes to an hour as a rule of thumb.
- Have a designated spot: By taking puppies to the same place each time, they will begin to recognize their scent and associate that spot with going to the bathroom.
- Give praise: Reward puppies when they go potty! You can do this by giving verbal praise or a dog treat.
Playtime for Puppies
Is there anything cuter than a happy, wobbly puppy running through the yard? Even though it’s adorable to see puppies play, you don’t want to overdo it.
As mentioned earlier, puppies need a lot of sleep – up to 20 hours per day! Young puppies are still growing and developing, and for the most part, will just want to relax.
Puppies require a minimal amount of exercise until they are older. Even taking your puppy on a walk can be too much exercise while they’re still young.
Their tiny skeletal systems don’t even fully develop until they are close to a year old. Pushing exercise too early can even physically harm them.
A good rule of thumb is to give them five minutes of exercise per month of age, up to two times per day until they’re fully grown at about one-year-old.
Giving them some play will be good for them as long as you don’t overdo it. Make sure not to take puppies out right after eating, as it can make them bloated.
When Can You Socialize Puppies?
It may feel like you’re being a little overprotective by shielding your puppy from the world in their first couple of months of life, but it’s for the best. Luckily, once they’re fully vaccinated, it’s a great idea to have some other puppies visit and socialize together!
First, make sure that the other dogs are vaccinated prior to their visit. If you have any friends or family members with puppies or young dogs, that would be a good place to start.
Try to find dogs that are about the same size and age, because they’ll be more compatible for play. Some older dogs can be a little too rough for a small puppy, so it may be best to wait until the puppies are older.
Socialization is vital for your puppy’s development and can prevent aggression in the future. By giving them positive experiences with people and dogs at a young age, puppies will grow to be friendly adults!
Here are some tips for properly socializing puppies:
- Wait Until They Are Fully Vaccinated: Play it safe, and wait until puppies have had all rounds of shots before socialization.
- Stay Calm: Dogs go off of your emotion, and if you seem worried, it worries them. Even if your dog seems nervous, do your best to stay confident and calm.
- Use Treats: When your dog gets treats while interacting with others, especially if they give your puppy treats, it creates a positive association with others.
- Hire a Dog Walker: By having different dog walkers come in, your puppy can get used to seeing new and unfamiliar faces.
Puppy-Proofing Your Backyard
Even once your puppy is vaccinated, they are still in a developmental phase. Having a puppy proof backyard will further keep them happy and safe.
Keep the Lawn Short
If this is your first puppy, you want to do what you can to prevent a flea outbreak. Fleas live in your backyard, specifically in tall grassy areas, that is, until they find a host to jump onto.
Once one flea latches onto your puppy, it can be a very daunting task to rid your home and backyard of fleas fully.
Fleas like to live in shady places, out of direct sunlight. Long grass is plenty shade for an itty bitty flea to live in. Making sure you’re keeping the lawn short can help protect your puppy from fleas.
For more information on preventing and getting rid of fleas, read our article here.
Add Fencing Around Pools or Ponds
Puppies are curious little creatures, and may not know how to swim until they get a little older. Some breeds actually struggle to swim even as adults, so keeping your pets safe from large bodies of water is a must.
If you have an inground pool or a pond in your backyard, consider adding some fencing around the perimeter. You could also create a small fenced-in area that is specifically for your puppy to run around and play in if your backyard allows for it.
Protect Puppies From Chemicals
Keep any chemicals away in your garage. Even containers that seem dog proof don’t stand a chance against a puppy with a mission.
Puppies are curious and will chew on just about anything they can get their teeth on. You should also keep outdoor items like bug spray out of reach from puppies.
If you regularly treat your yard, keep your puppy away from those areas afterward. If you can, use pet-safe chemicals to be extra safe.
Provide Shade and Water
If you plan on letting your puppy outside for extended periods as they get older, make sure there is lots of shade and water. Keep their water bowl in a safe spot, and keep it full as best as you can.
It’s a good idea to provide a dog house for your puppy, but having a nice shady area is a must. If your pups don’t have a place to cool off, they may start digging holes to get cool in. For more information on why dogs dig, read this article.
Fun Backyard Activities and Toys for Puppies
Once your puppy is able to go outside, it’s important to provide them with toys and activities to keep them active and entertained. In this section of the article, we’ll be discussing some of our favorite outdoor activities for puppies and owners!
1. Play Water Games
Many dogs love water, especially breeds like Labs, Retrievers, and Terriers. During the summer months, water games can keep your puppy cool and entertained for hours on end! If you have a sprinkler, you can turn it on and let the puppy bite at it and run through the water. You could also fill a kiddie pool slightly with water and place tennis balls or other floating toys and watch as the puppy paws at the bobbing toys.
It’s of the utmost importance to watch your puppy closely when they are playing around a pool of water. Puppies can tire and drown and should be able to get in and out of the water with little effort. If you plan on playing with your puppy in a kiddie pool, be sure that the water isn’t too deep, and only comes up to the legs or underbelly of the puppy to prevent accidents.
2. Teach Your Puppy to Fetch
Fetching is a classic dog-owner activity, and teaching your dog to fetch should start young for the best results. Very active dog breeds are more inclined to fetch, and love running after and retrieving tennis balls and frisbees.
3. Prep Your Puppy for Future Hunting with Scent Games
If you have a Lab or Hound that you plan to use as a hunting or tracking buddy, start your puppy off right with fun scent work games! Testing your puppy’s sniffer is fun for both you and your pup, and can teach your puppy a variety of scents from an early age.
A great way to start cultivating your puppy’s scent work is by using treats and open boxes in your backyard. Place 3 or 4 boxes in your backyard, and treats in 1 or 2 of them while your pup is inside. Then, leash your puppy and walk with them to the backyard. Bring them nearer to the boxes and allow them to sniff out the treats for themself. Once they find it, feed them the treat.
Eventually, as your puppy grows both in scent tracking and in age, you can substitute treats with animal pelts, clothing, or whatever activity you plan to use your dog for in the near future.
4. Put Agility Activities in Your Yard
Agility is a popular canine sport that challenges both dog and owner. If you plan to use your puppy for Agility Competitions or just want to teach your puppy some neat tricks for backyard entertainment, consider putting agility products in your yard.
Some great agility products to start your puppy off with are tunnels and jumping rings. These are great for puppies because it gives them a means of rigorous exercise and is an easy place to start using treats and repetition. Keep in mind that puppies have lower stamina than adult dogs.
Be sure that you’re not pushing your puppy to overwork themselves in your homemade agility course. Watch for signs of exhaustion such as heavy panting, slowed movements, red and aggravated eyes, and abrupt stopping while running or walking.
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5. Install a Tetherball in Your Backyard
It’s no secret that dogs love playing with balls, but you won’t always have time to throw a tennis ball for your pup! Tetherballs are an excellent way to have a constantly moving ball for your puppy to play with. Tetherballs for dogs can come in various sizes, depending on your puppy’s breed size. This outdoor activity for puppies is a great way to keep your puppy entertained when they’re by themself or left with other furry, four-legged members of the family.
Getting a new puppy is exciting but requires some extra care and attention from you in the beginning. Providing your new puppies with lots of sleep and limited outdoor time will ultimately keep them healthy, happy, and safe. Now that you know when puppies can go in the backyard, you can be well prepared.
Once puppies are vaccinated, spending time outdoors is a big part of their development, especially if they’re socializing with other dogs. As long as you keep your puppy safe outdoors and your backyard puppy-proof, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about!