It’s important to keep your Labradoodle puppy safe from nasty bugs and viruses. But it’s also important for puppies to meet new friends and have new experiences before they reach the ‘shy and fearful’ stage.
In “When is it safe to take my puppy out” we look at how to find a balance between keeping your puppy safe from infection, and properly socializing the puppy so that they grow up confident and friendly.
- How friendliness and socializing go together
- Why you need to act quickly
- Visiting puppies before they leave Mom
- How puppy immunity develops
- Tips for meeting people safely
- Getting your puppy vaccinated
- Taking your puppy outdoors safely
Keeping Your Labradoodle Puppy Safe
Of course, you’re eager to show your new puppy off to your friends, and to let them play outside with other dogs. But many veterinarians recommend waiting until the puppy is 16-18 weeks old before taking them outside. This is the age at which most puppies are fully vaccinated.
On the other hand, many canine behaviorists recommend taking the puppy out and about from 8 weeks (with a few provisos). That’s because limiting your puppy to indoor-only interactions with mom, siblings, and human members of your household is not only frustrating for you, it may lead to temperament issues in your puppy as they grow up.
Growing up friendly
At one time it was thought that the friendliness of dogs was inherited from their parents. The importance of the puppy socialization process has only fairly recently, been more widely recognized.
We now know that the ability of new puppies to easily make new friendships and to adapt to a wide range of new experiences, is temporary. And that coming from a friendly breed or mixed breed, such as a Labradoodle, is not a guarantee of good temperament.
Catching the window for socialization
At some point between 12 and 14 weeks of age, puppies that have very limited social experiences tend to become fearful of strange people and strange things.
Fear in dogs is strongly associated with aggression so it’s important that young puppies are exposed to lots of new experiences, before the end of the stage where puppies easily adapt to new people, new places and new sights and sounds. This stage is known as the window for socialization. And you need to make the most of it.
In the earliest days of life, a puppy should remain in a safe, secure location with the mother. After their eyes open, the maturation process starts to accelerate:
2 weeks old – Puppy is alert and trying to stand.
3 weeks old – Puppy will want to climb out of nesting box.
4 weeks old – Puppy should be able to walk, run, play.
Puppies begin the weaning process between 3 and 4 weeks of age. By around 6 weeks of age they have usually fully transitioned to solid food. A good breeder will start to introduce the puppies to new sights and sounds before they are ready to leave Mom and start their new lives. She’ll put new toys and playthings in the Labradoodle puppies’ pen. Let them play with cardboard boxes, soft ropes and harder chew toys. And from 5-6 weeks, she’ll invite new people into the home to meet the puppies.
Precautions need to be taken against infection at this stage. You’ll probably be asked to remove your outdoor footwear for example, when visiting the puppies, as infection can be walked in on the soles of your shoes. Time spent nursing with mom is a great way to start building a puppy’s healthy immune system. But vaccination is what keeps your puppy protected from some of the most distressing infectious diseases once they are outside in the big wide world.
Your Puppy’s Immune System
A healthy immune system is your Doodle puppy’s best defense against parasites, viruses, and other hidden dangers in the world outside your home. In small puppies, their immune systems are still very underdeveloped, and they lack immune memory (when the body recognizes a pathogen it has encountered before). Even after weaning, a puppy’s immune system will not be fully mature until they are 6 months old.
In the first days of life, puppies need colostrum from their mom’s milk. Colostrum contains antibodies and other nutrients that help protect them from disease. For a little while after weaning, puppies still have these maternal antibodies in their systems, and those antibodies can reduce the effectiveness of vaccinations. That’s why puppies don’t have their first shots until they are well past weaning.
Finding A Balance – Do’s and Don’ts
If the window for socialization closes at around 14 weeks of age, and puppy shots are not complete until around 16 weeks of age, how can you safely take your Labradoodle puppy outside, without risking infection?
The answer is, no-one can guarantee ‘no risk’ but you can greatly minimise risk if you take some sensible precautions.
- Don’t allow your puppy to meet unvaccinated dogs
- Don’t allow your puppy to come into contact with contaminated ground
Avoid the dog park
The most risky place to take a puppy is the dog park. Or any recreational space where large numbers of dogs congregate, and take bathroom breaks. Dog faeces and urine is a high risk source of infection. And in a public space there will almost certainly be, or have been, unvaccinated dogs.
The dog park is also a risky place for puppies because some adult dogs do not like puppies and may be aggressive towards them.
- Do carry your puppy into public places
- Do consider allowing your puppy to meet gentle, fully vaccinated dogs in controlled situations
Carry your puppy
Carry your puppy into public places. Let them see people and traffic from the safety of your arms. Puppies are people magnets, if you stand outside the Mall for five minutes with your doodle pup in your arms, you’ll almost certainly get people coming up to ask if they can stroke your little one.
Be guided by your puppy. If they are comfortable being stroked by strangers, give your permission. If the puppy seems worried, stand back a bit from the crowd and just let them watch and take in new experiences from a distance.
Labradoodle puppies grow fast so do as much of this as you can in the first week or two. After that you may find a puppy sling helpful to take the strain off your back
If you have an older fully vaccinated dog, it’s fine for your puppy to meet them right from day one. Make sure your older dog can get away from the puppy as puppies can be very annoying! If you have a friend with a gentle, vaccinated older dog the same applies
In general it’s better to let puppies meet other dogs indoors in a fairly confined space, especially if the older dog is quite playful and bouncy. In a larger space, the older dog may get excited and build up enough speed to knock the puppy over. Keep the first meeting brief. What you want is short, confidence building, interactions where the puppy has fun and isn’t frightened. Quit while you are ahead!
Labradoodle Puppy Vaccination
Your puppy will still need to be fully vaccinated before it’s safe to go down on the ground outside and interact with other dogs in public places.
When puppies go to their new homes, many will have at some, but not all, of the necessary puppy vaccines.
You’ll need to obtain the vaccination records for your puppy and take them to your veterinarian, to plan the completion of your puppy’s vaccination schedule.
What Are Puppies Vaccinated Against?
Most national veterinary organizations have outlined core vaccination guidelines for puppies in their region, which your vet will follow.
The American Animal Hospital Association recommends the vaccinations for puppies in the U.S.
These core vaccines should be given to all puppies in the U.S.
- Combination vaccine (includes distemper, parvovirus, adenovirus, parainfluenza virus)
- Rabies virus vaccine
They are administered at 6-8 weeks old, 10-12 weeks old, and 16-18 weeks old.
Your vet might also recommend these vaccines depending on their lifestyle, and your locality.
- Canine Lyme disease
- Canine influenza
For example, vaccinating against Lyme disease is important if you live in an area with ticks. And vaccinating against influenza is more significant for dogs who’ll be visiting a day care setting regularly.
Are there any specific recommendations for Labradoodle puppies?
Labradoodle organizations and breeders often have their own vaccination recommendations. Some may suggest that you avoid the noncore vaccines.
Keep in mind that you and your veterinarian are in the best position to judge which vaccines are right for your dog. The right decision depends upon factors such as geographic region and your dog’s risks for exposure.
Outdoor Safety for Labradoodle Puppies
The outdoors can be a dangerous place for a young puppy with a developing immune system. Parasites, viruses and bacteria can infect your puppy via soil, water, wild animals, other dogs, and insects.
Dogs in rural areas face different dangers to those in urban areas. A rural puppy can pick up infections from a nearby pond or a dead rabbit, for example. Urban puppies can pick up diseases from other dogs (and even the grass and dirt) at the neighborhood dog park.
The dog park can be a hazardous place for your young Labradoodle puppy because enthusiastic play among larger adult dogs can be overwhelming for a small puppy, and even lead to broken bones and other injuries.
When Is It Safe To Take My Puppy Outdoors
Advice to puppy owners is changing. Nowadays, most dog behaviorists and many vets recommend you take your puppy out and about from the very first week, provided you keep your puppy off the ground and away from unvaccinated dogs.
That’s because there is a risk of dogs becoming aggressive if they are not socialized fully and early enough. And that needs to be balanced against the small risk of infection to a puppy being carried in your arms.
Those first few weeks will soon pass. And once your puppy is fully vaccinated, you can begin the process of training your puppy to walk among distractions on leash and socializing them with dogs they meet on their travels.
References and Further Reading
- American Veterinary Society Of Animal Behavior Position Statement on Puppy Socialization
- Ward, E. Breeding for Dog Owners – Caring from Birth to Weaning. VCA Hospitals. Accessed January 2020.
- Worldwide Australian Labradoodle Association.
- Pereira et al. Development of the Dog Immune System: From In Uterus to Elderly. Veterinary Sciences, 2019.
- Ford et al. 2017 AAHA Canine Vaccination Guidelines. American Animal Hospital Association, 2017.