​​Want to socialize your puppy before they’ve got all of their vaccinations? Here’s what to do

Puppy licking man's face
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Socialization is vital for puppies, and the first 16 weeks of a puppy’s life is when it’s most important. However, vaccinations are also extremely important for puppies, and most puppies won’t complete theirs until they’re 16 weeks old. 

So, how can we safely socialize our pups before they’re fully vaccinated, but also before they age up from this vital window of socialization? Is it advisable to simply grab some of the best dog treats and head outside?

Fortunately, certified dog trainer Melissa Goodman of Mission Pawsitive has offered some advice in a recent Instagram post – and it turns out that socializing your puppy before they’ve been fully vaccinated is easier than you might think!

There are lots of safe ways to socialize your dog before they’ve gotten all of their vaccinations. You can take them outside, but sometimes it’s best to carry them rather than let them walk, as doing so might not be hygienic – here’s when puppies can go outside, according to a trainer. “Riley is 10 weeks old,” explains Goodman of the dog she’s carrying in the video, “And is still able to take in lots of smells, see, and hear everything going on around her without any risk.”

However, she says that it’s okay to let puppies walk on the ground in places where other dogs don’t go, or which are frequently clean. “Carrying them or putting them in a stroller/wagon is one option for areas not sanitary enough for them to walk,” she explains in the caption. “I absolutely let puppies walk on the ground, I’m just very mindful of where!”

She adds, “When in doubt, carry your puppy, put them in your lap, put a blanket down in a shopping cart, and push them through a store. I will not let a puppy walk in a pet store, but I will in a hardware store for short distances.”

As well as hardware stores, other places Goodman says are safe for puppies including the outside of grocery stores, restaurant patios, and simply just in your lap when you’re sitting on a bench in a park or a shopping center.

“The first 16 weeks of life are the most crucial in a puppy’s development,” as Goodman summarizes, so even if your pup isn’t fully vaccinated it’s important to improvise and still take them outside as best you can!

If you’re looking for more socialization advice, you might find this article useful: I'm a dog behaviorist and these are my six tips for socializing a puppy.

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Adam England
Freelance Writer

Adam is a freelance journalist covering lifestyle, health, culture, and pets, and he has five years' experience in journalism. He's also spent the last few years studying towards undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in journalism. While a cat person at heart, he's often visiting his parents' Golden Retriever, and when he's not writing about everything pets he's probably drinking coffee, visiting a cat cafe, or listening to live music.