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Q&A: When Can My Puppy Go Outside to Potty Train?

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Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He has been working with dogs for more than 40 years.

Taking puppies outside too early is extremely dangerous. How soon is too soon?

Taking puppies outside too early is extremely dangerous. How soon is too soon?

Can I Take My 8-Week-Old Puppy Out to Pee?

"I live in an apartment with no yard or balcony. I'd like to avoid using puppy pads, as it seems like that teaches puppies that there's a place to go to their spot in the home. How can I house train my puppy without exposing her to parvo? At what age (or after how many parvo vaccines) will she be able to safely go outside and walk around to go to her spot?" —Haley

No (and Not Just Because of Parvo)

It is not a good idea to take your new puppy to an area that is used by other dogs because they are going to be exposed to many other viruses and bacteria. Parvo is just one of them.

Some veterinarians will recommend that puppies are kept away from those areas until they are finished with their vaccinations and are fully protected—about 16 weeks of age. Unfortunately, a puppy's sensitive socialization period is over by then, so you can end up with a dog that is afraid of any new thing (neophobic).

When Is the Earliest You Can Take a Puppy Outside?

There is going to be some risk, but you can start to take your puppy outside after the first vaccinations, as either they are going to provide some protection, or your puppy may still have some maternal antibodies to protect them. Some studies show that puppies do not have any maternal antibodies to protect them against parvo by 8 weeks, though, even if the mother is vaccinated. (1)

Research indicates that puppies are not fully protected until 21 days after their second vaccination, which typically occurs around 8 weeks old (2). If you can wait this long, it is going to be much safer for your puppy—though still not risk-free.

Note: Certain breeds are more susceptible to parvo. If the puppy is a Doberman Pinscher, Rottweiler, or English Springer Spaniel, many vets recommend waiting until the last vaccination. (3)

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How to Potty Train a Puppy in an Apartment

Puppies obviously cannot wait until their vaccinations to be potty trained. The best solution, in my opinion, is to train the puppy to use an area inside the apartment until you can take them outside.

Artificial Grass "Pee Pads"

If you do not want to use puppy pads, some companies produce artificial grass pads that can be used to train puppies. Using artificial grass will make it much easier for your puppy to transition to real grass when they are a little older. They will also be much less likely to urinate on a blanket or towel, like some dogs that have been trained with the soft, absorbent puppy pads. This artificial grass pad would work well in your apartment.

The video below shows one of the best-looking of the turf pee pads (though it costs a pretty penny compared to the one linked above). I have also seen a video for a similar pad with real grass that you can make up at home. (The commercial product looks a lot easier to clean, and since it is inside, it will need to be cleaned every day, so that should influence what you use.)

The fake grass is not an ideal situation, but in an apartment, it is the best way to potty train while protecting your new puppy's health.


  1. Mila H, Grellet A, Desario C, Feugier A, Decaro N, Buonavoglia C, Chastant-Maillard S. Protection against canine parvovirus type 2 infection in puppies by colostrum-derived antibodies. J Nutr Sci. 2014 Nov 13;3:e54.
  2. Vasu J, Srinivas MV, Antony PX, Thanislass J, Padmanaban V, Mukhopadhyay HK. Comparative immune responses of pups following modified live virus vaccinations against canine parvovirus. Vet World. 2019 Sep;12(9):1422-1427.
  3. Glickman, L. T., Domanski, L. M., Patronek, G. J., & Visintainer, F. (1985). Breed-related risk factors for canine parvovirus enteritis. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 187(6), 589–594.

This article is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from your veterinarian. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2022 Dr Mark

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