Can Puppies Go to the Lake (+ Without Shots / Vaccinations?)

can puppies go to lakes safe

Whether you live near a lake or are going on a day out to some lakes, walks like this are an incredible treat for dogs and puppies of all ages, shapes and sizes. Whether it be a warm summer or a brisk winter, lakes can be an exciting and invigorating place for dogs, and lets you change up your usual walking routine too.

But what exactly are the risks of taking young dogs to lakes, and is it ok to take a puppy to the lake due to the stage of vaccinations they are at?

We took our Frenchie puppy to the Great Lakes when he was younger, and didn’t really think too much about it at the time. Thankfully he had no problems at all, but that won’t always be the case – I decided to write down my thoughts with some tips on taking a puppy to a lake this year.

Can puppies go to a lake? It is ok take a puppy to a lake but providing they have had their shots and vaccinations. Vets typically recommend you wait 10-14 days (approximately two weeks) after your puppy’s latest vaccination booster. At this stage, they are usually around 16 weeks or 4 months old.

However, even when your dog is a puppy or even older than this, it is still extra important to be extra careful around lakes. And it’s not just the adult dogs and lake water itself that can carry disease and risks to puppies, but also the weather that could harm them.

The good news is that all these issues at a lake can be solved simply taking steps to protect them, such keeping them on a short lead and ensuring that you don’t let them out of your sight.

But let’s talk about shots and vaccinations in a little more depth first.

Can I take my puppy to the lake without shots?

How important exactly are vaccinations and shots for puppies going to a lake? Is this a risk you should take, after all, what are the chances of your puppy getting ill really?

Please don’t take risk and take puppy to a lake without shots, and here’s why…

Can unvaccinated puppies go to a lake? The short answer to this is no, you should not take your puppy to a lake day out before vaccinations and without shots. Lakes can be busy places with lots of different dogs (some unvaccinated) where the risk of potentially fatal parvovirus (parvo) is higher.

So, why exactly is it not safe for unvaccinated puppies to go to the lake due to parvo? Well, if your puppy hasn’t had shots, they can easily pick up illnesses and diseases either from the environment or from another dog.

can I take my puppy to the lake without shots
We did not take our puppy to the Great Lakes at 8 weeks old, but waited until he was older and after all his vaccinations.

Parvovirus, or parvo is the biggest risk for puppies in an environment like a lake with other dogs running about. It’s a deadly disease that usually strikes unvaccinated puppies and is highly infectious between dogs.

It causes an infectious gastrointestinal (GI) illness in puppies and is usually spread through faeces and is potentially fatal. Puppies without their shots are particularly prone to getting it.

What makes parvo especially precarious in environments like a lake is the fact that the virus in infected faeces can last up to seven years in cool sand according to the Noah’s Ark Vets in Australia.

Yes, you read that right. The parvo disease can survive in lake sand!

So, even if you were to take your puppy to the lakes alone, there is still a considerable chance of them getting parvo through the sand if they have not had their vaccination shots.

Scary stuff.

In order to protect your puppy from the deadly risk that is parvo and other problematic diseases, it is best for their welfare that they avoid environments like lakes until they are fully vaccinated from 8 weeks and onwards (you can see a vaccination schedule lower down the page).

By ensuring your puppy is fully vaccinated with shots before letting them loose in a lake environment, you are protecting them from serious diseases such as parvo or anything else they might catch from the environment or any other unvaccinated dog.

Although it might be tempting to take them out before and not wait the appropriate amount of time, these vaccinations will only be effective if the guidance given to you about it is strictly adhered to.

The vaccination process for puppies

There are two main types of vaccination for your puppy which you will have to get throughout the vaccination process – this is the C3 and C5 vaccination.

  1. The C3 vaccination covers your puppy against hepatitis viruses, distemper and parvovirus.
  2. The C5 vaccination covers your puppy against all of the above – distemper, parvovirus and hepatitis viruses – as well as kennel cough.

There are three main vaccinations that your puppy needs before being fully protected from diseases, and they need to at a certain age (in weeks) to have them.

6 to 8-week vaccinations

The first vaccination should be the C3 vaccination. Although your puppy should already have had this before they were given to you, this might not have been the case.

If you haven’t been given the paperwork or haven’t been clearly told about whether they’ve been vaccinated, book this in immediately.

Can I take my 8-week-old puppy to the lakes? As this is only their first vaccination and all the shots are not yet complete, I do not recommend you take your 8-week-old puppy to the lakes just yet. You should wait until all shots are completed.

Similarly, I would not recommend you take a 9-week-old puppy to a lake given it’s still in the early stages of the vaccinations process.

10 to 12-week vaccinations

The second vaccination should be the C5 vaccination, which not only protects your pop from parvovirus, hepatitis viruses and distemper – but also protects them against kennel cough.

After the second booster you can start toilet training your dog outdoors or take them on short walks.

Can I take my 10 week old puppy to the lake? After the second set of shots, your 10 week old puppy can go on short walks. However, it is still advisable to avoid lakes until they have been given their third and final booster.

14 to 16-week vaccinations (optional)

At this point, you can choose whether or not your puppy can have C3 or C5 for their final booster – although your vet can help to advise you on this decision.

After they’ve had their final booster, you should wait around two weeks until you can safely take them to areas such as a lake.

Your puppy should now be fully safe from viruses and diseases that can be picked up from other dogs… but there are still some other risks associated with this environment you should consider.

Are lakes safe for puppies?

You might be wondering whether lakes are the safest environment for your pups, especially since they are still growing and developing. Even if your puppy is fully vaccinated, there are a number of factors to consider before letting your pet loose on a lake.

are lakes safe for puppies
Lakes are not always safe for puppies, even on colder days.

So, before you take your pup out on their first lake side walk, it is important to consider the following risks.

1. Sunburn or sunstroke

When it’s a sunny day, it is natural to want to flock to the lakes. You’re probably wondering that if humans get to enjoy the lakes on a sunny day, why can’t your puppy too?

Whilst you’re completely right to think that, an open environment like a lake can cause sunburn in man as well as dog. If dogs are walking on the hot promenade or the sand, they might end up burning their tummy and feet.

The best way to protect them is by preventing them in the first place – many pet shops, vets and other outlets sell specialised doggy sunscreen (view on Amazon), which will help to prevent them from getting burnt.

Furthermore, if they are out in the sun too long without any shade or hydration, they might end up developing sunstroke. Be sure to not walk them in the direct sunlight too long, favouring shady areas. You should also check how hot the sand is for them to walk on too!

Also, be sure to bring a portable water bowl and bottle with you – stopping your pup for regular drinks to prevent them from becoming too dehydrated with the heat.

By doing this, you will be able to drastically reduce the chance of your puppy getting sunstroke, but to reduce it further you should consider only going on walks during dawn and dusk, when the sun is less intense.

2. Sand in the eyes and stomach

As well as sand potentially getting hot and burning your puppy, the fine grit can also be problematic. Some US lakes have sand and this could get stuck in their eyes, which could cause them to stream and potentially get infected.

The glare of the sun can also be harmful, which is why we always pack doggy sunglasses on hot days to protect against the rays and sand. You can see which ones we bought on Amazon – doggy sunglasses on Amazon.

If your puppy does get sand in their eye you can try and flush out the grit with warm water or specialised doggy eye drops. Or, if all else fails, please take them to vet.

Another risk is sand impaction. It can get into the stomach of your puppy – mostly when they start digging. If swallowed, sand can become impacted in their insides and create blockages. Obviously, this is a time to call the vet!

3. Strong swells and deep water (can puppies go in lake water)

Lakes can be an exciting place for puppies, but you can’t expect them to swim with the same ease of a four-year-old Labrador – especially if they are a smaller-sized breed like a Chihuahua. Some breeds such as French Bulldogs cannot actually swim.

With strong swells and deep water, it is easy for things to get out of control. That’s why it is good to keep puppies on a short lead when near the water, with your eyes on them at all times.

If you really don’t want to take any risks, I would recommend buying a life jacket for your puppy to use at the lakes safely. Here’s a puppy life jacket on Amazon.

Alternatively, just keep them by the edge of the water without actually letting them go into it. If you want to teach your puppy to swim, there are several organisations that offer specialised puppy swimming lessons.

4. Weeds, dead fish, and pollution

These 3 hazards are just a few of the risks your puppy can encounter at the lakes. Here a little info on each one, and reasons why lakes are not always safe for puppies.

  • Weed dangers: Most lakeweed is safe for dogs to eat but the wild and dry weed you find on lakes can be dangerous when ingested.
  • Dead fish dangers: Your puppy will be enticed by the smell of dead fish, and who can blame them. However, dead fish can contain deadly toxins that could poison your puppy.
  • Pollution dangers: Don’t let your puppy drink water from the lake.

5. Hazards buried in the sand

Unfortunately, not everybody is as thoughtful at the lakes as we are. There are plenty of dangers lurking under the sand that could hurt your puppy, for example:

  • Broken glass bottles.
  • Metals and plastics washed up.
  • Fishing hooks and line
  • Old food that has been left in the sun.


In short, what we should be asking is not if puppies can go to the lake – it’s if unvaccinated puppies can go to the lake. It’s important to keep your puppy socialised and start that early, but not at the risk of their health. Be sure to talk to your vet if you have any questions, and happy adventures!

However, as well as the issue over shots, you should also consider whether your local lakes are safe for puppies. Lakes can come with plenty of hazards, so please do prepare properly and keep your puppy safe.

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Marc Aaron

I write about the things we've learned about owning dogs, the adventures we have, and any advice and tips we've picked up along the way.

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