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Puppy Socialization and Vaccine Schedules

I had this question asked of me by one of my local certified professional dog trainers, which makes me think that other folks have these same questions. Hopefully they are ok with me sharing the question, anonymously.

What advice do you give your clients about being around other puppies before they are fully vaccinated? Do you feel they can have limited exposure in clean environments around others that are in good health and are vaccinated after the puppy has their first or second set or wait until they are completed?

I personally let clients know that they can socialize with known adult dogs who have been fully vaccinated that they trust (friend's dogs) and puppy training facilities that are able to sanitize (puppy classes that sanitize between classes). 

  • Sanitization of outdoor facilities is not possible unless it is non-porous concrete, therefore this excludes fields and parks; backyards, sniffspots, hiking trails, etc

As far as veterinarians in general, MANY of them believe they should be fully vaccinated because of parvovirus. But puppies will become very ill if they acquire parvovirus so if exposed, the pet parent will know very quickly and (hopefully) not bring their puppy to puppy classes. After the second vaccination, the expectation is at least 90% seroconversion (90% of puppies will be protected; with 100% expected after their set of 3), so herd immunity (if all owned dogs are vaccinated) prevents dog-to-dog spread in a controlled environment.

Info on seroconversion for vaccination of puppies you can often find in the research links on the manufacturer's websites. Like this page by Zoetis on their Vanguard DAPP vaccine.

These puppies are more likely to pick it up from their environment (dog parks etc) than from a puppy class. A study on puppies in puppy classes showed that there was no increased risk of parvovirus of puppies attending puppy classes over puppies who did not attend.

For the most part, general practitioners will see new puppies at ~12 weeks when they come in for their second set of vaccinations. Most new puppy parents don't bring their puppy in for a general check up once acquired (unless it is in their breeder contract to do so).

Therefore, one week after their second shot they are 90% protected. At that 12 week visit they can also receive their respiratory disease vaccination (Bordetella + Canine Parainfluenza). For more information on the increased cases of coughing dogs throughout the U.S.A. and Canada, please take a look at the updates by Dr. Weese, board certified internal medicine specialist and epidemiologist.

Obviously, common sense comes into play. I have mentioned previously, find a certified dog trainer. Ask yourself, would you want someone who is a high school graduate with no other education or training to be working with you and your child? Would you do so with your puppy?

We took our puppy Cola to puppy training classes when she was about 13 weeks old.

Let's say you don't have a certified professional dog trainer close by, but you know that you need to socialize your puppy. Here are a few tips.

Do a tail-gate party!

  • You and your puppy can sit in your vehicle, not touching the ground, observing other dogs at a distance while outside of a dog park

  • Work on having your puppy watch the other dogs, then look at you, because this is more important than your puppy engaging with other dogs

  • Remember that your puppy does not need to meet every dog, you goal is calm, coexistence; and it needs to be a positive experience

Invite a friend over!

  • If you have a friend with a neutral dog (a neutral dog is a dog that shows no over-arousal around other dogs), invite them over to help socialize

  • The goal still is not for your puppy to charge up to this dog, but to learn how to read the dog's body language

  • The goal for you as the pet parent is to have your dog remain engaged with YOU!

  • You do not want your puppy getting over-aroused, so if this happens, limit the play to no more than 15 minutes, and rein them in if they are getting over-aroused (dilated pupils, constant zooming, overly mouthy, etc)

  • Over-arousal can lead to your puppy making 'inappropriate' decisions leading to someone potentially getting hurt

Do happy visits!

  • Happy visits at your veterinary clinic will help your puppy learn that veterinary clinics also provide treats!

  • Veterinary clinics should be frequently sanitized: All parvovirus positive dogs go in through isolation and not through the main entrance

  • You can sit to the side with your puppy while other dogs are coming/going; again, your puppy can be watching and then re-engaging with you

  • Your veterinary staff will love you for it!

Finally, socialization is also about positive and enjoyable experiences. If they are feeling over-whelmed in the scenario, this will be a negative and less enjoyable experience.

  • Avoid dog parks where there are dogs charging the gates when you approach

  • Avoid getting too close to fast moving objects (bicycles, children running)

  • Avoid getting too close to loud areas (construction etc)

If the puppy is showing signs of stress, get out quickly, or increase the distance between your puppy and the stressful stimulus.

For veterinarians and veterinary professionals who are guiding pet parents on the appropriate socialization of puppies, also see the below resources.

I share the AVSAB handout on puppy socialization for veterinarians.

Another one that may be useful to share with veterinarians is the Fear Free information:

I hope that helps!


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