Whole Dog Journal's Blog March 5, 2012

Vaccinate Those Pups – But Socialize and Train Them, Too

Posted at 11:57AM - Comments: (16)

I don’t know how this could have escaped my consciousness – probably because I don’t own a puppy – but I just learned that the veterinarians in my area (including several neighboring towns) routinely tell puppy owners not to take the puppy anywhere for the first six months. ANYWHERE, including puppy kindergarten classes, to friends’ homes, or for walks in their neighborhoods. Never mind the fact that so many dogs die as a result of being euthanized in shelters due to behavior problems traceable to a lack of training and socializing – let’s keep advising dog owners to carry on with the same practices that lead to those behavior problems, as long as we keep them safe from parvo and distemper. Argh!

Of course parvo and distemper and other communicable diseases are a threat to the health of every unvaccinated or not yet completely vaccinated puppy. But I’d bet my house that the number of dogs who are surrendered to shelters and euthanized in shelters  far, far exceeds the number that die as a result of parvo, distemper, AND every other communicable disease.

It gets worse! When I blustered about this to a friend, she told me that this “keep the puppy at home until he’s had all his shots and is six months old” advice is repeated by the folks at the front counter at our local shelters, too – including the shelter where I volunteer. I’d think that shelter staffers who receive animals daily at a shelter would know better, what with owner after owner bringing adolescent dogs to the shelter for surrender while saying, ”He’s just gotten to be too much for us…He jumps up, he’s rough with the kids, he growls at strangers, he goes crazy when he sees another dog on leash…”

I’m not saying we should take every puppy everywhere. While we’re in the process of immunizing them against communicable disease in a series of repeated vaccinations, we have to show some discretion. Don’t take puppies to dog parks or trails where dozens of dogs are walked daily – but do take them to the homes of friends whose dogs are healthy and well cared-for. It can be difficult in cities where there are LOTS of dogs in every neighborhood (and peeing on every tree and hydrant), but try to find less-trafficked places to walk them. And above all, find a trainer who offers puppy socialization sessions and puppy training classes (and screens the participants for vaccinations and practices good sanitation) and enroll for as much as you can afford!

I’ll be rounding up every speck of literature that supports these recommendations and providing them in some form to first, my shelter staffers, and then the local vets. I’d be grateful for suggestions for any resources you’re aware of.

Comments (14)

my puppy is only 8 weeks old and I would like to know if he should have his shots for parvo. I have already gone through the thing with one of my dogs and I saved his like as he only had a mild case, and I thnk it is because I am so good with the animals that I do have. My puppies name is Trapper, and the other one is named Timber. one is a shapard and the puppy is a terrie-poo.

Posted by: Unknown | July 10, 2012 12:58 PM    Report this comment

my puppy is only 8 weeks old and I would like to know if he should have his shots for parvo. I have already gone through the thing with one of my dogs and I saved his like as he only had a mild case, and I thnk it is because I am so good with the animals that I do have. My puppies name is Trapper, and the other one is named Timber. one is a shapard and the puppy is a terrie-poo.

Posted by: Unknown | July 10, 2012 12:58 PM    Report this comment

my puppy is only 8 weeks old and I would like to know if he should have his shots for parvo. I have already gone through the thing with one of my dogs and I saved his like as he only had a mild case, and I thnk it is because I am so good with the animals that I do have. My puppies name is Trapper, and the other one is named Timber. one is a shapard and the puppy is a terrie-poo.

Posted by: Unknown | July 10, 2012 12:58 PM    Report this comment

my puppy is only 8 weeks old and I would like to know if he should have his shots for parvo. I have already gone through the thing with one of my dogs and I saved his like as he only had a mild case, and I thnk it is because I am so good with the animals that I do have. My puppies name is Trapper, and the other one is named Timber. one is a shapard and the puppy is a terrie-poo.

Posted by: Unknown | July 10, 2012 12:58 PM    Report this comment

my puppy is only 8 weeks old and I would like to know if he should have his shots for parvo. I have already gone through the thing with one of my dogs and I saved his like as he only had a mild case, and I thnk it is because I am so good with the animals that I do have. My puppies name is Trapper, and the other one is named Timber. one is a shapard and the puppy is a terrie-poo.

Posted by: Unknown | July 10, 2012 12:58 PM    Report this comment

my puppy is only 8 weeks old and I would like to know if he should have his shots for parvo. I have already gone through the thing with one of my dogs and I saved his like as he only had a mild case, and I thnk it is because I am so good with the animals that I do have. My puppies name is Trapper, and the other one is named Timber. one is a shapard and the puppy is a terrie-poo.

Posted by: Unknown | July 10, 2012 12:58 PM    Report this comment

Hi Nancy-

Great post! You can find lots of resources explaining and promoting safe, early and effective socialization on our website www.OperationSocialization.com. If we can help you in any way please let us know!

All the best,

Ariana Kincaid
President and Founder
OPERATION SOCIALIZATION LLC

Posted by: Ariana K | March 7, 2012 8:41 AM    Report this comment

Our Wheaten pup got his well puppy exam withing 24 hours of coming home with us. The vet clinic suggested we start early with grooming and socialization classes. Jarmy got his first mini groom at 10 weeks old and loves going to the groomer. He took part in two of the vet clinic sponsored puppy classes, the first at 11 weeks of age and the other at 4 months old. All dogs had proof of vaccinations and heath check ups. We are about to start our fourth vet sponsored class a Fun and Games Class with an intro to Agility. Jarmy is now a 3 1/2 year old, too social at times, fun loving dog.

Posted by: Chris D | March 6, 2012 11:21 AM    Report this comment

I think that in our area the consensus is to keep the pups current on core shots and to socialize them and enroll them in classes as soon as possible and practical. Our vet stressed the importance of socializing the pup as soon as the D/P shots were done, with appropriate caveats - similar to what Nancy Kerns says here. She said to me: "open up the world for the pup!" It has made a huge difference in behavior and interactions. Being a pup means getting all excited with new things, but the sooner they learn, the better for them and their humans.

Posted by: Paula Z | March 6, 2012 11:05 AM    Report this comment

PetSmart offers Puppy classes for 10 weeks to 5 month old puppies. It's mostly for socialization and an intro to training. I didn't see any information on their website about socialization versus "stay away/keep safe" philosophy, but I would think somewhere they would have the information to back up their desire to market as many classes as possible to dog owners.
I've only had puppies 5 months or older and we started with beginning training a week or two after each was adopted. My cousin adopted a 12-week-old puppy and started her in a puppy class a month later. We both take our dogs to as many places as possible to get used to people, noise, activity, other animals, etc. I think it makes a world of difference in the dogs' ability to interact safely and everyone is happy.

Posted by: ANN S | March 6, 2012 11:02 AM    Report this comment

My impression is that parvo and distemper are the primary disease concerns. It is also my impression that these viruses are pretty much ubiquitous with a long environmental lifetime, and that puppies are constantly exposed to these viruses - at some level or another - from birth. That is why puppy vacinations are done as a series - to maintain a high level of immune response. So no, I wouldn't deliberately expose any dog to a known, active source of parvo or distemper, but to totally avoid latent exposure is just not possible. Proper socialization is too critical for it to be neglected because of excessive, and perhaps unfounded, fears about exposure.

Mary Barr

Posted by: MadderScientist | March 6, 2012 10:49 AM    Report this comment

I believe the AKC found your supposition regarding the number of dogs euthanized vs. the number of dogs to become ill and die due to disease to be true many years ago and reversed their position on vaccinating prior to training. You might try searching their archives for the details.

Our local training club offers the AKC's Star puppy program. It is open to all puppies and is all about socialization and learning puppy skills. For older dogs begginer obedience classes are a little more structured. Our club allows puppies as young as 12 weeks to participate and they need only to have the vaccines appropriate for their age.

I have worked at a veterinary clinic for 23 years and our position is to get them into school A.S.A.P. We have even held puppy classes on site for our clients. So take heart. Not all veterinary are as far behind the times as the ones you have encountered. Perhaps they just need some "continuing education".

R. Willey

Posted by: ROBIN W | March 6, 2012 10:25 AM    Report this comment

My 'puppy' just turned 1 year on February 11, 2012 and last year when I brought him home in May, one of the first things I did was take him (Shih-Tzu) out for a little walk around my building. I live in a condo and there are 2 dog walks, in addition to lots of spacious lawns and sidewalks where I see other pets and their owners walking. The breeder had given my pup all the shots that he could have up to that point and I had his next series of vaccinations scheduled for the end of May/early June. There was an obnoxious neighbor of mine who would yell at me from her balcony that my puppy was too young to be outside and that he was going to get sick, etc. I would just politely reply that I was careful where I walked him and that I took him to visit my relatives (those with vaccinated, healthy animals), friends with young children and seniors living in the house. I invited friends and neighbors over to meet him and I really credit this socialization to him having a great disposition and personality. As soon as I could and he had his shots, I enrolled him in Puppy Kindergarten and Agility classes which was made available through my vets office and is held there by one of his vet tech's who is also an AKC certified trainer. So he also got used to the vet facility, the staff, etc. He is now preparing to get CGC certified and therapy certified and will hopefully get involved in the R.E.A.D. program at a local elementary school and the summer reading program being held at the public library in my town. It was interesting reading your article and being able to relate to the often harsh opinions of people telling me how 'at risk' I was putting my puppy. Common sense is a lot of it and my dog is much better socialized that many of the people's dogs who yelled at me. They have shy, withdrawn or overly hyper dogs who seem 'antisocial' due to being sheltered and kept inside for 6 to 9 months of their early development. Hopefully more people (even those in the animal professions) can be re-educated on this subject. Thanks for all the great articles which have been so helpful to me (a first time dog owner/trainer/caregiver at 50 years old!!!)

Posted by: Angela F | March 6, 2012 10:22 AM    Report this comment

Oops, I am going to disagree with you. While 6 months seems a bit long to wait for puppy training classes and trips to the park, the threat of parvo is real and has become more and more of a concern. Please remember that many people in the larger cities and suburbs are purchasing puppies from pet stores and online puppymills. Many of these pups are carrying parvo virus and distemper as well as kennel cough. Kennel cough usually resolves with no lasting effects but parvo is a killer! Dogs were domesticated to be companions to people. If puppies are socialized with people and are given even a modicum of obedience training and good care, they will socialize just fine at four months of age when they've had all their puppy shots and can go out in the world of viruses and bacteria with more safety. A four month old puppy is plenty young enough to meet other dogs without showing signs of vicious or anti-social behavior . I would rather err on the side of caution because a dead puppy will never be socialized at all!!

Posted by: CAROL B | March 6, 2012 10:15 AM    Report this comment

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