Dog Vaccine Requirements

Determining what vaccines are necessary for dogs depends somewhat on his lifestyle. A stay-at-home dog doesn’t need as much protection as a dog encountering many other dogs.


Determining your dog’s vaccine schedule starts with a list called “core” vaccines for dogs. These vaccines are necessary for all dogs without exception. Other vaccines are recommended for some dogs, based on lifestyle and environment. These are called “non-core” vaccines.

As far as required vaccines for dogs, well, legally it’s only rabies in most areas. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has a PDF of state laws concerning rabies requirements. The rabies is vaccine is required due to its importance to public health, as humans can contract rabies.

Many grooming, training, and boarding facilities have required vaccines for dogs, usually including the distemper-parvo vaccine and kennel cough (Bordetella). Your veterinarian will guide you in the right choices for your puppy, but you can also go to the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) and use their simple online checklist method of choosing the right vaccines for your dog, based on his lifestyle.

The core vaccines are:

  • Puppies are usually vaccinated at 12 weeks of age or older. This first vaccine is good for one year, then the dog needs a booster. The booster given at 1 year is good for 3 years. Dogs should receive a rabies vaccine every three years throughout their lives.
  • Distemper-Parvo (DHPP). This combination vaccine protects against hepatitis and parainfluenza, both viruses. Puppies receive their first vaccine between 6 and 8 weeks of age. A booster is given every three to four weeks until the puppy is at least 16 weeks old. After that, they need a booster in one year. After that first booster, a booster every three years is recommended.

The non-core vaccines:

  • Kennel cough (Bordetella). This vaccine is recommended for dogs who will be boarded, go for grooming, indoor puppy classes, doggy day care, basically anywhere lots of dogs come together indoors. The initial vaccine is good for a year, after which an annual booster is recommended.
  • Lepto (Leptospirosis). The lepto vaccine is recommended for dogs with access to areas shared by wildlife. Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease spread through the urine of infected wildlife and rodents. The initial series is two shots, two to four weeks apart, with annual boosters.
  • Lyme (Borrelia burgdorferi). The Lyme vaccine is recommended for any dog who’s lifestyle and/or environment puts him at risk of ticks. The initial series is two shots, two to four weeks apart, with annual boosters.
  • Canine influenza (H3N8/H3N2). Available upon request, consider this vaccine for boarding dogs. It is mostly recommended for dogs traveling to other locations across the country where dogs from different geographic locations gather, such as dog sporting events. The initial series is two shots, two to four weeks apart, with annual boosters.

Your decision about vaccinations for dogs should be guided by your dog’s lifestyle. A dog who travels or frequently contacts other dogs needs more protection than the stay-at-home canine. One thing’s for sure: A vaccination is safer and far less expensive than risking your dog becoming ill with one of these diseases.