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  • John Whittaker

Puppies: Worst Possible Advice for Any Owner (and Most Common)

Updated: Jan 8

The worst possible advice any puppy owner could possibly be given is “don’t socialize your puppy until they receive their last shots”. For most puppies this is around 16 weeks of age. This advice is espoused by most veterinarians and breeders.


The Cost of Eliminating All Risk with Your Puppy


For sure this is the safest approach to prevent your puppy from illness. The illnesses that are of concerned are serious ones: parvo virus and distemper. That being said, the safest way to avoid being injured in a car accident is to never ride in or drive a car. The cost of completely eliminating the risk of injury in a car accident it quite high. You'll have to walk or ride a bicycle anywhere you want to go. Not to mention the cost of not being in a motor vehicle is not in line with the actual risk. The all-too-common advice of not socializing a puppy until after their last set of shots is equally as out of line with reality.


The Actual Risk of Your Puppy Contracting an Illness


First, the risk of a puppy becoming infected with parvo or distemper is very low. Most veterinarians in New England seldom treat cases of parvo or distemper. In questioning local veterinary practitioners, it seems most can go several years without treating a case. Statistically the risk of coming in contact with parvo virus is typically seasonal (usually spring and fall) and most common in low-income communities where vaccinations aren’t commonplace.


The Risks of Not Socializing Your Puppy


The cost for not socializing your puppy often, starting at 8 weeks old, is tremendous. The single greatest cause of temperament and behavioral problems, and especially aggression, is the lack of socialization at an early age. No other reason for temperament and behavioral problems other than a lack of socialization even comes close.


The second cause of temperament and behavioral problems is genetic: a weak nervous system. From a behavioral standpoint the nervous system is your dog’s hard wiring which enables him or her to interact with the world around it. Even puppies with a weak nervous system can usually be helped through early socialization. The nervous system doesn’t change but early exposure to natural triggers can decrease sensitivity and improve tolerance. This in turn increases their ability to interact with the world around them. This ability to interact with the world around them reduces insecure behavior and aggression.

Solutions for Socializing Your Puppy

Increasing the benefits of socialization while reducing risks of illness

A concierge veterinarian and consultant we use Paula Bratich DVM states “Owners should thoroughly socialize their puppies in public, but make deliberate choices to avoid unvaccinated dogs (puppies and adults) until two weeks after their puppy’s final vaccines. This is when your puppy is fully immunized. That means avoiding interacting with puppies and adults with unknown vaccine histories including in your neighborhood, as well as high traffic places with unknown dogs such as dog parks, and pet shops such as Petsmart and Petco.”


The lesson to learn is socialize, socialize and then socialize. This includes socializing with new people outside of the home, new environments and other dogs. Do not wait. Start early, and do it often. For more information on socialization see our blog article: Optimal Socialization for Your Puppy





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