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Vaccinate your dogs against life!

I am passionate about early puppy socialisation. That’s why I got quite annoyed this week when I heard a client tell me that her vet had re-started her puppy’s vaccination programme. This, despite the breeder having already organized the first injection to allow for socialisation as soon as possible after re-homing.  In addition, this vet stated categorically that the puppy should not be allow out until two weeks after the second jab-while my own vet advocates one week. Now this new puppy’s crucial life experiences have been set back by at least three weeks. With only a very limited time to optimize socialisation opportunities, every day counts.

When I have a new puppy, I have a list of experiences which he needs to be sensitively & sensibly exposed to. Every day I think ‘what hasn’t he seen or heard, smelt or touched yet? Each day I try to rectify this. Injections vaccinate your dogs against disease, socialisation vaccinates your dogs against life. I truly believe that more dogs are euthanized every year as a result of lack of socialisation in puppyhood, than ever die from the diseases we vaccinate against. With this in mind, we need to find a balance between sensible precautions to avoid disease & positive early life experiences which help puppies grow into a well adjusted adult dogs.  It’s simply not enough to say ‘don’t take him out!’.

I have had clients, without further instruction from their vets, take as gospel that they can’t bring their dog outside until the vaccination programme is complete. Several families I have encountered hadn’t even allowed their dog into the garden. I was even more horrified to read that some vets in the USA are advising not taking puppies out for six months & in one case until after the first year booster. Such social deprivation would be so damaging to a dog’s mental health & social wellbeing, it could almost be classed as cruelty.

While taking sensible precautions, it is possible to start early, positive socialisation, while still guarding against nasty diseases. If we’re realistic, your puppy was exposed to a small chance of disease from the day he was born. Unless your puppy was raised in a sterile bubble, he will have come from a healthy household with lots of visitors & plenty of well adjusted vaccinated adults dogs, all of whom are out & about in areas where diseases could be. Unless we’re going to start disinfecting shoes each time we enter our house & get all visitors to do the same, we’ve all been walking in public areas where diseases are potentially active.

It is possible to devise a programme which helps puppy learn about life experience sensibly & safely during their optimum socialisation period of 3-14 weeks. Prior to the vaccination programme being complete, my puppy enjoys visits to plenty of friend’s & family’s houses & enclosed gardens. He meets many vaccinated, well adjusted adult dogs, both at my home & theirs. He is carried onto the bus & train, carried around dog friendly shops, busy streets, through farm yards, fields & beaches. We will have visited the groomer & vets at least 10 times for cuddles & & gentle handling from as many people as possible-who doesn’t want to cuddle a puppy? Local children who I feel are sensible & calm will have played with, brushed & carried puppy around my house & theirs. We will have sat outside cafés & pubs with puppy on our knee. Puppy will have been exposed to lots, but with minimum risk of disease.

Simply telling new-puppy clients ‘don’t take your dog out’ not only confuses owners, it brings far greater risk to your dog in terms of social deprivation & ability to cope with normal life experiences. Remember that three or four positive encounters with kids/traffic/adult dog/people/places each week for the first four weeks before the vaccination programme is complete, will have a huge impact on your dog’s ability to become a well adjusted adult.

If certain brands of vaccination allow puppy to safely go out a week after the course is complete, why are some vets still using jabs which need another week for immunity to kick in? Why would any vet suggest leaving puppy to stagnate irreparably for six months or a year before exposure to the world? From three to 14 weeks, the socialistion clock is ticking. Hopefully your breeder will have done quite a bit already (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xNzmJBFsG30). On that first vet visit, please let them know that you’re keen for socialisation to continue & choose a jab that takes effect as early as possible. Don’t allow puppy to stagnate while you wait weeks in your house having taken vets sometimes ill-informed or half hearted advice. Let’s find a balance so that dogs can be healthy in both mind & body, a project which starts the minute you bring your new puppy home.

For more information on US Veterinary Guidelines on the practice of vaccination and socialisation see http://avsabonline.org/uploads/position_statements/puppy_socialization.pdf F

From my research, no such equivalent statement could be found from the BSAVA.

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