Friday, November 25, 2011

Signature Dog Blog: Signature Pet Services - Puppy Socialization & Classes: Risks vs Benefits

Madeline when she was just a wee puppy



Lately I have noticed (what I feel is very strange behaviour) new puppy owners carrying their puppies in their arms while they walk around the neighbourhood.  Very odd indeed.  Perhaps a well intentioned veterinarian told these puppy newbies that if their puppy touched the ground they would get sick and die.  I certainly hope not...but you never know these days.  This very strange and commonly occurring behaviour has prompted me to do a little research into this with the hopes that there was some kind of intelligent answer.  And, I think what may have happened is that these puppy newbies took the advice a little too far!

There is always concern that puppies will get sick and the threat of Parvovirus is very real but according to my understanding and interpretation of a recent article from Veterinary Medicine that while it is important to vaccinate your puppy it is equally important to socialize them and get them into a proper structured puppy class  (if you lack the time and discipline to follow your own socialization plan for your puppy).  There is a critical time period where puppies must be socialized and it ends, according to the experts, at around 16 weeks.  Puppy classes help with both socialization, bite inhibition, and leash manners, etc. Studies indicate that these early classes go a long way to bond the puppy to its new owner.  Often times, when puppies grow out of their cute puppy stage and into the trying adolescence stage they are either dumped at shelters, abandoned at the park or side of the road or relegated to the garage (or worse).  Yes, I have seen it over and over again.  Without proper socialization, puppies have the potential to grow into aggressive dogs on the road to euthanization.  If you don't believe me hit the websites for the ASPCA and the BCSPCA and do some of your own research.

If you are worried that your puppy may pick up Parvovirus at puppy class or while socializing - there are excellent vaccines available so talk to your veterinarian.  Although, some puppies (about 8%) do fail to generate enough protection with two vaccines and they need their final one around 14 to 16 weeks of age. 

To minimize this risk, ask your puppy class organizer what their vaccine policy is.  At a minimum there should be one vaccine or even better two.  Do the first vaccine at seven weeks and the second at nine.  Ask the organizer how they keep the floor clean - do they use a special bleach solution to clean up feces and prevent contamination.  They should never allow a sick puppy in class and should pay attention to all the puppies and send anyone home with a sick puppy.  Puppies can be carried from the car to the class (if you are worried and depending on where they are in their vaccine protocol).  And, no this is not the same as carrying your puppy on an outing - that is ridiculous and will only cause your puppy to grow into a fearful dog. 

Again, according to Veterinary Medicine, puppies benefit from early socialization from puppy classes (or do like I did with Madeline my own dog and make your own socialization plan using advice from Dr. Ian Dunbar's many puppy books).  The benefit outweighs the risk of infectious diseases so long as basic precautions are taken.  It is far more likely that a puppy will die from behaviour issues due to lack of proper socialization than from an infection picked up at puppy classes or from walking around your neighbourhood. 

So all those people carrying their puppies - put them down and take them for a real walk.  And, remember always do your own research, there are some excellent veterinarians around (and some who are not) who can help, great websites (Dr. Ian Dunbar) and solid reading materials available at your fingertips so do right by your puppy and get yourself informed.  

Don't take my opinion - form your own with expert assistance and guidance.  

Your puppy will thank you!