Q. Our 8-week-old puppy, Ginger, is a Viszla mix, and she’s a handful. Our veterinarian wants us to start puppy classes, but friends say they were advised to wait until all the puppy vaccines had been given. Who’s right?
The qualified answer is to start puppy classes immediately. The most important window for puppy socialization is during the first three months of life. At this age, pups should be exposed to as many new people, places, animals, experiences and environments as possible.
The caveat is that you want to achieve this socialization safely. That’s why pet owners have historically been urged to wait for shots before exposing their puppies to new environments and strange dogs.
The fact is, though, that safety from disease — with or without vaccines — is never a sure thing, and your puppy’s emotional wellbeing may be at stake if you don’t offer her early opportunities for socialization.
According to the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior, “Incomplete or improper socialization can increase the risk of behavioral problems later in life including fear, avoidance, and/or aggression.”
The answer is to use common sense. A vet-recommended puppy class where all newcomers are already under a veterinarian’s care is considered a safe place to socialize.
In general, puppies can start classes as early as seven or eight weeks of age. Most vets recommend they receive at least one set of vaccines and an initial deworming treatment at least seven days prior, with shots continuing on schedule throughout the course of the class.
Dr. Patty Khuly has a veterinary practice in South Miami and blogs at www.dolittler.com. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or Dr. Dolittler, Tropical Life, The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, FL 33132.