Created: 19 June 2013
Doors will be closing SOON on social skills
You know the saying, “when one door closes, another one opens?” With respect to raising a well-adjusted puppy, Alexander Graham Bell lied. Though experts disagree on the exact numbers, the door to socialization for your puppy opens at around 4 weeks and closes about 8 weeks later, when your puppy is 12 weeks old. This is a limited time offer.
To be a well-adjusted dog, your young puppy needs to get out of the house! He needs to meet people--tall people, fat people, people in wheelchairs, people in cowboy hats and people with umbrellas. And children. He needs to meet dogs--friendly, healthy dogs in safe places. He needs to experience so many things in such a short period of time--grass and gravel under his paws; elevators and stairwells; eating out of metal bowls and off paper plates; bicycles, strollers, a marching band. Throngs. No one said it would be easy. But it will be fun. (For a more ideas, see our Puppy Socialization Checklist)
But my veterinarian says I should wait
When Rico was a puppy, I took him to the hardware store to meet men with facial hair, and a woman followed me out to my car and yelled at me about Parvo and Rabies and Distemper. Full throttle socialization, especially to other dogs, can present a problem for conscientious puppy parents like yourself. Maybe you’ve heard that your puppy shouldn’t meet other dogs until he’s fully vaccinated at 16 weeks old. Maybe you heard it from your well-meaning veterinarian. Maybe it scared the bejeezus out of you. It scared me, too, so I decided to investigate for myself.
What’s more heartbreaking than Parvo?
Here’s what I learned from my trainer and my vet and the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB).
Behavioral problems are the number one reason dogs are taken to the shelter and the number one reason that dogs under 3 years old die.
Parvo is frightening, yes, but can you imagine leaving your dog at the shelter because she bit someone? Or sentencing her to solitary confinement in your backyard for life? Or never being able to have friends over for dinner? It would break your heart.
What the AVSAB says
In their position statement, the AVSAB says that “it should be the standard of care for puppies to receive . . . socialization beforethey are fully vaccinated” (emphasis mine).
A compromise and a plan
You have so many options for socializing your puppy in a safe environment and minimizing his risk of yucky stuff.
First of all, avoid inappropriate places full of dogs (or dog poo) with questionable vaccination status--dog parks, pet stores, dog events, the groomer.
Second, the compromise. You may choose to wait until his second set of vaccines (at 9-10 weeks old) to let him start meeting strange dogs that you know have been vaccinated. It doesn’t give you much time for dog mingling, but it can be done and you can feel better about it because he’s close to full immunity.
Third, enroll him in puppy school, sooner rather than later. Choose a facility that requires vaccinations and is clean and enclosed. Puppy school will go a long way towards exposing your puppy to lots of new people, other puppies, children. At a Good Dog’s Life, our Puppy Program will give your puppy the skills she needs to love life and greet every experience with a wagging tail. Click here
to learn more and to sign up for one of several convenient puppy classes.
What did you do to socialize your puppy? Leave a comment below and let us know three things you think a puppy should experience before the door closes on socialization.