My heart sank as I read the first email in my box on January 2nd. The email said, “Please cancel my request for puppy class. Both my vet and breeder advised against participating in the class until my puppy is fully vaccinated.” Once again a new puppy owner has been grossly mis-lead by two professionals that obviously know nothing about current research regarding the importance of early socialization and its effect on future welfare.
According to the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior, “The primary and most important time for puppy socialization is the first 3 months of life. During this time puppies should be exposed to as many new people, animals, stimuli and environments as can be achieved safely…For this reason, the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior believes that it should be the standard of care for puppies to receive such socialization before they are fully vaccinated.(1) The American Animal Hospital Association is in agreement – “There is no medical reason to delay puppy and kitten classes or social exposure until the vaccination series is completed…The risks attendant with missing social exposure far exceed any disease risk.”(2)
I really cannot figure out how people can remain so uninformed on such an important topic. As I considered this, I decided to try and find any reputable source that suggests withholding puppy socialization or puppy classes until the puppy is fully vaccinated. I did a google search for “puppy class and vaccinations” and all I found was more information about why you should NOT wait until the puppy is fully vaccinated. The closest thing I found to any recommendation against a puppy class was information encouraging people to 1) make sure their puppies are up to date on booster vaccines, and 2) only take them to classes that have health and vaccine requirements.
At Wagmore Canine Enrichment, our training center is a spacious and clean 3000 square foot, climate controlled space. It is cleaned each week with veterinary and kennel disinfectant. Furthermore, we require current vaccinations for all dogs entering the building. Adults dogs (>16 weeks of age) must have current vaccinations for Rabies, Distemper/Parvo and Bordetella. Puppies must have current vaccinations (boosters) for Distemper/Parvo and Bordetella. The cut-off age for our Puppy Socialization and Manners class is 16 weeks of age. We never allow classes that mix mature dogs who roam about in the world with our young, not yet fully vaccinated puppies. We do all of these things to ensure that puppies and dogs have the best and safest training experience possible.
In addition to providing up to date health considerations, we also follow important and up to date training recommendations that include using only reward-based training methods for all dog training, including the treatment of behavior problems, as recommended by the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior in their Humane Dog Training Position Statement.(3) All of our trainers are held to the Least Intrusive and Minimally Aversive (LIMA) code of ethics as a minimal standard.(4)
While I would never offer a potential client Veterinary or dog breeding advice, I feel it is my responsibility as a dog trainer to inform them when Veterinarians and breeders offer harmful behavior and training advice. It is my hope that making this information available will help educate the general public and in turn encourage professionals in other animal care fields to educate themselves.