By Sandy Modell
Experts used to advise new puppy parents to keep their 8-week-old bundles of joy home until they were four to six months old. So, for the first two to four months, puppies had no experience with the “real world,” like walking on different surfaces, interacting with other animals or people with big hats, big coats, umbrellas, or who weren’t their owners. Even veterinarians advised no contact with the outside world until a puppy had received all his vaccinations.
This led to many under-socialized puppies and ultimately, to increased behavioral problems, including fear and aggression. Behavioral problems are the primary reason dogs are surrendered to shelters, and the odds are greater that a dog will be euthanized for serious behavioral problems than that he will develop parvovirus or kennel cough.
Today, progressive veterinarians and many dog trainers recommend exposing your puppy to a variety of experiences during that critical six to sixteen-week socialization period. A recent study in the Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association found that puppies who received their first round of vaccinations and attended puppy classes were at no greater risk of parvovirus infection than were vaccinated puppies who did not attend those classes. The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior has found that the standard of care for puppies should be to receive such socialization before they are fully vaccinated.