3.6.17
NMVMA listserve Veterinary Behavior Tip #24

Infectious Disease in Puppy Socialization Classes

When it comes to exposing puppies to others of their ilk there’s a bit of angst and downright fear in pet parent land. Here is a bit of research that should help un-muddy the waters.

Behavior problems are much more than an annoyance for many dog owners. According to the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior, the leading cause of death in dogs under age 3 years is behavior problems. The high rate of relinquishment and rehoming, multiple times for some dogs, is responsible for the worsening of anxiety-driven disorders in many cases. We all believe in prevention. Setting these youngsters up for success can make a real difference.

There are lots of causes for bad behavior. One important factor is a lack of appropriate social contact. A study by Duxbury et al published in JAVMA concluded, in part, that, “Results suggest several practices that veterinarians may recommend to enhance the likelihood that puppies will remain in their first homes, such as enrolling 7- to 12- week-old puppies in early learning and socialization classes.” In other words, young dogs adjust better to life with humans if they engage in species-typical social behaviors during their sensitive period (3 weeks to 3 months of age).

There is concern for the risk of infectious disease in puppies younger than 16 weeks. A study of 279 vaccinated puppies, by Stepita, Bain, and Kass published in AAHA, found “… that vaccinated puppies attending socialization classes were at no greater risk of CPV infection than vaccinated puppies that did not attend those classes.” The paper concluded that, “No puppies were suspected by trainers of having CPV infection.”

Of course, nothing is guaranteed. But it appears that the risks of significant behavior problems and early relinquishment are reduced by proper socialization of young puppies. Our jobs in the realm of wellness can be to continue lowering the risk of infectious disease while promoting behavioral wellness at the same time. More of our clients will stay with us longer because their dogs will remain in their first homes.

I hope that helps.

All the best,

Jeff Nichol, DVM
Veterinary Behavior Medicine
Veterinary Emergency and Specialty Centers
Albuquerque and Santa Fe