Vaccination vs Socialisation

Dog Trainers and Vets argue about this topic to no end; To keep pups away from the world until they are fully vaccinated or not.

There are perceived risks to both sides of the argument, so what is the best decision for your new pup? We will discuss the risks with you now.


Pups require their puppy vaccinations to protect them against the following illnesses.

  • Parvovirus: causes potentially fatal diarrhoea, especially in pups and dogs under 2 years. (C3)
  • Distemper: causes coughing, diarrhoea and sometimes twitching, seizures, loss of balance, blindness (C3)
  • Hepatitis: causes vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain and possibly liver failure. (C3)
  • Parainfluenza: viral component of Canine Cough (with above vacc = C4)
  • Bordatella bronchiseptica: bacterial component of the Canine Cough (with above vacc = C5)

Vaccinations are usually given to pups at approx. 6, 12 and 16 weeks of age. A pup is fully vaccinated (general rule) 10 days after their final vaccination, so approx. 17.5 weeks of age.

If your pup has not had all their vaccinations they are at risk of contracting one of the above illnesses which can have fatal results, if not treated. So why would dog trainers and behvaiourists argue with vets over keeping pups safe from these illnesses? The answer is below.
Critical Period of Socialisation
This period occurs in puppies 3-14/18* weeks of age. *The cut off varies between dogs.
The critical period of socialisation is the time in a puppy’s life where they learn everything about the world. What is good, what is bad, what is safe, what is scary and everything in between. This is the time where a pup should be positively introduced to everything they may encounter throughout their life so they can learn how to behave in the human world.
While genetics can play a part, what a dog is not exposed to positively during this period of their life, they are likely to fear. This can lead to stress and anxiety as they have to learn how to cope in this strange and scary human world filled with unfamiliar sights, sounds and smells.

The reason trainers and behaviourists are concerned about the advice given to owners by their vets about waiting to socialise their dogs until fully vaccinated is that by this time the dogs are well past the end of their critical period and the damage has been done. Your dog now risks a lifetime of stress and/or fear which can result in problem behaviours such as anxiety, destructiveness, fear aggression and obsessive compulsive issues.

The Balancing Act
Both sides of the argument are valid. Exposure to potentially fatal viruses versus a life time of potential behavioural issues. How do you find a happy medium?
Minimise risks!
Visit safe friends and family
This means safe for both sides of the argument. Visit friends and family with vaccinated dogs but also make sure all human and canine members are a positive influence on your dog. Don’t allow your dog to be overwhelmed by the new people and animals as this can become a negative experience and spark fear and timidty issues.
Don’t walk in public parks
These are usually the breeding ground for viruses. All dogs expel their bodily fluids in these areas leaving al types of potential germs and diseases. Canine cough is most likely to be contracted here as it can easily be passed on through communal water bowls. If you would like to take your pup out into the world, stick to paved areas or carry your pup. Young pups only really need 10-20mins of physical activity at a time as they tire easily so there is no need to take them out for park trips at this age.
Go for car trips
Pups can be exposed to many different stimuli while remaining in the car. Level train crossings, work sites with machinery, crowded car parks with lots of different people walking around, driving to the dog park to watch other dogs play. All these things can be done from the safety of your car allowing you to safely and positively expose your dog to these things. Just make sure you are paying attention to your pups body language. You can get too close, even in a car so keep at a distance your pup is comfortable.
Minimising the risks of contracting viruses while your pup is finalising their vaccinations is the best way to keep them safe while maintaining their socialisation requirements during their ciritcal period of socialisation. For a detailed list of socialisation stimuli, head over to our blog, Socialising Your New Puppy.
If you have any questions regarding this topic or would like help safely socialising your puppy during their critical period of socialisation, please feel free to contact us.

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