Moo

Moo, an energetic 3-and-a-half-month young heeler mix at Second Chance Humane Society, doesn’t want to be alone. (Courtesy photo)

Dear Pet Column,

Is it true that I should not take my new puppy out in public until she has received her last puppy vaccination at 16 weeks?

—Perplexed puppy parent

Dear Perplexed,

I am going to help you put this mythology away in a puppy crate forever. Puppies should absolutely be taken out into the world before the age of 12 weeks and certainly should not spend this incredibly critical period of development wrapped in a plastic bubble at home.

Because I am just a dog and you may not respect my wisdom, I am lifting a quote from the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) position statement on puppy socialization: “Because the first three months are the period when sociability outweighs fear, this is the primary window of opportunity for puppies to adapt to new people, animals and experiences. Incomplete or improper socialization during this important time can increase the risk of behavioral problems later in life, including fear, avoidance and/or aggression. Behavioral problems are the greatest threat to the owner-dog bond. In fact, behavioral problems are the number one cause of relinquishment to shelters. Behavioral issues, not infectious diseases, are the number one cause of death for dogs under three years of age.”

AVSAB’s statement continues, “The primary and most important time for puppy socialization is the first three months of life. ... 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.”

And here is a quote from the American Veterinary Medical Association (meaning regular vets not just animal behaviorists): “By 8-9 weeks of age most dogs are sufficiently neurologically developed that they are ready to start exploring unfamiliar social and physical environments. Data show that if they are prohibited from doing so until after 14 weeks of age they lose such flexibility and may be fearful in these situations. Such dogs may function well within extremely restricted social situations but may be fearful and reactive among unfamiliar people, pets or in environments outside of the house.”

My advice is to find a good positive trainer before you adopt, as well as a veterinarian who will administer your puppy’s vaccinations on a schedule that will facilitate the pup’s timely admission to a puppy class. Do as much thoughtful, structured socializing as possible (more tips on that in an upcoming Pet Column) with your puppy at your home, and/or in the homes of friends or family members who have no dogs or healthy, vaccinated, reliably dog-friendly dogs who can be trusted to not scare or harm the puppy.

ABOUT ME

My name is Moo and I am an energetic 3-and-a-half-month young heeler mix that came to Second Chance after being found wondering the highway near the Ridgway State Park. I am a very sweet and happy puppy looking for a lot of love and special attention. Because of my early emotional trauma from abandonment, I currently do not do well when left alone. I would love an attentive family that has a confident dog that I can learn from. I love to play with other dogs and go for long walks after long cuddle sessions with humans. Come meet me today!

Second Chance Humane Society Animal Resource Center and Thrift Shops service San Miguel, Ouray and Montrose counties. Call the SCHS Helpline at 970-626-2273 to report a lost pet, learn about adopting a homeless pet, or about the SCHS Spay/Neuter, Volunteer, Feral Cat or other programs. View our shelter pets and services online at adoptmountainpets.org.