Updated: Feb 17, 2020
When you get a new puppy there is so much to learn and so many things to find out!
The easiest way to find out information about what to do with your new floofball is by chatting to your vet at their vaccination appointments or in their first health check with you. I highly recommend having an in depth discussion on all matters to do with the current and future health of your dog with your veterinarian, they are experts in this and can give you valuable insights.
One area where some vets and dog trainers can be at odds however, is the age at which you should take your puppy out of the yard. The risk of taking your puppy out and about before they have had all three of their puppy vaccines, is that they don't yet have full immunity against the potentially fatal Parvovirus. Because of the incredibly contagious nature of the disease, keeping your puppy under strict lock down until they are over 18 weeks of age, is the safest way to protect them against it.
HOWEVER the problem with this is that your puppy has what is known as a 'Critical Development Period' that describes the period in which they must receive adequate social and environmental exposure in the world. This period has a distinct age window of 6-16 weeks of age - the time that they they are most at risk!
What does this mean for you and your puppy? Well unfortunately I don't have a perfect answer for you, but lets break it down:
Keep your puppy in lock down until after the third vaccine. Many dogs can make it through without behaviour problems - but many don't. Dogs that don't get early enough socialisation can become incredibly anxious in the world - there are so many sounds, sights and smells that become very overwhelming. They can also have strange reactions to people and dogs. Anywhere from being mildly nervous through to reacting aggressively on leash.
Take your puppy out everywhere with you. Not going to lie - this can be super risky depending on where you live. Parvo is likely to be more prevalent in lower socio-economic areas or in more rural areas where vaccination rates tend to be lower then in the heart of cities or suburbia.
Parvovirus is a horrendous disease that your really don't want your puppy contracting. Every vaccine makes it less likely that they will contract it and reduce the severity if they do.
Option 3 - The Compromise
It's not black and white and there are so many variables but here is the deal. If you are sensible and take precautions - you should be able to socialise your puppy safely during their critical period while keeping the risk of contracting Parvo low. Your puppy has to see and experience the world, but they don't always have to interact with it.
-You can take your puppy to stores like Bunnings, put their blanket in the trolley and walk around with them perfectly safe. You can ask that people not pat them if you are worried about contaminated hands or ask that they use some hand sanitiser before giving them a pat. Take some treats with you to reinforce good reactions to new environmental stimuli.
-Ask around to see if your friends have houses in nice neighbourhoods where you can take your puppy to experience someone else's yard, the different surfaces, children, well socialised older dogs and anything else that might add to your list of new experiences for your pup.
-Bring a pop-up pen to new environments that has a built in floor, and a puppy pad to go toilet on. There may be grass where you are, but if it is fully accessible to the public you might want to avoid putting your puppy down there, needing another option for toilet breaks.
- Places like nursing homes are fantastically enriching for both puppy and the residents and they are places that are likely to be pretty free of exposure to other canines. Ring and ask grandma's nursing home if they would mind if you bring your new puppy to visit, its unlikely they will say no!
Get creative and make a list of potential enrichment options.
To figure out safety, consider that Parvo is transmitted through contact with bodily fluids, but it can live in small amounts, for a long time and in a range of temperatures. If you walk through a park, you could pick it up on your shoe and walk it around. This is important information for you to know, if you are evaluating an environment to take your puppy into. Pick areas with limited dog access, pick clean areas that can be cleaned or good socio-economic areas where dogs walking through are likely to be vaccinated.
Weigh up your options and decide what you're comfortable with, nothing is more important then being informed and making the right decision for you and your puppy. If you need help or want to know more, give me a call!
Thanks for reading and I hope this helps you keep your commitment to canines.