Roger baby its a wild world
May 9, 2008 7:15 PM   Subscribe

When is it safe for my puppy to explore the world outside of our house and yard?

Yay! I have an 11 week old puppy (Roger). We are both figuring out how all this stuff works. But, the world of vaccinations is making my head spin. He's not too worried though. There seems to be no clear answer and a different opinion from everyone. On one hand, vets & pharm companies make lots of money from vaccinations, and I wonder if its all necessary. On the other hand, these diseases do happen and are very serious and/or deadly. That scares the hell out of me.We are in an urban area with zillions of dogs from all walks of life and backgrounds. I am very cautious and trying not to be an overprotective "mom"...just trying to get more facts so I can base my decision on logic rather than emotion. I really want to socialize him and get him used to the sights, smells, and sounds of everyday life on the outside.

Here are the details:
-Roger got his DHPP shots at 5, 7 and 9 weeks. The vet that gave him these three shots recommended a 4th. But, the breeder said it was ok to skip the 4th and he is fine as is.
-We went to a new vet (in our city) today and she gave him a DA2LPP (DHLPP) shot
-Our vet says he will need a final DA2LPP (DHLPP) shot at 16 weeks
-Vet also says only then (at 16wks) can he go out where other dogs have been (which is pretty much everywhere...we are in San Francisco)

At this point, I'm not questioning the final shot (even though the breeder said he is fine AS IS...even without the shot today). But, I would like more resources about the levels of immunity. Is he nearly 75% covered? 95%? I realize this might be impossible to say as it probably depends on the dog, the breed, the environment, etc.

But, should we really wait until 16 weeks to let him out into the world? What if, say starting next week (12 weeks)-we just give him a slice...avoid other dogs (besides friends' and puppy school dogs) and take him to some places outdoors/less doggy places? (Of course, keeping him away from dog poo.) I'm not really sure where this would be...but basically not the dog park or places with lots of dogs.

Or, if you don't have any stats/research/resources...what would you do? Roger & me thank you.
posted by hazel to Pets & Animals (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Your vet's advice is well-intentioned, and almost certainly good for the *health* of your puppy. However, it may not be the best advice for your puppy's *well-being*.

A puppy needs to experience the world: other dogs, miscellaneous critters, people of all sorts, and all the sights, sounds and smells of the life they'll lead. This socializing is critical to having a well-adjusted dog who can take the sights, sounds and smells of the day-to-day world in stride.

We got the same advice as you on our first visit to our vet with our golden retriever pup eleven years ago and followed it carefully. Today, while we love our neurotic golden retriever dearly, I'm fairly convinced that our failure to socialize her early greatly contributed to her skittishness, nervousness, and tendency to be aggressive on leash.
posted by deCadmus at 7:53 PM on May 9, 2008

I bought a rat terrier puppy about 10 years ago. She received all her shots and at about three months old we started letting her play outside. Within a week, she had contacted parvo. Come to find out, although we hadn't had any dogs in our fenced backyard in years, the neighbors had a puppy about a year earlier who had been infected and died from parvo. The vet said the feces from that dog had infected our soil and that it wasn't unusual to have it remain in the soil for even longer, up to two years. She never came in contact with another dog or the feces and yet she got parvo anyway.

We had her in an animal hospital for three weeks receiving fluids through an IV in her neck. She also received blood transfusions and when it was all over she actually survived despite the vet saying she had less than a 5% chance. Even after she came back from the hospital we had to nurse her 24 hours a day for the next week. The vet bill was nearly $3000.

Will this happen to Roger? Probably not, but there is a chance. For me, I would simply ask myself, keep the puppy isolated in my home for another four weeks, or keep him in a hospital for four weeks terrified that he might succumb to parvo? From someone whose dealt with the latter, I wouldn't risk it.

My little one is still with me. :)
posted by Ugh at 7:55 PM on May 9, 2008

Where we live now - our vet warned us about parvo with our second puppy, he said it's in the soil in this area and would be best to keep him out of it till vaccinations for it are completed. (yards, dirt, etc)

Like deCadmus - our first dog was treated "to the letter" and he is super smart, but crazy neurotic and not socialized (vet said they "imprint" by about 6mo and that's just the way they will be mostly) - my wife lost a dog long ago to parvo and so we were very careful with our first pup.

The second pup had the benefit of his "big brother" to socialize and we did let him on some on pavement only walks with the leash - he is the typical well-adjusted dog. YMMV

Still don't know if I'd risk it - best to be safe and just get a second puppy now - that way they will socialize together inside where it's safe! :) (only sorta kidding)
posted by clanger at 8:18 PM on May 9, 2008

Here's another vote for following the 16 week rule. As Ugh's story and link illustrate, Parvo is a very real danger. I didn't want to wait with my pup either but learning about Parvo scared me straight.

You can make it up to Roger after he's sixteen weeks.
posted by cjets at 8:26 PM on May 9, 2008

ditto deCadmus - socialization WITH DOGS is so important for a dog's ability to handle the world. It's not something that can be replaced by human interaction, nor be caught up with later - it's a developmental issue that happens in age-related stages, and if stages are missed, they're gone for ever. The more your pup can interact with dogs the better adjusted it will be.
posted by anadem at 8:44 PM on May 9, 2008

Best answer: second ditto deCadmus. Just don't allow your puppy to walk on ground which may have been soiled with urine and feces of unvaccinated dogs, carry the puppy in areas where a lot of dogs may have been. But get that puppy out. More dogs die from behaviour problems caused by undersocialization in the critical first four months than ever die of disease. Unless your puppy is a black and tan breed (Doberman, Rottweiler, etc.), which are more prone to parvovirus than other breeds, in which case you want to be extra cautious (but still no reason not to get the puppy out). Yes, there is some risk until the full series of shots is given (although it decreases with each set), but the effects of a lack of proper early socialization last a lifetime and can never be truly fixed.

Also, why is your vet giving Lepto? I would most definitely be questioning this. The Lepto vaccine has the highest rate of adverse reaction of any vaccine (potentially life threatening), it gives spotty immunity at best (only half of the serovars are actually vaccinated against), most dogs are not truly at risk of contracting the disease, and even if they do it can often be managed with supportive care if caught early. Here is some research. Unless you live somewhere unusually high-risk for Lepto, there is really no reason to vaccinate for it, dogs are already massively over-vaccinated (which is why the current guidelines are the puppy series, one year boosters, and then every three years, ideally parvo and distemper get titered after the one years, many dogs never need another booster for those two in their lives, and rabies is only every three years because it's required by law).
posted by biscotti at 10:38 PM on May 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

Sign your puppy up for a puppy class. He will get the necessary socialization time with other dogs and the risk of contracting disease will be minimal (although still possible). Look for a class that requires the puppy be dewormed and the vaccination series started. Many veterinary hospitals offer puppy classes and are the most knowledgeable in controlling the spread of infectious diseases and take precautions. As biscotti said, more dogs are euthanized for behavioral problems than die from diseases like parvo and distemper.
posted by little miss s at 6:15 AM on May 10, 2008

This thread is useless without Roger pictures :)

Seconding puppy class. When our little guy was old enough and the vet gave him the okay to go, he went to Puppy Kindergarten. He had a lot of issues with separation anxiety and training problems, but things got a lot better after we went to class. I attribute it to him being very socialized and behaved now.

You'll never see a dog less spazzy around other dogs or people.
posted by jerseygirl at 7:26 AM on May 10, 2008

Best answer: Classes are an excellent suggestion (and frankly, not something that I feel should ever be considered optional), but there is a danger in thinking that if you go to class once a week you don't have to do anything else. I try to get a new puppy out somewhere different every single day for the first few weeks I have it ("different" can be as simple as to two different ends of the same street, but also needs to involve car travel, bus travel, walking on a variety of different surfaces, traffic, meeting children, people in wheelchairs, people of all colours, shapes, sizes and gaits, and pretty well anything I can come up with that the pup will meet in its lifetime). I also handle the puppy all over, gently (if we're on the couch watching TV, I'll be stroking the puppy all over, handling its mouth, feet and ears, etc. - people always seem to be surprised that they never teach their dog to accept having its mouth, feet and ears handled, and then the dog resents having its mouth, feet and ears handled, make it easy on the dog by making it a rewarding, positive bonding experience rather than a battle), brush it, bathe it, all with calm, gentle attitude and lots of rewards (food, play, massage, etc.). The more effort you put in before the puppy is four months old, the better off you and the puppy will be for the next decade plus.

Take a blanket from home, carry the puppy into the nearest pet store, hardware store, anywhere that will allow dogs, put the puppy on the blanket in a shopping cart, and push it around, nobody can resist a cute puppy, the puppy gets to meet people, hear new sounds, see new things, and all while it's kept pretty safe from disease by not coming into contact with the ground. I, frankly, do walk my puppies before they're finished their vaccinations, but I am careful to stay on pavement and avoid areas which are high dog traffic (street corners with stop signs, fire hydrants, etc.) - I would rather take the risk of a sick or even dead puppy than live with an undersocialized dog for ten or fifteen years (if I lived in an area with a high parvo risk, I would be more cautious about letting the puppy walk on the ground, but I would still take it out). If your breeder has followed an appropriate protocol, the puppy will likely have reasonable immunity after two to three sets of shots, and certainly no puppy needs more than four in total unless there is a very good reason for it (I have some reservations about your vet's vaccination protocol, it sounds very out of line with the current AVMA guidelines, I urge you to do some research into this, this is not crazy "autism is caused by vaccinations!!!111!!!" stuff, it's well-researched with SCIENCE!).

If you can find a class specifically geared toward puppy experiences (which will include things like recordings of thunderstorms, umbrellas, weird-looking people and dogs, etc.) so much the better, but even that does not absolve you of the need to get the puppy out and experiencing the world as you live in it (if you go to the cottage, get the puppy near water, if you sail, get the puppy on a boat, if you ride horses, get the puppy to a stable). It cannot be emphasized enough that much of the danger from contracting a disease can be mitigated through common sense, the danger from undersocialization in the critical window cannot, you can never get those first four months back, and you only have two of them in most cases to actually do anything with the puppy.
posted by biscotti at 7:57 AM on May 10, 2008 [3 favorites]

According to my dog training friend, there is a window of opportunity for socialising a puppy so that it can cope with the enormous variety of scary things that can be found outside. This window normally closes by 14-16 weeks, at which point you may be stuck with a timid and nervous dog.
posted by emilyw at 8:02 AM on May 10, 2008

Our dog didn't meet other dogs within the window, and never learnt to behave properly around other dogs. It didn't become timid or aggressive, but didn't learn the social stuff, e.g. taking turns to sniff each other, but was egoistic and "too interested".
posted by flif at 9:12 AM on May 10, 2008

Response by poster: Lots of great replies...thanks. Ugh, I'm glad your little pup made it. Its good to know there's a possibility of any soil being infected.

We signed up for puppy class weeks ago and we start next week...and there are several puppy socials we can attend to supplement the class and get dog socialization. Plus, our friend has a dog that he can bring over to play with Roger.

Biscotti: I will definitely take him out and about...those are very good suggestions. He gets a little squirmy being held too long when there are things to explore, so I'll prob keep the periods short. But, do you think even a little trail hike would be ok? (of course not strenous)

Also, the vet said that there has been some cases of Lepto in our city. And a couple of cases of Parvo in the last month. And when I asked why he need more shots, she said it had to do with the timing...and that the most important one was at 16wks since it would be further away from the time he received antibodies from his mom. I will look at the research. Do you think he could skip the 16th/final shot?

Its sooo hard to find a good vet. Any rec's for one in the bay area would be appreciated! (I thought I found a decent one as they had good reviews on yelp and citysearch--but none of my friends here have pets).

Finally, Roger is posing nicely in my profile :)
posted by hazel at 1:35 PM on May 10, 2008

I would definitely not take a baby puppy on a trail hike, walks should be short (like to the end of the street and back, around a small block, whatever), and forced exercise (which doesn't mean anything bad, it just means not allowing the puppy to choose pace and distance) should normally be avoided for at least the first 6-8 months (depending on breed, larger breeds even longer).

I cannot advise you as to whether or not to skip the final shot, but I CAN tell you that a vet who vaccinated my dog against lepto without discussing the pros and cons with me first would not be my vet after that visit, and they would hear why - all vaccines are not created equal and we should not use every vaccine available to us just because we can (I hope your vet didn't vaccinate your dog against Coronavirus as well). I would also not return to a vet who didn't discuss modern vaccination protocols with me in enough detail that I understood them. At the clinic I work at, these things are done in detail, and the only dogs who get lepto are dogs whose owners specifically request it and/or dogs who are in a high risk group (like working hunting dogs), and even then, the risks of the vaccine are discussed thoroughly, including the fact that it's just not a very effective vaccine. "Some cases" of lepto would not be a reason for me to vaccinate against it. Vaccinations do have to do with timing, but since your breeder's protocol seems reasonable to me, and your vet's less so...I might discuss it with the breeder. You may have a vaccination-happy vet and/or a vet who isn't up to date with current protocols, both of which would make that vet my ex-vet. And your puppy is very cute.
posted by biscotti at 4:35 PM on May 11, 2008

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