Out on the Town

KEY IDEA:
Seek out relatively safe places where the
not-yet-fully-vaccinated pup can get out
into the world to experience new things. 

TEN TO SIXTEEN WEEKS:

GETTING OUT ON THE TOWN

 

There’s a stretch in puppyhood – up through around 4 months – when puppies are typically vaccinated several times but cannot yet be considered fully immunized against parvovirus and distemper. 

Lamentably, a convincing swath of research has identified that exact same stretch of time as the almost magic (but fleeting!) period when pups are wide open to new experiences that will set them up for a lifetime of confidence. 

The tension between those two scientific truths presents a dilemma. Staying at home is the only way to keep a pup 100% safe from infectious disease – but doing that could well lead to debilitating behavioral issues down the road. My choice is to head out -- carefully. (Read more on this topic here.)

 

Where I live in Virginia, the odds of picking up parvo or distemper through thoughtful, nuanced adventuring are miniscule. Here, it's possible to seek out relatively safe places where your pup can see new things and meet new people/animals. Start with visiting friends and neighbors at their homes! Of course it's key to avoid dog parks, pet stores, even vet offices (carrying your pup when there) and instead stick to areas where you can be more sure that all dogs have been vaccinated. And obviously: Never let your dog near a poop that someone didn’t pick up!

So, from week 10 on, keep up everything you’ve been doing, and add:

  • New Dogs. Arrange to (safely!) meet as many different kinds of dogs as you can: big, small, fluffy, pointy-eared and floppy-eared, etc. If you have a trusted older dog who is wonderful with puppies, that is gold! Important: set the interactions up so that the puppy feels safe. Dogs avoid conflict by retreating, so let them retreat. That means no leash for the puppy, and ideally a table or bench where the bigger dog can’t fit so the pup can head there to regroup. Let the puppy meet dogs at his own pace. Don’t lure or call him out. Just let him join in when he chooses, and give him that safe spot to use. Sometimes walking around as a group helps a puppy feel more comfortable, and sometimes if you pay lots of friendly attention to the new adult dog that can help the pup get over any concerns. Half an hour of this kind of socialization is more than enough! The pup will need a big nap afterward. 

  • New experiences for the pup out in the community: sidewalks, large loud vehicles, sliding doors, stores, neighbors’ houses, car trips, etc. Continue to reward their exploration, and not their fearfulness. (If they are fearful, give them a moment, and wait for them to take a step in the right direction, and then reward THAT.)
     

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