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 ARTICLES > Puppies > Puppies
  Puppies  Article:
Article By: 2008 AVSAB American Veterinary Society of Ani       

PUPPY SOCIALIZATION ACCORDING TO The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behaviour

Below is a fantastic article put out by the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behaviour, and I say “Hallelujah”. For many years the old school Veterinarians were not in favour of puppies attending Puppy Schools. They felt that as the pups were not fully vaccinated they were at risk of picking up infection. Their protocol was to tell the owners they must wait until the pup was 6 months old! This meant that the puppies missed out on the early crucial stage of learning.  *The Critical Period of Socialization ends by three months of age! This is the crucial developmental stage during which puppies learn to accept and enjoy the company of other dogs and people. (*Ian Dunbar – Before you Get your Puppy).

 Ian Dunbar, in his book Before and After you Get your Puppy, said that the risk of infection in a controlled environment far outweighed the possibility of the puppy being euthanazed due to behaviour problems later on in life. The shelters are filled with adolescent dogs, dogs around the age of 6 – 9 months who have never been to any sort of Puppy Training. These dogs are extremely difficult to home and often, if they are homed, they are returned within six months.

In the “Process of Socialization” below the article states  “where possible, classes should be held on surfaces that are easily cleaned and disinfected (e.g. indoor environments). Visits to dog parks or other areas that are not sanitized and/or are highly trafficked by dogs of unknown vaccination or disease status should be avoided.” Here in South Africa there are very few indoor areas that we can utilize for classes, but we do have the very best natural disinfectant on the planet in plentiful supply. THE SUNSHINE.  Well run puppy schools - where no puppy is allowed unless it has had its first vaccination and has been de-wormed, two weeks prior to starting class, is very unlikely to be the place where the puppy will pick up infections. I do agree that puppy owners need to stay away from public parks until the puppy has had all of its vaccinations.

Make sure that you do the research of Puppy Schools in your area and look for the one that works for you. Take note of all the points below - there is really not much more to be said as this article says it all.

Niki Elliott. ThinkingPets Puppy Schools.

AVSAB Position Statement On Puppy Socialization www.AVSABonline.org

The primary and most important time for puppy socialization is the first three months of life.1, 2 During this time puppies should be exposed to as many new people, animals, stimuli and environments as can be achieved safely and without causing over ­stimulation manifested as excessive fear, with­drawal or avoidance behavior. 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.

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.3 Behavioral issues, not infectious diseases, are the number one cause of death for dogs under three years of age.

While puppies’ im­mune systems are still developing during these early months, the combination of maternal immunity, primary vac­cination, and appropriate care makes the risk of infection relatively small compared to the chance of death from a behavior problem.

Veterinarians specializing in behavior recom­mend that owners take advantage of every safe opportunity to expose young puppies to the great variety of stimuli that they will experi­ence in their lives. Enrolling in puppy classes prior to three months of age can be an excellent means of improving training, strengthening the human-animal bond, and socializing puppies in an environment where risk of illness can be minimized.

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.

In general, puppies can start puppy socialization classes as early as 7-8 weeks of age. Puppies should receive a minimum of one set of vac­cines at least 7 days prior to the first class and a first de-worming. They should be kept up-to-date on vaccines throughout the class


1. Serpell J, Jagoe JA. Early experience and the development of behaviour. In Serpell J (ed). The       
    Domestic Dog, p.82-102, Cambridge University Press 1995

2. Freedman DG, King JA, Elliot O. 1961. Critical periods in the social development of the dog. 
    Science, 133, 1016-1017

3. Miller DM, Stats SR, Partlo BS, et al. Factors associated with the decision to surrender a pet to an
    animal shelter. J Am Vet Med Assoc 1996;209:738- 742

4. Duxbury MM, Jackson JA, Line SW, Anderson RK. Evaluation of association between retention in   
    the home and attendance at puppy socialization classes. JAVMA, 223 (1), 2003, 61-66

5. Eskeland GE, Tillung RH, Bakken M. The effect of punishment, rewards, control and attitude in
    obedience and problem behaviors in dogs. Proceedings IVBM 2007;103-104.

6. Hilby EF, Rooney NJ, Bradshaw JWS. Dog training methods: their use, effectiveness and
     interaction with behaviour and welfare. Animal Welfare 2004;13: 63-69.

7. Bradshaw JW, McPherson JA, Casey RA, Larter LS. Aetiology of separation-related behavior in
    domestic dogs. Vet Record 2002;191:43-46.

The Process of Socialization:

Puppies should be handled from birth, learning to accept manipulation of all body parts. Every effort should be made to expose them to as many different people, well-socialized animals, situations, places, etc. as possible. Puppies should be encour­aged to explore, investigate, and manipu­late their environments. Interactive toys and games, a variety of surfaces, tunnels, steps, chutes, and other stimuli can enrich the puppy’s environment. Puppies should accompany their breeders/owners on as many car trips as possible. These exposures should continue into adulthood to maintain an outgoing and sociable dog.

Puppy socialization classes can offer a safe and organized means of socializing puppies and more quickly improve their responsiveness to commands. Each puppy should have up-to-date vaccinations and be disease and parasite free before entering the class. Where possible, classes should be held on surfaces that are easily cleaned and disinfected (e.g. indoor environments). Visits to dog parks or other areas that are not sanitized and/or are highly trafficked by dogs of unknown vaccination or disease status should be avoided.

Classes and at-home training should be based on positive reinforcement with frequent rewards praise, petting, play and/or treats. Positive and consistent training is associated with fewer behavioral problems and greater obedience than methods that involve punishment and/or encourage hu­man dominance.

Time must be scheduled for puppies to play alone with their favorite toys (such as stuffed food toys) or take naps in safe places such as crates or puppy pens. This teaches puppies to amuse themselves, and may help to prevent problems of over attachment to the owners. Continuing to offer dogs a wide variety of experiences during their first year of life is also helpful in preventing separation-related behaviour.

Proper confinement training using pens or crates helps to ensure that puppies have safe and secure places for rest and con­finement. Puppies that are used to being crated will be less stressed if they must be hospitalised or be confined for travel by plane or car. Crates should serve as comfort or play areas.

Early and adequate socialization and programs of positive training can go a long way to preventing behavior problems and improving bonding between humans and dogs. While the first three months is the most important socialization period in a puppy’s life, owners of puppies that have passed this milestone are strongly encour­aged to continue to socialize their puppies to as many people, pets, and locations as is practical. However, owners of puppies displaying fear should seek veterinary guid­ance.

© 2008 AVSAB American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior

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