After reading about the importance of socializing your puppy and the dangers of Parvo, I am torn on what the best approach is for Scout. Scout will be 10 weeks old when I bring him home next Friday.

As many of you know, Canine Parvovirus, is a highly contagious viral disease that can produce a life-threatening illness. Puppies are especially susceptible to contracting the disease since they are developing their immune system and are not fully vaccinated against (the parvo vaccine is a process of shots, and when I get Scout, he will have had his first shot).

Due to the risks, some people recommend keeping your puppy inside your home and greatly limiting their exposure to the outside world. However, the first 16 weeks is a crucial time in their development and it is incredibly important to expose your puppy to friendly strangers, car rides, different environments, other dogs, etc.

I plan on avoiding dog parks, pet stores, and caring him in when I go to the Vet's office. Yet, it is safe to bring him to a dog friendly restaurant, or other establishments?

How did you approach this? I want Scout to be healthy and well socialized.

Thanks for reading!

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I would talk to your vet about how prevalent parvo is in your area. It might help you decide where you want to go.

Parvo is a serious illness, but you will hopefully have Scout for more than a decade. So, you want him well socialized. I recommend limiting visits to places where people are more prevalent than dogs. We used a local college campus and surrounding downtown heavily. There are occasionally dogs, but not many. There are also plenty of people of all shapes and sizes. Since you have some time, call ahead and see if you can bring your puppy for socializing to places. Maybe a school playground, library, non-pet stores, etc. Alcohol stores around here seem very accommodating even now that our pup is older.

If you know of a vaccinated older dog, arrange a play-date. Other than that, we had luck with a puppy kindergarten for dog exposure. Our trainer also had a great list of things to introduce to Kaylee and it as a mile long with things I never thought of, like gravel or sand.

I have one regret as far as this. We did not introduce Kaylee to elevators at a early age. It would be very helpful when traveling if she didn't think the world was ending when we needed to get her in one. I recommend finding one you can use.

Thanks for the reply! Those are some great suggestions. Also, great point about elevators. I would have not even thought about that! 

It's pretty easy to socialize a cute little puppy to people and kids. When I did this with my pup I did go to restaurants, hung out in front of movie theaters, took her to home improvement stores. But I stayed away from pet stores or dog parks. I did let her play wth other dogs that I knew were well cared for and up to date on all their shots. And I enrolled her in puppy class as soon as I could - 14 weeks I think. She got lots of puppy socialization there. Congrats on getting your new pup!

Hi Susan! Thanks, we are so excited : ) Great ideas, we will be enrolling Scout in puppy class around 14 weeks as well. 

In my ignorant youth, I did take a German shepherd pup to the local park (!!) and to a restaurant with a patio where everyone would bring their pooches. We were lucky: nothing happened.

Not a chance on God's Green Earth would I do that now, knowing better!

Don't take your pup to a public place until it's had all its  puppy shots, period. If you feel you must socialize Scout to other dogs, invite or take him to the home of a friend or neighbor who has an adult dog and who you can be certain has the dog immunized on a regular schedule. Preferably the human should be the type who does NOT habituate dog parks.This will minimize but not eliminate the likelihood of picking up parvo. If your friend/neighbor does go to dog parks, do not take your pup around the person's pets -- the virus can be picked up on feet and communicated without making an immunized dog sick. For this socialization gambit, find someone who doesn't go to high-risk places.

Ruby was a little nervous about large barking dogs when I first got her, at the age of 8 weeks. But after spending time with my son's fully immunized, highly sheltered Golden, she's just fine with dogs. For reasons unknown, she loves small children, too.

I concur that it depends where you are.  Parvo is serious.  But way more dogs die every year from the ultimate effects of under-socialization than from Parvo.

No matter where you are, you can have people come to your home and leave their shoes at the door (and wash their hands).

And you can go to a reputable puppy class with clean floors and vaccinated pups.

In MOST places you can take your puppy to places like stores and cafes and child's playgrounds where there are no or few dogs.  

In many places, it is relatively safe to take a pup with at least one round of shots just about any public place other than a busy park where there are lots of dogs. 

If you wait to socialize til all shots are given, you risk having a difficult dog.  AND unless you keep your puppy indoors 100% of the time and leave your own shoes outside, it is impossible to totally eliminate the risk of exposure.  Birds and animals can carry parvo into your own front yard.  

We can't protect them from every possibility but it is usually possible to balance socialization with vaccinations.

Good luck!

The reason puppies are given three rounds of vaccinations is that the shots don't "take" until a pup's immune system kicks in, and that depends on the level of antibodies present in the mother's milk. That varies from dog to dog, we're told, and so they keep administering boosters until they're sure the pup has reached a point where at least one of those shots takes ahold. 

For that reason, you might want to be skeptical about whether the first round of vaccination will protect your puppy from parvo.

Thanks Vicky and Beth! You both bring up very good points. I will also talk to the breeder when I pick up Scout. 

I  agree with those who are on the side of socialization, unless you live in a high Parvo area, in which case you still need to socialize, but you'll have to give more thought to how.  As for puppy classes, I would only go to a class where they require proof of shots from ALL the dogs who attend classes there ( which means a copy of the shot records from the Vet ) and would avoid puppy classes at places like PetsMart because of all the dogs who go there.  Once all shots have been completed, this will no longer be an issue.  Also, once you've taken your decision and have set a plan of action, don't keep worrying about it.  Worrying is not good for either of you!  As Beth says, you can't protect from every possibility, you just need to strike a balance that makes sense.

Thanks Anna. Great advice. I have decided to socialize Scout in public, but with discretion. I will avoid high traffic dog areas, but still take him to restaurants and other public places that will allow him to encounter many different people and situations. I'll keep you all posted! 


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