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DIY Puppy Training Part 5 A cautionary tale

Before I begin describing puppy training, a concerned reader has asked me to tell you of a cautionary tale regarding the dangers from infection even after puppies have had their second vaccinations. You may remember I wrote in article 113 that there is a conflict between the period needed for immunising puppies and teaching them to socilise acceptably.

The owner is concerned that I might be suggesting that it is completely safe to take puppies out to socialise after two vaccinations instead of waiting until the puppies had reached 14 or 16 weeks. The owner had three puppies that had their two vaccinations at 6 weeks and 8 weeks and the final ones were due at 12 weeks. The owner was careful not to walk them anywhere but when one of the puppies had an abscess and ear infection the owner took the puppy to the vet for antibiotic injections.

Five days later, the vet diagnosed the puppy as having Parvovirus and that it had infected the other two puppies. All the puppies went to the vet hospital for 5 days of intensive care. Unfortunately, the puppy that contracted the Parvo first did not survive.

During their time in hospital the puppies lost over a third of their body weight and are now still suffering some long term side affects in anxiety and growth. The one that died suffered greatly and died a horrible death. All the owner could do was watch helplessly at her suffering and to pray she would make it through.

The vet’s surgery had been the only place the puppy had visited. The owner noted the other day that the staff cleaned up after a dog that had fouled the waiting area using only paper instead of diluted bleach. Parvo is a very contagious disease that passes through the stools of the infected dog. Because it is a very minute virus, this allows it to survive in the environment for many months thereby infecting more puppies.

The owner believes that two vaccinations is not enough protection against catching these deadly diseases so questions is socialbility training from 8 weeks onwards worth the risk.

One problem is that immunisation is not 100% certain. Sometimes some batches of vaccinations and in particular the multiple ones may not produce the required antibodies in a vaccinated puppy. Even for humans, our necessary immunisation programme is not a guarantee of 100% effective yet parents do not quarantine their children in their home so why do we isolate puppies until 16 or 20 weeks.

I did write that during early puppy training there is a slight risk of infection so owners do need to take a few precautions. Certainly, taking puppies to the vet is a greater risk, the same as hospitals are risky places for humans.

When taking your puppy to the vets it is always advisable to carry a towel to place it on and never put your puppy on the floor where other dogs have been. If you see any dog that is in a very poor state of health inside the vets do ask if it is advisable for your puppy to be brought in and possible be exposed to any disease.

If you are worried and if you can park outside the surgery then possibly the vet may do the vaccinations inside your car but this is up to the vet. It is also always wise to ask your vet if there have been any incidents of such diseases in the area so that if there were then more precautions maybe necessary.

Statistically very few puppies will contract the disease if they are immunised. For Kathryn Hollings puppy Osito, his first multiple vaccinations included the puppy Parvo. The vets know the puppies are in progress of becoming immunised but they are also aware of the need for socialbility training during this same time between 8 and 12 weeks.

It is scientific fact that dogs remaining with the breeders over the 8 weeks and up to 12 weeks do not socialise very well with people when the grow up. Similarly, puppies leaving their siblings at 4 or 6 weeks do not socialise well with other dogs later in their life. This is why the approved date for owners to collect a puppy from the breeder is between 8 or 9 weeks. Very few reputable breeders will let puppies leave earlier.

Again, Osito’s breeder brings all their puppies to be born at their home so they become use to a family environment. They are very much aware of the need for socialisation. This is why the breeder repeatedly suggested to Kathryn that she should always keep touching her puppy and to socialise him as much as she can during his first 4 weeks.

If the vets that support socialbility training from 8 weeks give the wrong advice to owners then surly there would be more puppies going back to the surgeries suffering from Parvo or distemper. If this were the case then those vets would have to change their views. They have not been proved wrong and the incidence of infections is no greater than in the UK where many vets still suggest 14 weeks or 16 weeks or even as long as 20 weeks.

There is no proof that using enforced quarantine help protect puppies. Once the puppies enter the outside world, they can still contract the disease if the vaccinations did not work for whatever reason. It may well be that being older and stronger, they have a much better chance to fight the disease with the correct hospitalisation, but that is all.

The major problem is that many dogs quarantined in their homes without socialising will grow up with territorial aggression against all outside species. This is not acceptable by society so how would they view this problem.

We have to look at the question this way to see how the public would judge our actions because we owe them a duty of care that our dogs would not harm them. If an owner lost a puppy to disease whilst trying to socialise their puppy then they will be sincerely upset at our loss but they will understand what we were trying to achieve on behalf of the public in general.

Alternatively, how would the public view an owner who does not allow their puppy to socialise simply to keep it quarantined where it will learn anti social behaviour? What would their opinion be of us if our dog were to attack and bite a child? I repeat we do not isolate our children this way so why do we do this with our puppies.

In either case, the dog usually dies either from the disease or from the penalty of having bitten. We have to ask ourselves which we want the most. A puppy that is socially sound or a puppy that grows up with aggression towards other species outside of its pack.

For Kathryn Hollings, her vet and the breeder they all want Osito to become well socialised with all species and that such socialisation should commence at 8 weeks. Yes, there is a slight risk from disease but not enough not to ignore the importance of socialisation at this important time.

With the case above, socialisation training was not even taking place. For the puppy contracted Parvo from having visited a vets surgery where possibly the floor had not been cleaned properly.

We cannot afford to have aggressive and dangerous dogs in our highly populated society, as the risk is too high. Yet, how many owners do we see with aggressive dogs still willing to protect them even after they have bitten someone and know they will inevitable bite again given the opportunity? Is it fair to place the public at risk just so we can own our dog?

Which problem does society fear the most; the problem of a slight risk of a puppy dieing from a deadly disease whilst learning to become sociable from 8 weeks or the problem from a puppy that will have a distinct probability of learning territorial aggression because the owner isolated it for up to 14 or 20 weeks?

Is there really a choice?

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