Poor socialization is thought to cause many behavioral problems, specifically fear and aggression. In puppies, socialization most frequently develops at 4–16 weeks of age. Puppy classes are a good way for owners to socialize their dog. The Koret Shelter Medicine Program at University of California, Davis (sheltermedicine.com), and the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (avsabonline.org) recommend that healthy puppies start classes as early as 7–8 weeks of age and receive at least 1 set of vaccinations and be dewormed at least 7 days before class. To investigate whether puppies that attend socialization classes were at increased risk for being diagnosed with canine parvovirus (CPV) than vaccinated puppies that did not attend classes, 231 puppies were evaluated. The study also investigated the frequency of suspected CPV infection in puppies that attended classes. No puppies in the study were suspected of having CPV infection before starting class, and vaccinated puppies that attended socialization classes were at no more risk for being diagnosed with CPV than were vaccinated puppies that did not attend classes.

This study provided some justification (and reassurance) that it is acceptable to enroll young dogs in puppy classes. This study also emphasized the importance of early veterinary care and disease prevention, as the CPV vaccine is extremely effective in preventing disease. Still, nothing should replace pet-parent vigilance. Particular attention should be paid to the health status of other pets in the class and the hygiene habits of their owners: Do they allow pets to attend dog parks or be around unvaccinated dogs? Do they keep their homes and bodies clean of dog debris or potential fomites or pathogens? Simple steps (eg, hygiene, preventive/wellness care) can help keep young pups—and their owners—socialized and happy.—Heather Troyer, DVM, DABVP, CVA

Frequency of CPV infection in vaccinated puppies that attended puppy socialization classes. Stepita ME, Bain MJ, Kass PH. JAAHA 49:95-100, 2013.