Chapter 11: Balancing Parvovirus Risk and Puppy Socialization

It is easy to see the consequences when a puppy is exposed to CPV before vaccination has a chance to protect. This motivates us to carefully protect puppies from possible exposure to this deadly virus. However, the consequences of poor socialization are less immediately apparent, but may be equally severe.

A puppy that has been isolated from other animals, people and a wide variety of experiences may grow up fearful or even aggressive. As we know in shelters, this may lead to fatal consequences if the dog is later surrendered due to these behaviors. We need to balance the risk of CPV with the very real risk of poor socialization, and do our best to provide puppies with the best of both worlds: a variety of experiences in a relatively safe and clean environment.

Research demonstrates that socialization is a critical step in the development of behaviorally healthy dogs. The primary socialization period of puppies is between 3 and 13 weeks. This period is critical for development of primary social relationships with humans and other animals. Puppies that are confined during this period are significantly more likely to develop behavioral problems (primarily fear and aggression) than puppies that are provided a socialization program.  

Socialization of these puppies is thus essential and thankfully possible.  Puppies can be socialized in their kennels by staff and/or volunteers wearing PPE designated for each kennel.  Working with a veterinarian and behavior staff to develop a protocol to socialize puppies is crucial when deciding to both treat and quarantine exposed puppies.