Every trainer will set his or her own guidelines as to when puppies can begin puppy training classes. Most will accept puppies between 10 and 16 weeks of age, because this is the time when socialization is most important. At this age, puppies are sponges ready to soak up everything they can be taught. They have short attention spans, sure – but quick and short training sessions can overcome that.
Puppies attending classes at this age are vulnerable to disease, though, and care must be taken so they are not exposed to unvaccinated or sick dogs. Most veterinarians are split on the best timetable for this advice: Some doctors believe that one set of vaccines is sufficient to begin puppy class, while others recommend two sets before starting any kind of group-canine class or get-together.
Either way, all vets advise puppy owners to watch out for unhealthy dogs, dogs that haven’t had at least one set of vaccines, and overly aggressive dogs as well (there is no point in getting your puppy hurt by a larger, more dominant dog in the group).
A Professional Opinion
Jenny Schiebert, D.V.M., of Shadowridge Veterinary Hospital in Vista, California, says puppies should definitely have at least two sets of vaccinations that include parvovirus (a highly contagious disease that is often fatal in puppies).
Dr. Schiebert goes on to say, “The class location should be secure and available only to well-vaccinated dogs [such as a private training yard], and not a public park where unvaccinated dogs can roam, or a pet-supply store where a variety of dogs come in and out all day long. As long as the vaccination policy is enforced, I think small risk of infection is outweighed by the benefit of puppy training and socialization.”
Schiebert advises caution, too. “As far as walks in public, I recommend waiting until two weeks after the puppy’s four-month immunizations,” she says. “This also goes for trips to the beach, dog parks and pet stores.”
To simplify the advice here in the case of watching out for your own puppy, all you have to do is avoid areas where lots of dogs gather and eliminate, which can be sources of parvovirus and distemper. Dogs that are coughing and have mucousy noses may be showing signs of canine influenza or other diseases.
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