Common Misconceptions In Raising Puppies: Myth #1
There are a few things that I often hear from families (or they hear from well-intended family or friends) as they think about raising their puppies. One of the first and most common questions is - "Should I keep my puppy home until the are fully vaccinated? I've heard parvo is everywhere!". The answer may surprise you!!
The answer is NO - as this is the prime period when puppies most need to be socialized! At least in Washington State, puppies are not fully vaccinated (for rabies) until 16 weeks of age. However, this overlaps with a puppy's "sensitive period" where they are learning about the world around them. Things that they experience at this age will be considered 'normal' to them - and includes people, places, and things. It is a very impressionable period, so it is imperative to ensure your puppy's first introduction to something, someone, or someplace new is a positive one. Fears that develop at this age can create a lasting impression - however that's often not the biggest issue. Often the biggest issue is that when a puppy is NOT introduced to something new at this age and encounter it later - they are much more likely to have an ongoing fear or anxious reaction.
You've probably heard people throw around the phrase "COVID puppy". While it is certainly not true for all puppies who were born in this era, it is a euphemism for the phenomena than many have noticed - puppies were not socialized in the initial weeks after they went home to their new families because of 'stay at home' orders - leading to a prevalence of fearfulness in dogs who were born in the past couple of years.
Bottom line, while there are certainly risks, it is advised to get your puppy out and about during those first weeks at home! Take them on walks and to the park (ok, you can carry them if you are suspect about the cleanliness). Another good place to go is a store, like Home Depot, that is pet-friendly but doesn't tend to have an overwhelming number of pets (like Petco or PetSmart). Take your puppy on car rides. Introduce them to your friends and family. Let them watch people mowing lawns, blowing leaves, etc.
For more on puppy socialization, here are a few of the resources (articles & podcasts) that we love.