Risks of Parvo in Training Classes?

ImageVaccines protect and prepare our furry friends’ immune systems against potentially life threatening diseases, just as vaccines for humans protect us against high risk illnesses that could put us in the hospital. Although there is some variation to the recommended vaccine schedule, most veterinarians are in agreement on Rabies, Distemper/Parvo combination and Bordetella vaccines for all young puppies. Some recommend waiting until a puppy has completed the entire series of vaccines before beginning any training classes.


Because the age puppies complete the vaccination series is the same age at which the optimum socialization window of the brain closes, there is conflict among some trainers, breeders, and veterinarians about the training schedule. At Cold Nose Lodge, we follow the protocol set by the Purdue University Animal Behavior Clinic:

To Whom It May Concern:
This letter’s purpose is to define Purdue University’s recommendations for Puppy Class protocols.

The main objectives of puppy classes are exposure and desensitization to potentially frightening stimuli, socialization, and the teaching of appropriate dog-owner interaction. Although simple commands are trained as well, obedience training is not a main objective of puppy classes.

Puppies go through well-defined developmental stages. Puppy classes are designed to utilize the sociability of young puppies. However, the socialization period of dogs ends at around 12-14 weeks of age. Up to that age, puppies can readily learn not to fear new things, and to develop appropriate social behavior. If this opportunity to shape puppy behavior is missed, the puppies are likely to show behavior disturbances later in life. Therefore, in order to maximize the benefits of puppy classes, puppies should be enrolled at 7-10 weeks of age if possible, the sooner the better.

The puppy classes at Purdue University’s Animal Behavior Clinic start any time between 7 and 14 weeks of age and at least 10 days after initial vaccination for the Distemper/Parvo combination and Bordatella. We encourage the use of an intranasal Bordatella/Parainfluenza (+/- Adeno) combination and the use of a high-titer, low-passage Parvo vaccination. These should be vaccinations administered after a thorough veterinary exam. Several vaccines are currently on the market, which meet these requirements.

Trainers and veterinarians have had concerns about placing puppies at risk in an environment where they may pick up an infectious disease. As with anything, one must always weigh the risks and benefits. “Puppy cuteness” only lasts so long and many more puppies currently lose their homes due to behavior reasons than die of viral diseases.

We are aware of only one Parvo problem in a puppy preschool class in Minnesota in the early 90’s and none since high titer Parvo vaccines gained mainstream use in 1995. There have been no Puppy Class participants infected with Parvo virus in any puppy classes offered at Ohio State or Purdue University. These are both facilities that treat high humane society caseloads and numerous Parvo cases annually.

Preliminary investigations underway at the University of Pennsylvania suggest that low-level exposure to pathogens, like what might occur in a clean although not completely sterile environment, may actually promote a “stronger” or more responsive immune system. (verbal communication with Dr. Karen Overall, dipl ACVB 1998)

Let’s welcome new puppies into our society by showing them what we expect, not dispose of them because we failed to communicate our expectations at a time when the puppies are most impressionable.

Andrew Luescher, D.V.M., PhD., Diplomate ACVB
Director, Animal Behavior Clinic, Purdue University

Steve Thompson, D.V.M, Diplomate ABVP,
Certified in Canine/Feline Practice
Director, The Pet Wellness Clinic, Purdue University


Cold Nose Lodge offers various classes for your dog to work on specific skills like socialization. It is important that your puppy is vaccinated at least ten days before the start of Puppy Kindergarten class and have a negative fecal. Puppies must be in general good health to attend each week. 

Owners should also wait at least ten days after they pick their new furry companion up from the shelter before bringing it to class. We love seeing every dog, especially rescues because they are all near and dear to our heart. But dogs that are just coming from shelters and rescued to a new home are at a greater risk to contract Parvo. Shelters are an excellent place to adopt a new companion, but they have no control over what illnesses the animals they save bring into the shelter.

Training classes offer dogs a great opportunity for learning and socializing. But when a group of dogs play together, there is always a possibility of your dog coming into contact with an infected one. There is nothing we humans can do to completely eliminate the risk of disease, just as we cannot do the same for our children. Whether eating another dog’s stool [hate that!], shared water bowls, or through contaminated paws, the possibility of passing Parvo exists.

Cold Nose Lodge is dedicated to helping dogs have the best lives possible. To show our belief in the low risk of infection and extreme behavioral risk of waiting to socialize your puppy, Cold Nose Lodge agrees to cover half of the veterinary costs to treat any puppy that contracts Distemper or Parvo in our Puppy Kindergarten classes.

As with anything in life, there are risks associated with everything. That doesn’t mean we have to live in bubble and be scared of what life has to offer. Yes, there are risks associated with bringing your puppy around other dogs and to new locations, but they are extremely low. Your dog is at greater risk for not being able to socialize with other people and dogs if you don’t bring them to classes. You could avoid the bigger things that could cause problems later on and try a few of our classes out!

We have great trainers on staff and amazing people with awesome dogs in our classes. What do you have to lose? Stop by Cold Nose Lodge and sign up for one of our classes today! I promise you will be amazed at how much your dog loves it! If you are still too nervous to sign up for a group class, consider Puppy Headstart. It is a private training program that covers the same basic manners and commands as in Puppy Kindergarten, but without the added focus on socialization.


-posted by Laura K. and Rayne R. of Cold Nose Lodge