Puppy Vaccination FAQ

We have compiled a list of some of the most common questions that we are asked about vaccinating puppies.

What is the point in vaccinations?

You may have come to the decision that there is little risk to unvaccinated puppies these day,  but this is not the case.

At the time of writing, none of the diseases below have been eliminated in the UK.   Your puppy is definitely at risk from serious diseases if left completely unvaccinated.

How do vaccinations work?

Bacteria and viruses that cause disease carry substances that your dog’s body can recognise as foreign and dangerous.Puppy Vaccinations FAQWe call these substances antigens.

Because your dog’s body recognises the antigen as dangerous, once the antigens enter the dog’s system,   it immediately begins to manufacture antibodies against them.   This manufacturing process takes time.

When infected with serious diseases, many dogs will be unable to manufacture sufficient antibodies in time to protect them from the disease.

Vaccinating is a way of giving the body opportunity to manufacture a stock of antibodies in advance.

A vaccination puts these antigens into the dogs body,  without  giving the dog the actual disease that they are associated with.

What vaccinations are available for my puppy?

The RSPCA recommends that all dogs are routinely vaccinated against the following diseases

  • Canine parvovirus
  • Canine distemper
  • Leptospirosis
  • Infectious Canine Hepatitis

For the most up to date information,  always check with your vet.

Does my puppy get immunity from his mother’s milk?

Your new Labrador puppy was initially protected against  disease through his Maternally Derived Antibodies  (MDAs).  These antibodies can fight disease and your puppy gets them through his mother’s milk.

However,  they do not last long.  And by the time you bring your puppy home,  most of his MDAs will be gone.   Indeed, it is important that they are gone by the time your puppy has his final  vaccination because these MDAs can actually block the good work that the vaccination is trying to do.

Why  does my puppy have to be vaccinated twice?

One reason is that a single vaccination does not give such good long term protection against disease as two injections spaced apart.   Another reason is because some puppies will have no protective MDAs by about seven weeks of age,  when the first vaccination is given whilst others will still have some MDAs.

In order to protect those puppies whose maternal antibodies may have partially blocked the action of their first vaccine,  it is very important that you remember to take your puppy back for his second jab.

Do vaccinations have side effects?

The short answer to this is yes,  there are rare but recorded examples of dogs reacting badly to vaccinations.    You need to balance this small risk against the benefits that vaccination offers to your puppy.  We have two articles devoted to the important issue of vaccination safety   Should you vaccinate your puppy?   and  Herd immunity and the safety of vaccines

How do I socialise my puppy if I can’t take him out?

Some dog experts are very concerned about the emphasis some vets put on not taking a puppy out until vaccinations are complete.   It is very important that puppies are socialised properly and the principle window for socialisation is beginning to close at around 12 to 13 weeks of age.

Many vets will tell you that taking your puppy out and about before one week after the second vaccination is too risky.   However, as this vaccination does not normally take place before 11 weeks old,  this means your puppy would be 12 weeks old before you can begin taking him out and about.

If you do not take your puppy out until then,  this gives you just days in which to socialise your puppy.

There is a compromise,  and that is to take your puppy out and about,  but to keep him off the ground.  This way you can introduce him to quite a lot of new experiences,  buses, train stations, town centres, different sorts of people, children etc.

It isn’t quite the same as having him down on the ground,  and it is more difficult to do with a very large breed,  but it is a start.

Some breeders and dog experts believe that you should  allow your puppy to mix and play with other dogs provided they too are vaccinated and provided you avoid popular outdoor dog walking areas where there may be a lot of dog faeces.

Only you can decide whether or not you want to take this risk,  and you might want to consider other factors.

If,  for example your dog belongs to a guarding breed such as a Rotweiller, or Doberman,  or if he is from a breed which is known to be potentially aggressive if poorly socialised  for example a pit bull type dog,  then the risks of aggression may outweigh your concerns over the risks of disease.  These are all factors that you will need to weigh up.

Talk to your vet

Most vets these days understand the socialisation dilemma.   Talk to your vet about any concerns you may have.  He or she will be able to let you know if there are any particular hazards in your area at the moment.   And to help you make an informed decision about the best course of action for your dog.

Find out more

Check out our other articles on vaccination for further information:

More help and information

Happy Puppy jacket imageIf you enjoy Pippa’s articles, you will love her new book: The Happy Puppy Handbook published  in 2014.

Now available in most countries, the handbook is already a bestseller in the UK.

You can buy from Amazon using the links below.  If you do,  the labrador site will receive a small commission which is greatly appreciated and won’t affect the cost to you!


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Pippa Mattinson

The Labrador Site is brought to you by Pippa Mattinson. Pippa's latest book The Happy Puppy Handbook is a definitive guide to early puppy care and training

by Pippa on March 13, 2012

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Aaron July 15, 2013 at 6:28 am

I just brought home an 8 week old black lab mix. I was told that she needed to go back in 10 days for her second round of shots. I was also told she has been dewormed. She was not from a breeder, and I wasn’t given info on what shots she has been given and what exactly she needs. This is my first puppy, so I’m somewhat ignorant on exactly what steps I should take. The puppy will only be 9 and a half weeks by that time. Is that too early for the second round of shots?


Pippa July 15, 2013 at 8:32 am

Whether or not it is too early will depend on your vet’s approach (they vary) and on when the first shots were given. It also depends on where you are located as different parts of the world require different vaccination schedules. You need to find out the date the shots were given, and contact your vet. He or she will then tell you when to bring your puppy in for the next lot. Better still, take the puppy in for a check up in the next day or so, and talk to your vet in person.


Anushka July 24, 2013 at 8:06 pm

Hi Pippa,
Just discovering what a great website this is – a wealth of info & great advice! Thanks for the platform! :) So, I understand from the research I have done so far that the 1st shots are given between 6-8 weeks and the 2nd at the 10-12 week point. Is that right? When we get our lab ( in Aug) he will be 9 weeks old and my worry is whether I should ask my breeder to do his first round ( specifically since we will miss that time frame to carry it out ourselves). I have spoken with our vet about it and he has said just bring him round when he is with us ( so mid way through the 9 wk point), but I’m being an anxious puppy parent & worrying! Pls let me know your thoughts? Ta!


Pippa July 25, 2013 at 3:21 pm

Hi Anushka, thank you for your kind comments. The best person to advise you on this is your vet. The main problem with delayed vaccination is socialisation. On the other hand, if the vaccination is done too early, it may not be effective. Pippa


Sue July 26, 2013 at 2:16 pm

My 11.5 week old puppy is due for his 2nd jab today and I was wondering how high the risks are of him catching something if I take him out in a couple of days.


Pippa July 26, 2013 at 3:17 pm

Hi there Sue, no-one can really estimate the risks to your puppy, except to say that there is one, if you place him on the ground before he is fully immune. I can’t really add to what I have said about the conflict between socialisation and vaccination in the article above. Good luck with your puppy. Best wishes, Pippa


Jo August 15, 2013 at 10:10 am

My 12 week old Golden Retriever had her second vaccination 6 days ago. As I am off work, it seems the perfect time to have her out and about. The vet said to wait 7 days but will one day make much difference??


Clint December 19, 2013 at 5:52 am

Yes you can, no problem


sand December 2, 2013 at 10:05 pm

Hello, I have a husky 8 weeks old. I am trying to potty train her, can I take her outside without her shots? I have a spot in my front yard, half grass and half cement?


Sarah McArthur December 13, 2013 at 12:21 pm

I am a first time puppy owner and after adopting my rescue pup, I happily took him out and about to the park without knowing about the second vaccination rule! I feel like an idiot now as he has come into contact with other dogs since his first vaccination at the shelter. What should I be looking for in case he has picked something up?


kirsty thomas June 11, 2014 at 6:54 pm

Hi,I am bringing my 8 week old lab pup home on Monday,she is having her first jab that day and her second on 30th of June.We have a family event on July 5th and there will be two other labs there,one I know of is not vaccinated but well,will it be ok to take my puppy to this .Regards Kirsty


megan coote July 31, 2014 at 2:22 pm

My friend has a puppy and she is having her second jab tomorrow can he still take her out and about before her jab pippa


David September 24, 2014 at 10:31 am

I’m looking at buying a lab puppy and everything with the pup through its first five weeks was going well, according to the breeder. But this week, the pup gained a lot of weight, despite not eating any more than normal, and the vet thinks it has something to do with her thyroid. Isn’t she too young to have this disease?


Zoe March 17, 2015 at 5:15 pm

My puppy had his first injection at 7 weeks and now his second injection at 9 weeks when it should have been 10 weeks – is this wrong? Will he need another one to top it up?


Pippa March 17, 2015 at 6:18 pm

Hi Zoe you need to ask your vet. It depends on the brand and where you are


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