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The Essential Puppy Shot Schedule

puppy at vet getting shot

A handy list of the vaccines your pup needs and when to get them

Getting a new puppy comes with a laundry list of responsibilities. First, you’ll want to use this puppy checklist to make sure you have all of the items your pup will need for his essential development and well-being, and of course, you must do your part to ensure that he is as healthy as he can be. Some of the best things you can do for your dog’s health are to keep up with his regular vet visits, feed him nutritious puppy food, and make sure he gets properly vaccinated. 

Why Does Your Puppy Need Vaccines?

Depending on how old your puppy is when you first bring him home, he will need a number of vaccinations that are vital to his overall health and ability to fend off a number of diseases. The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) advises that your puppy be vaccinated for roughly every 2 to 4 weeks between 6-weeks and 16-weeks-old. 

Vaccines work by boosting your puppy’s immune system until it can create its own protection for the long term. The reason your pup needs so many vaccinations before he is about 4-months old is that between birth and 16-weeks old, your puppy still has antibodies from his mother in his system. These antibodies can interfere with your pup’s immune response. 

brown puppy getting shot at vet

What Happens If My Puppy Isn’t Vaccinated?

If for some reason you are on the fence about getting your puppy vaccinated, consider these consequences:

  • Your puppy will have increased vulnerability to several diseases that can potentially result in death.
  • Your puppy won’t be able to partake in certain dog social settings like dog parks, doggy daycares, or attend boarding facilities.
  • If you plan to travel internationally with your puppy or use a plane for domestic travel, your pup won’t be able to tag along if he isn’t vaccinated.
  • Depending on where you live and your state laws, failure to have your puppy vaccinated against rabies could result in several penalties:
      • Your dog could be ordered to remain at home
      • You might have to pay a large fine
      • Your dog might be impounded 

What Vaccines Are a Must for Your Dog?

Basically, there are two categories of vaccines; core vaccines, which are the ones your puppy should absolutely receive, and non-core vaccines, which are only necessary if your puppy fits certain lifestyle criteria. Here is a look at the core vaccines: 

  • Rabies — A contagious, often fatal, disease that infects the central nervous system and can be passed to humans and dogs from other animals through saliva.  A dog can become aggressive and unpredictable when infected with rabies. This vaccine is given annually, or every three years, depending on the laws in your state.
  • DAP — The DAP shot includes vaccines for Distemper, Adenovirus/Hepatitis, and Parvovirus. A puppy receives several doses over the first several weeks of life, and then every three years after the initial series. Distemper is a rapidly spreading virus that affects the respiratory and gastrointestinal systems, as well as the central nervous system.    
  • Adenovirus A DNA virus responsible for causing canine hepatitis and affecting certain organs including the liver, kidneys, and eyes. Parvovirus, or Parvo, is a viral illness that is spread from dog to dog through direct contact, or through feces. It can cause a range of issues including vomiting, diarrhea, severe weight loss, and sometimes cardiac problems and death.  
  • DHP/DHHP — This is an alternative to the DAP vaccine that includes all of the same vaccines in addition to parainfluenza, and it follows the same schedule as the DAP vaccine. Parainfluenza is a highly contagious virus that causes a respiratory infection in dogs. Although parainfluenza on its own is considered a non-core vaccine, it is often included in a regular vaccination schedule since it so easily passed between dogs.

puppy getting heart checked at vet

Are Puppy Vaccines Required?

Whether or not your dog is required to get a vaccine depends on several factors, including where you live, activities that your dog is involved in, and your travel plans. For example, if you enroll your dog in an obedience class, the trainer may require you to show proof of several vaccines before your pooch can participate. Different states have varying laws about how often your puppy needs to get a rabies shot and many counties require your dog to have a rabies ID tag as proof of vaccination. If coming from, or returning home from, another country, your dog might be required to have a valid rabies vaccination certificate by the CDC in order to enter the United States, otherwise, your dog can be sent back to the country of departure.

Vaccines Your Dog Might Need

Not all vaccines are mandatory, but that doesn’t mean your pup doesn’t need them. Several vaccinations are recommended based on breed, living conditions, and certain activities. For example, a dog that spends a large portion of time outdoors, especially in wooded areas, would most likely benefit from the vaccine for Lyme Disease, while a dog that spends most of its time inside wouldn’t have a strong need for this particular shot. You can determine which lifestyle-based vaccines might be good for your pup by considering certain aspects of your daily routine and living arrangement, but ultimately, your vet should confirm and offer the best suggestions. 

Some non-core vaccines may come with significant risks attached, so they should be carefully considered with your vet to see if the risks of the diseases are great enough to outweigh any risks from the vaccines. The following non-core vaccines might be recommended by your vet under certain conditions and situations: 

  • Bordetella — Although not considered a core vaccine, Bordetella is often given to dogs since it is usually required by places that welcome multiple canines, such as doggy daycares, boarding facilities, dog parks, and obedience-training classes. Bordetella causes inflammation of the upper respiratory system and is the most common bacteria to cause kennel cough.
  • Parainfluenza — As mentioned above, this virus causes a respiratory infection in dogs. Although it is not considered a core vaccine, it is highly contagious, so it is often combined with the DAP vaccine. Many places that welcome multiple dogs would require your pup to have this vaccine. 
  • Lyme — Lyme Disease is a bacterial illness that is transmitted to dogs, humans, and other animals through the bite of certain tick species. The disease can cause overall illness, as well as specific problems with organs and joints.
  • Canine Influenza — This virus, also known as “dog flu,” causes a respiratory infection in dogs and is a newer disease than parainfluenza. It is believed to have first appeared at a greyhound racetrack in Florida, in 2004.
  • Leptospirosis — This bacterial disease affects both animals and humans and can lead to liver failure, kidney damage, meningitis, and other serious conditions. The most common carrier of this disease is rats, but it can also be found in other animals like possums and raccoons. 

german shepard puppy laying down at vet

Your Puppy Shot Schedule

In addition to a puppy schedule to help your young pal adjust to his new home and establish his new routine, there’s another schedule that you will want to follow -- your puppy’s vaccination schedule. Here’s a snapshot of a basic shot schedule for your new puppy. If you have any questions about a particular vaccine, like how it might affect your dog or any additional vaccines that may be necessary for your dog, consult with your veterinarian. If you have any doubts or concerns about when your pup should get certain vaccinations, confirm the schedule with your vet.  

6-8 weeks

10-12 weeks

14-16 weeks







DAP* (at 16-weeks or later)



Rabies (1 or 3-year, based on state laws)

DAP* (3-year)







Canine Influenza




Canine Influenza




Canine Influenza


*Or “DHP/DHHP” if parainfluenza is included in the vaccine

**Depending on the laws in your state, your puppy may need his rabies vaccination sooner.

***Annually, or every 6-months. Discuss what is best for your dog with your vet.

This article is meant to give you a handy snapshot of the different canine vaccinations and which ones are most likely needed by your puppy. It’s helpful to keep a copy of your pup’s vaccination schedule on hand to keep track of his vaccines so that none are missed, as many vaccinations work by building on previous doses. If your puppy gets nervous about getting a shot make sure to have some tasty treats handy to put a positive spin on the situation and help your dog relax. If the idea of being in the vet for any reason sends your pup into a tizzy, you can also give your dog a special toy during his doctor visit to help put him at ease.

Before deciding on any non-core vaccines, always discuss them with your vet first, and talk with your veterinarian about any concerns that you may have about your pup’s vaccination schedule. For more helpful tips on raising your precious puppy, check out the rest of our blogs at Neater Pets!

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