Vaccinations: What I do and why

This blog is going to cover a touchy subject.  Read it and think about what I am saying and decide for yourself, after some thought and reading on your own, what you feel comfortable doing with your own animal.  Again, this is simply what I do and why I do it.

There is much debate about vaccinations, what to give, when, how often in both humans and animals.  I was lucky to have met a very progressive veterinarian in Huntsville, AL who changed my views on vaccinations over 10 years ago.  I had taken Merlot and Major in for their OFA Hip x-rays.  Melinda, my vet and also fellow dog sport enthusiast,  asked me what vaccination plan I used with my dogs and my future puppies.  I told her I just did the normal 5-1 puppy shots every 3-4 weeks on my pups and boosters for the dogs yearly.  She told me that in her mind, the only thing you should vaccinate against are life threatening issues.  If it can kill your dog and the vaccine has proven to be very affective with low risk, then vaccinate.  I asked what she suggested?  She said “I only give Distemper and Parvo, unless someone demands otherwise”. For adults do the minimal Rabies vaccine required by law (3 year shot if the state allowed, 1 year if I simply had to do it to stay legal), and only booster vaccinate adults every few years.

Being the bookworm that I am, I took the boys home after their hip x-rays (which required no sedation, I might add, because they both LOVED and trusted Melinda.) and started hunting information on the internet.  It wasn’t as easy to find 10 years ago, but there were some studies and information.  I took Melinda’s suggestions to heart and my personal pets and any puppies born here have followed this routine, which has modified over the years.  Again, interestingly, the litter with the poorest health that I have produced was also the litter that was vaccinated as babies with a 7-1 vaccine by the litter’s co-owner who raised them to 8 weeks of age.  With only one litter to go by, this isn’t hard data, just something to note.

My current stand is for all co-owners to understand my views on vaccinations and encourage them to either refrain from giving any shots before the puppies leave or give only the Modified Live Distemper/Parvo vaccination I prefer, and that only after the puppies are 9 weeks of age.  There has been much research over the years to agree with what Melinda told me 10 years go and now it even goes as far as to state that once you booster the dog at 1 year of age, titer testing their blood for immunities is all you should have to do for the life of the dog.  Yes, that is right, the LIFE of the dog. PLEASE NOTE:  If you live in an area endemic for an issue that has a vaccination and the disease frequency warrants a vaccination, by all means, vaccinate for that issue.  An example might be you live rural, have a ton of deer who roam and graze your yard, you might seriously think a Lepto vaccination would be a good idea.  Please use good judgement when reading my protocol and suggestions.

Now, many vets do not agree with no vaccination past one year of age (I’m not talking Rabies, which is required by law) even with documented studies, because they fear it will hit them in the pocket book.  Rightly so.  Many Americans will go to the doctor if they need a shot, but will not go just for an annual checkup.  Even more so for their pets.  If they don’t think they need a shot to keep their dog alive, they just won’t go.

Sadly, this is backward thinking.  You should take your young dog to the vet yearly for blood work (titer testing for immunities and do a CBC to check overall health) and blood test for heartworm.  You should take your older dog to the vet twice yearly for bloodwork and yearly for heartworm testing.  Use the vet as you use a human doctor.  Nip issues in the bud before they become chronic or life threatening.

So what do I do with my own pets?  I follow Dr Dodd’s Vaccination Protocol. Read below:



W. Jean Dodds, DVM


938 Stanford Street

Santa Monica,  CA 90403

310-828-4804; Fax 310-828-8251


Note: The following vaccine protocol is offered for those dogs where minimal vaccinations are advisable or desirable.  The schedule is one I recommend and should not interpreted to mean that other protocols recommended by a veterinarian would be less satisfactory.  It’s a matter of professional judgment and choice.



9 – 10 weeks

Distemper + Parvovirus, MLV (e.g. Intervet Progard Puppy DPV)
14 weeks
Same as above
16 -18 weeks (optional)
Same as above
20 weeks or older, if allowable by law

1 year

Distemper + Parvovirus, MLV

1 year

Rabies, killed 3-year product (give 3-4 weeks apart from distemper/parvovirus booster)


Perform vaccine antibody titers for distemper and parvovirus annually thereafter. Vaccinate for rabies virus according to the law, except where circumstances indicate that a written waiver needs to be obtained from the primary care veterinarian.  In that case, a rabies antibody titer can also be performed to accompany the waiver request.


Some of the above gets modified by the place I live or activities I participate in.  Some states require yearly Rabies.  Some Therapy Dog programs require specific vaccination protocols to cover you with their insurance.  As an example, Therapy Dogs International requires Distemper, Parvo, and Hepatitis puppy shot- but does not require Lepto, Corona, or Influenza vaccinations.  The Distemper / Parvo / Hep only needs to be done as a puppy, not yearly.  If you ever need to board your dog, you might need to do Bordetella (Kennel Cough) vaccination.

A word on heartworm medication.  There are multiple schools of thought on the heartworm issue as well, but I use Interceptor for heartworms / worms monthly because I feel the one day of medication in my dogs system a month is better than having the heartworms themselves.  Interceptor also controls whipworms, which Heartguard does not.  Because I do rescue, go to dog shows and other high risk worm infection areas, I use Interceptor.  I won’t get a flea pill or a heartworm medication bundled with a flea pill, which is the current popular pill the vets are pushing these days to new puppy owners.  A month long flea pill leaves medication in your dog the entire month.  I’m not going to have some poison floating around in my dog for a month, no thank you.  I will treat fleas when I see flea, not before.

What you choose do to with your new puppy once he/she leaves here is absolutely your choice.  I only give the above as a suggested alternative to full blown yearly vaccinations on a dog who lives the Urban or Suburban lifestyle and is exposed to very little and is kept as a beloved pet.  Think about what fits your lifestyle and needs and go into it with an educated stance. Don’t simply let a veterinarian shoot your new baby up with a cocktail of unneeded vaccinations.  With every shot there is a risk of reaction and who knows what long term damage is being done.  Cancer and Autoimmune issues were once a rare thing in dogs, then vaccinations became popular and so have both issues in our canine friends, be it pure bred or mix breed.  Food for thought.


Rachel Bohl - February 2, 2012 - 6:51 pm

Thank you, Becky. I hadn’t raised the issue with you, but Dr.Dodds’ protocal was what I was planning on using and my vet will go along with it. For flea treatment, how do you feel about the topical treatments? I had used Frontline for several years and then found that the fleas somehow seemed to become immune. We’ve been using Advantage II since last summer for dogs and cats and so far, so good.

Becky - February 2, 2012 - 8:22 pm

I rarely need to use Frontline or Advantage. I did on Merlot because he was out in the woods all the time, doing SAR work. He simply had to have a tick killer on him at all times. No topical treatments for any pregnant or nursing female ever and those topicals are only good for your pet. What about your neighbor who never bathes their dog, much less treats them for fleas. Or the squirrels!! Those things are horrible!

What I do is I treat my yard several times a year to keep fleas from ever taking hold. I am a big fan of nematodes for yard treatment. to learn about them. You can find them in the spring at most feed stores or online. They simply LOVE to eat bugs. It is all natural, safe for everyone, and they will spread into your neighbors yard!!

I also love FOOD GRADE diatomaceous earth: (To read about it) for yard, in the home, and on pets. I’m sure most of you have heard about how salt works with fleas, but the issue with salt is that it is horrible to work with in humid areas and it will kill your lawn, and I would never put it on my pet. Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth works the same as salt but without those nasty side affects and it is safe for humans and pets.

If I live in a moist area, I treat my yard with nematodes (because they will reproduce and spread to other yards), then sprinkle Diatomaceous Earth inside the house a few times a year. If I live in a dry area, then Diatomaceous Earth goes outside as well because the nematodes can’t take the dry, they will just go dormant. I haven’t needed to treat a dog in 5 years for fleas or ticks. Some people feed their livestock and pets the Earth as a wormer. I don’t because my dogs free feed and it isn’t really an option. The Interceptor is my wormer in any case.

Stop fleas at the source (the eggs outdoors and indoor) and you will never have an issue.

Rachel Bohl - February 3, 2012 - 11:29 am

Thanks, Becky. Lots to read up on. I appreciate it! We can have hot humid summers, cool wet ones and hot and dry ones. Its nice to see that there are different products to work with all.


Zelda & River pups – 2 weeks old

I was finally able to get photos today of the babies.  They are exactly 2 weeks old and starting to become hard to photograph.  I only had two nice photographs of Leith this week, while the rest I was able to squeeze out three.  Next week will require a second set of hands to hold firm the wiggling babies!


GIRL: Tyna 2 weeks of age- Large chest blaze, no milk chin or toes

GIRL: Tyna 2 weeks of age

GIRL: Tyna 2 weeks of age


GIRL: Nixie 2 weeks of age- Solid black but not much wave to her coat yet.

GIRL: Nixie 2 weeks of age

GIRL: Nixie 2 weeks of age


GIRL: Numma 2 weeks of age- Solid black and lots of wave to her coat

GIRL: Numma 2 weeks of age

GIRL: Numma 2 weeks of age


BOY: Douglas 2 weeks of age- He has a tiny 'milk' chin! No other white

BOY: Douglas 2 weeks of age

BOY: Douglas 2 weeks of age


BOY: Leith 2 weeks of age- Milk chin, chest blaze, white toes!

BOY: Leith 2 weeks of age

I have 4 deposits on this litter.  The last puppy will be held until a better understanding of temperament can be determined.  I have two other homes interested, but they have very specific needs which may or may not be met by this litter.  If you are interested, please contact me soon, so you can be put on my waiting list.  For those interested in adopting one of these little gems, price for a pet is $1500.00 on limited registration (no breeding rights). These pups should be suitable as performance dogs, therapy dogs, and wonderful pets.  The parents are very stable dogs with outstanding temperaments.  They will probably be small to mid size as adults (20-25 inches at the shoulders).  Contact me at for an adoption application.  References required as my puppies only go to the best homes and as forever members of your family.

Click the “LITTERS” link at the top to see more post about these puppies!




The Average Standard Poodle coefficient of inbreeding is around 15%.  This litter is 2.66%  Lower % means lower inbreeding.


Summer - February 1, 2012 - 5:59 pm

It somehow always startles me when I see puppies and feel immediately all AWWWOMGLOOKHOWCUTENOREALLYLOOKHOWAMAZINGTHATISUNREALLOVELOVELOVE. It catches me off guard every time.
Those are some darned beautiful puppies. :)

Technology, a love / hate relationship.

It seems like everything I touched this week did not work as planned.  I went to video the puppies during Bio-sensor testing over the weekend and my video camera’s battery died half way through.  I changed to my other little camera, which doesn’t have a front side view.  Half the time I had the puppy out of frame.  The entire attempt was a wash.  I have charged the batteries on the little Sony camera and hope to get something on film tonight.

This morning I go to take photos of the puppies for there two weeks of age blog post.  I set up a nice backdrop of a power blue sheet over the couch cushion.  I get it positioned in front of the window for the best light.  Well, I take 10 photos of little Douglas and the battery on my fancy camera dies.  See a pattern here?

Hopefully within the next two days I will be fully charged and ready to get both video and photos of our little babies.  Their eyes are open, they are starting to play a tiny bit and walk.  They are super cute and sweet.  Maybe I can get some video of them in the whelping box just hanging out.

Zelda is mellowing about the other dogs and I am guessing by weeks end I will be able to move the whelping box to the kitchen area.  Flash is allowed to admire the puppies now without much protest and has returned to our room to sleep at night.  Zelda really likes Flash, they get along.  Flash dropped his kong into the box this morning while the kids and I were cuddling the babies.  Zelda looked at him standing in the doorway and you could see her saying “Ok, that is fine, no closer please but now I keep that kong toy”.  He was happy to share his toy with Zelda, and if you know Flash that simply does NOT happen.  I let him sniff one of the babies and Zelda wasn’t bothered.  She still doesn’t want Jazz and Mocha near the whelping box or the pups, but I wouldn’t want those two silly girls in there either at this point.  Yesterday  Keith and I were watching TV and holding puppies.  Jazz came up to see what we were doing.  I showed her the baby I was holding and she was very gentle and interested.  Right then Zelda came out of the bedroom to check on the two puppies we had kidnapped.  She saw Jazz near the baby and promptly walked over, laid her head over the puppy in my hands, resting her chin lightly on the puppy.  She then looked Jazz right in the eye and raised her lip.  Jazz glanced at me, at the puppy and Zelda, and slowly backed away.  Jazz gave a little nervous smile and bounce once she was out of ‘snapping’ range saying “ok, I got it… I’m not near the baby, Zelda”.  Zelda slowly lowered her lip but kept her head firmly over the puppy.  It was so interesting to watch.  Zelda isn’t mean, she is calm and confident that her wishes will be obeyed.  She’s a real leader in that respect.

Keep your eyes peeled for photos and video over the next few days.  It is sorely over due!

Pamela Griffis - January 31, 2012 - 5:38 pm

What a joy it was to hear from you . I think I’m spoiled; but I do KNOW that I and my puppy are in the greatest of hands and knowledge. I owe so much to Lynda Richardson who believes in you.

Keep the Strength,

Pamela Griffis

Rachel Bohl - January 31, 2012 - 6:58 pm

It seems that Murphy’s law has ruled for the past few days – how frustrating for you! Love the stories of Zelda and how she’s interacting with the others. She sounds like a very good mom.


Valerie B - January 31, 2012 - 7:49 pm

Wow, sorry to hear of you frustrations with the cameras, but…it was terrific to read your narrative, I felt I was there. I’m glad to hear everyone is doing so well and that Zelda is proving to be such a good mom. I loved the earlier picture of her resting on her back out of the box, taking a break, yet still there.

It’s hard to believe the puppies are already two weeks old and their eyes are opening.

Take care.

Puppy Socialization

Zelda puppies 1 week old.

Puppy Socialization starts at birth.  A good breeder will expose their puppies to as much as they can before they leave for new homes.  Have you ever stopped to think about what sort of socialization an infant puppy might benefit from?  If you are interested, Dr Grace Blair, member of Versatility in Poodles, has a great article on the subject.  You can read all about it here:

Educating the Infant Puppy (Birth to Nine Weeks)

I’ve always socialized my puppies more than your average breeder, providing enriched environment and much handling.  However, infant puppies (3 weeks and under) I usually provide only the Bio Sensor Method, radio for sound stimulation, and general environment noises by moving the whelping box to a public area once their ears open and they can hear.

This will be my first litter using Dr Blair’s Infant techniques combined with Bio-Sensor. Upon reading Dr Blair’s suggestions a few years past, I decided it was something I really wanted to try.

How does Dr Blair’s plan differ from Bio-Sensor?  The Bio-Sensor method is very basic.  5 quick exercises that take 5 or less seconds each, starting at day 3 and going to day 16.  Dr Blair adds more, and gives you things to watch for with each puppy.  How a puppy reacts to a situation helps determine if they will make a good working dog.  Service dogs in particular have special demands and as I donate puppies to people in need, I would like to make sure I place the right puppy in the right situation

Bio-Sensor Explained:

Bio Sensor Method:  From: “Developing High Achievers”, by Dr. Carmen Battaglia.  May 1995 AKC Gazette

The U.S. Military in their canine program developed a method that still serves as a guide to what works. In an effort to improve the performance of dogs used for military purposes, a program called “Bio Sensor” was developed. Later, it became known to the public as the “Super Dog” Program. Based on years of research, the military learned that early neurological stimulation exercises could have important and lasting effects. Their studies confirmed that there are specific time periods early in life when neurological stimulation has optimum results. The first period involves a window of time that begins at the third day of life and lasts until the sixteenth day. It is believed that this interval of time is a period of rapid neurological growth and development, and therefore is of great importance to the individual.

The “Bio Sensor” program was also concerned with early neurological stimulation in order to give the dog a superior advantage. Its development utilized six exercises, which were designed to stimulate the neurological system. Each workout involved handling puppies once each day. The workouts required handling them one at a time while performing a series of five exercises. Listed in no order of preference the handler starts with one pup and stimulates it using each of the five exercises. The handler completes the series from beginning to end before starting with the next pup. The handling of each pup once per day involves the following exercises:

1. Tactile stimulation – holding the pup in one hand, the handler gently stimulates (tickles) the pup between the toes on any one foot using a Q-tip. It is not necessary to see that the pup is feeling the tickle. Time of stimulation 3 – 5 seconds.

2. Head held erect – using both hands, the pup is held perpendicular to the ground, (straight up), so that its head is directly above its tail. This is an upward position. Time of stimulation 3 – 5 seconds

3. Head pointed down – holding the pup firmly with both hands the head is reversed and is pointed downward so that it is pointing towards the ground. Time of stimulation 3 – 5 seconds

4. Supine position – hold the pup so that its back is resting in the palm of both hands with its muzzle facing the ceiling. The pup while on its back is allowed to sleep struggle. Time of stimulation 3-5 seconds.

5. Thermal stimulation – use a damp towel that has been cooled in a refrigerator for at least five minutes. Place the pup on the towel, feet down. Do not restrain it from moving. Time of stimulation 3-5 seconds.

These five exercises will produce neurological stimulations, none of which naturally occur during this early period of life. Experience shows that while sometimes pups will resist these exercises, others will appear unconcerned. Do not repeat them more than once per day and do not extend the time beyond that recommended for each exercise.

These exercises impact the neurological system by kicking it into action earlier than would be normally expected. The result being an increased capacity that later will help to make the difference in its performance. Those who play with their pups and routinely handle them should continue to do so because the neurological exercises are not substitutions for routine handling, play socialization or bonding.

Five benefits have been observed in canines that were exposed to the Bio Sensor stimulation exercises:

1. Improved cardio vascular performance (heart rate)

2. Stronger heart beats,

3. Stronger adrenal glands,

4. More tolerance to stress

5. Greater resistance to disease

In tests of learning, stimulated pups were found to be more active and were more exploratory than their non- stimulated littermates over which they were dominant in competitive situations.


Several of my litters were not provided formal early neurological stimulation.  The litters born away from my home I have to trust others to socialize appropriately.  Interestingly, the litter I produced with the poorest health had no infant stimulation.  It was co-bred / raised by someone, I found out later, who did not share my views on training, socialization, and care of animals.  I was told that she did not have the time to do the Bio-Sensor Method.  It takes less than 1 minute per puppy to do the above testing (before and after cuddle time included!!).  The litter in question was my Macy X Been litter.  Macy found a wonderful retirement home after one litter, and her previous owner and I have parted ways.  Thankfully, I talk to Macy’s new mommy every so often.  Sherrie and Macy are a wonderful team and I am blessed that Macy found Sherrie!

People like Macy’s previous owner are not common and I am now very careful to insure all puppies have Bio-Sensor exposure, be they born here or with dedicated co-owners / foster parents.  In addition, all future litters will adopt at least a few of Dr Blair’s suggestions.  I believe infant stimulation to provide very mild stress does jump start the dogs immune system.  We poodle breeders need all the help we can get when it comes to immune systems.  If you breed, please consider doing Bio-Sensor, if not everything Dr Blair suggest in her article with VIP.

Zelda taking a break from the puppies. Note the over sized squeaky tennis ball she stole from Flash this morning!


Sherri H - January 26, 2012 - 3:52 pm

Fascinating. Amazing how the age to start stimulation is now day one. The section on Macy/Been litter may help explain our Merlin. Can’t change it, but certainly an “ah-ha” moment. Thanks. Knowledge is everything. I actually makes me feel better.

Rachel Bohl - January 26, 2012 - 6:39 pm

Thank you Becky for explaining all you’re doing. Is there anyway you could video a session with the pups? It would be fascinating to watch.

Becky - January 26, 2012 - 7:39 pm

I don’t have very good light in the house (as seen from my past training video’s with Jazz and Lincoln), but maybe I can set the camera up on the tripod in my master bath. There is good light in there. The pups are small and black, so without bright light it is going to be hard to see anything. I would take them outside for good light, but the weather has been chilly and I won’t risk their health. I will tape tomorrow’s session in the bathroom and see how it turns out.

Georgie & River Have Bred!

Georgie and River, November 2011

Courtney has informed me we had a natural breeding yesterday between Georgie and River!  So exciting!!  In 9 weeks we should have another beautiful litter of Blacks and Blues (maybe Creams)!  This will be our second and final litter for the year and these puppies will mature to medium to large Standard Poodles (23-26 inches).  Georgie is 5 years old and this is her first litter!

Sherri and Summer, you two ladies need to take note!  Hopefully there will be a puppy for both of you in this litter.

Both River and Georgie are now fostered by Courtney and her family in Northwest Arkansas.  Courtney is not a breeder, she is just a wonderful person willing to keep a few of my dogs intact for future breeding.  The dogs she keeps are her pets first and formost!  She has put some titles on her poodles in order to help show the great temperament her dogs have and is active in Therapy with her dogs.  I will not place my dogs in homes that kennel, so people like Courtney are extremely important to my breeding program.  A great foster home is worth their weight in gold!  Courtney has been supporting my breeding program for almost 10 years and hopefully Georgie will help us out and have this much anticipated litter of babies.  Georgie is a granddaughter of my beloved Merlot and it is my hope to keep one of her babies for myself.  Georgie is also a 3rd generation Therapy dog.




These two should produce a nice mix of working dogs and pets.

The average Coefficient of Inbreeding for a Standard Poodle is 15%.  This litter is 2.02%.  The lower the number, the lower the inbreeding.
Genetic information for Test breeding GerogiexRiver from website:

The COI (Coefficient of Inbreeding) is calculated up to a maximum of 12 generations. The COI is calculated entirely from the pedigree information present in the database, so if there are inaccuracies in the pedigree, there will also be inaccuracies in the COI. I try to run the COI every Friday. If there is an error on Friday that means I will have to correct the error and rerun the coi on Saturday. For information on what the COI figure means, see, particularly where it discusses the inbreeding coefficient. For a more complete discussion of genetic principles, visit the Canine Diversity Project.

10-generation COI    2.03%
12-generation COI    4.20%

Top 5 ancestors contributing to COI, in order of influence:

AM CH Haus Brau Executive Of Acadia TP    0.77%
AM CH Acadia Command Performance CD    0.27%
AM/CAN/MEX/FCI INT CH Pamala’s Manderley Spellbound TP    0.22%
AM CH Eaton Affirmed TP    0.21%
AM CH Dassin Debauchery    0.20%

Nicole - February 2, 2012 - 11:38 pm

Congrats on your future litter! I stumbled upon your blog because I have actually been in search for a Standard Poodle for myself. I’m a groomer and I want to get into a more competitive grooming field and would need a poodle to do so. Your input and information would be highly appreciated, especially with your experience and poodle background! You can always contact me through email or stop by my blog, I would really appreciate your input! Thanks! :) -Nicole-

Summer - February 5, 2012 - 7:10 pm

How did I miss this?! EEEEE!!! So excited!!!!! :D

Becky - February 6, 2012 - 11:43 am

Start saving up for the plane flight, girl! Hopefully there will be a large and very empathetic puppy for you and Radar!!

Laura S. - February 6, 2012 - 3:00 pm

What a majestic looking couple! I will be counting the days and praying that all goes well for Georgie. Keeping my fingers tightly crossed for a beautiful, bouncy new baby girl!!!