In the United Kingdom, companion animal veterinary practices offer in-clinic puppy socialization programs, referred to as “Puppy parties”. Studies examining puppy parties are limited, and minimal data is available on the delivery of these programs. This study aimed to describe the methods and approaches used by UK veterinary professionals providing in-clinic puppy parties. A cross-sectional descriptive survey was distributed via social media and by direct email to veterinary practices known to offer puppy parties on their public domains. Respondents were required to have worked in a UK veterinary practice offering parties or equivalent between January 2010 and March 2019. Descriptive data was collected on participant and practice demographics, puppy eligibility, program structure and environment, the inclusion of canine behavior and training, client education and the impact of COVID-19. All (n=81) respondents were included for analysis. Findings described variation in the structure of in-clinic puppy parties, particularly as they relate to puppy age, class size, and program duration. “Habituation to practice” was the most common reason for delivery (60.5%), with “Monetary gain” the least likely reason (50.6%). Puppy parties commonly began at 8-9 weeks of age (53.1%), and most (77.8%) persisted beyond the sensitive period of socialization (>12 weeks). Where some puppy parties did not permit intra-species interactions (6.2%), others provided the opportunity for socialization through controlled play (53.1%). Program duration ranged from a singular session (28.4%) to cumulative sessions of ≥4 weeks (34.6%). The “1st vaccination of the primary course” was the minimum requirement to attend most parties (75.3%) and deworming was rarely required (24.7%). While behavior topics (87.2%) were commonly discussed, staff generally lacked training and behavior qualifications (65.4%). Finally, all parties were discontinued following COVID-19 restrictions. In conclusion, the results of the study provided a descriptive framework of puppy party programs run by UK veterinary practices. Future researchers may seek to examine which methods used in the delivery of puppy programs best promote canine welfare and behavioral wellness.
|Journal||Journal of Veterinary Behavior|
|Publication status||Accepted/In press - 20 Sep 2022|