Dog Vaccine Schedule: A Guide To Dog & Puppy Shot Schedules

Written by Small Door's medical experts

Vaccinations, or shots, are one of the key components of preventative wellness care. They protect your dog from serious diseases by building their immunity. Administering vaccines and boosters at the right time over your dog’s lifetime is really important, as immunity fades over time. Check out our handy guide below to learn more about dog vaccines and schedules.

In This Article

Why do we vaccinate dogs?

Vaccines work by exposing your dog’s immune system to an incomplete or inactive strain of infectious agents. This helps their body build immune cells that are specifically designed to respond effectively when the real thing comes along.

In recent years, vaccines have at times been called ‘dangerous’ for a number of reasons – but there’s little to no scientific evidence to support this claim. And in fact, the diseases they prevent are irritating at best, and potentially deadly at worst. Vaccines are also relatively painless, easy, and cost-effective to administer.

What do we vaccinate dogs against?

There are a number of vaccines for dogs, which can be broken down into core and non-core vaccines. Core vaccines are those considered essential for your dog’s health, whilst non-core vaccines are optional, and may be recommended for your dog depending on their lifestyle. Your veterinarian can help you decide which non-core vaccines are right for your dog.

What are the core vaccines for dogs?

  • Rabies: Rabies is a highly contagious and fatal viral disease transmitted via a bite from an infected animal, such as coyotes, raccoons, skunks, bats, and foxes. It can be transmitted to humans, for whom it is also fatal. The Rabies vaccine is legally required in most U.S. states for all dogs.

  • DHPPi: Sometimes known simply as the Distemper vaccine, this is actually a combination vaccine that protects against Distemper, Parvovirus, Parainfluenza and Infectious Hepatitis. These are all serious, highly infectious diseases that can result in pain, organ damage and may be fatal.

  • Leptospirosis: Also known as the ‘lepto’ vaccine, this protects against a dangerous bacterial infection. Whilst some vets do not consider this a core vaccine, at Small Door we strongly recommend it for all dogs in New York, as leptospirosis is found across all five boroughs and is even more prominent outside of the city.

What are the non-core vaccines for dogs?

  • Bordetella: Bordetella is also known as kennel cough, a nasty respiratory disease. The vaccine is required by dog groomers, boarding and daycare facilities.

  • Lyme: Lyme Disease is a bacterial disease that can affect pets and humans, causing fever, painful joints and, at times, organ damage. It’s carried by ticks and the vaccine can be useful for dogs that visit areas with high tick exposure.

  • Canine Influenza Virus: Different to the Parainfluenza mentioned above, Canine Influenza Virus, or ‘Dog Flu’, is a serious respiratory disease somewhat similar to flu in humans.

It’s important to administer boosters within a specific time frame, otherwise your dog may have to repeat the entire series of vaccines.

When do puppies get their first shots?

Puppies should typically receive their first shots as soon as they are weaned or around 8 weeks old. Your puppy should then continue those shots roughly every four weeks until they’re approximately four months old. This is generally completed during three vet visits in the first few months.

While the exact dates might vary slightly for your puppy (and your veterinarian will advise on this), it’s important that their boosters are administered within a specific time frame – usually 4 weeks; otherwise your dog may have to repeat the entire series of vaccines.

Puppy vaccine schedule

It’s worth noting that vaccination schedules can look different for every puppy. Geographical location and lifestyle are factors that may come into play, so not every dog will need every vaccine. However, here is what a typical puppy vaccination timeline looks like for year one. 

  • 8 weeks: DHPPi (Distemper) vaccine (1 of 3), Bordetella vaccine (1 of 1), Lyme vaccine (1 of 2) & Dog Flu vaccine (1 of 2)

  • 12 weeks: DHPPi (Distemper) vaccine (2 of 3), Rabies vaccine (1 of 1), Leptospirosis vaccine (1 of 2), Lyme vaccine (2 of 2) & Dog flu vaccine (2 of 2)

  • 16 weeks: DHPPi (Distemper) vaccine (3 of 3) & Leptospirosis vaccine (2 of 2)

Puppy vaccines & boosters

Puppies are especially vulnerable to diseases because they have underdeveloped immune systems. That’s why we begin vaccinating at a young age. Puppies also initially receive some immune protection from their mother, but this doesn’t last for very long. This maternal immunity can also interfere with the vaccines we administer, and make them less effective. So, to make sure puppies acquire a high enough level of antibodies to be effective, we have to vaccinate them multiple times – in other words, administer boosters.

I'm not sure if my dog is up-to-date on shots, what should I do?

If you adopt a puppy, be sure to request a copy of your new pet’s immunization records. However, if that’s not available and you don’t know the dog’s vaccination history, be sure to consult your veterinarian. 

Your veterinarian may be able to run an antibody test to determine if the dog needs additional vaccinations or if their vaccination process needs to be started over.

Adult dog vaccine schedule

Adult and senior dogs need regular boosters to maintain their immunity levels. Boosters are required yearly or every three years depending on the vaccine.

  • Rabies: every three years

  • DHPPI (Distemper): every three years

  • Leptospirosis: every year

  • Bordetella: every year. (Previously this vaccine was recommended every six months, but guidelines now recommend yearly boosters. Some groomers and daycare facilities may still request the six month booster shot.)

  • Canine influenza: every year

  • Lyme disease: every year

Vaccinations for adult dogs: boosters and titers

Although vaccines are very safe, some owners may have concerns about providing boosters to their pets. In these cases, they might consider a titer instead. Titers may also be required for international travel to some countries.

A titer test is a procedure for testing and measuring the amount of antibodies (proteins that provide protection from certain diseases) a dog has in its blood for a specific disease. This is accomplished by repeatedly diluting a sample of blood and then exposing the diluted blood to an antigen. They can be a way to measure if your dog needs to be revaccinated or if they can forgo the booster. 

By law, the only shot required in most U.S. states is the rabies vaccine. If you’re deciding between boosters and titers, speak to your veterinarian. They can provide advice on the pros and cons of each option, and make specific recommendations based on your dog’s lifestyle and health.

How much do puppy shots cost

The cost of vaccinations for your puppy can range in price based on factors like where you live and whether they’re core or non-core vaccinations. It’s also worth noting that the initial puppy vaccination costs within the first year are generally higher than when your dog is an adult, since there are more of them. If you are looking for a cheaper alternative then animal shelters often offer low-cost vaccine clinics, although they might not offer all of the vaccinations that your pup might need.

Make sure your dog is up-to-date on their vaccines

By keeping your dog up-to-date on their shots, you’re protecting them from serious, painful, and often fatal diseases. Speak to your veterinarian if you’re not sure whether your dog needs any boosters – they can review your pup’s medical records and confirm their booster due dates. You can also learn more about Small Door’s vaccine services and FAQs on our Vaccination page.

Summary of dog vaccination schedules

Vaccinations are important for your dog’s immune system and protect them from common diseases, so they can live a long and healthy life. When your dog is a puppy, they’ll go through a series of core-vaccinations and additional non-core vaccinations — if recommended by your veterinarian — from the age of around 8 weeks to 16 weeks. It’s important to stay on track with your puppy’s vaccination schedule so you don’t have to restart vaccinations if too much time has lapsed. 

If you’re ever unsure whether your dog needs a vaccination, speak to one of our veterinarians here to help determine the next steps in your dog’s health.

Related articles


Rabies in Dogs

Rabies is one of the deadliest diseases affecting animals, and dogs are no exception. As there is no cure for rabies, keeping up with regular vaccinations is essential. Once a dog is infected, the virus progresses rapidly. It usually takes less than 10 days to develop, but can take up to one year. When the signs begin to present themselves, it is often too late, and sadly, death is unpreventable.


Distemper in Dogs

Canine distemper causes severe illness in the dog by attacking numerous body systems which then leads to widespread infections that are very difficult to treat. However, distemper is preventable. Knowing the symptoms, treatment options, and preventative measures of distemper will help you keep your canine companion healthy and reduce the spread of the virus.


Parvo in Dogs

Canine parvovirus is a highly contagious and potentially deadly virus if left untreated. Understanding the risks of canine parvovirus is essential to protect puppies and unvaccinated dogs and to reduce the spread of infection.

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Puppy 101: Why and How We Vaccinate

“Is your dog up to date on his shots?” Whenever you need to take your pup to the groomers, an obedience school, or a kennel, that’s a question you’re likely to hear. That’s because vaccinations are an extremely important part of keeping your dog healthy. But how do vaccinations work, why are they necessary, and how are they administered? Read on for answers to these questions and more.

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