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Puppies receive immunity from their own mother's milk during their first weeks of life. After that, vaccines help to keep them from diseases such as parvovirus that can be found in their environment, including in soil and in the feces of other dogs. Some of a puppy's first shots are spaced accordingly to help fill the gaps between what immunity they receive from their mother and what immunity they will get from vaccines.
Puppies can receive a rabies vaccine after twelve weeks of age and are required by law in some states to have it by sixteen weeks of age. Some veterinarians recommend that the rabies vaccination be given separately from other vaccinations due to possible side effects and reactions.