Socialization_for_Puppies_02_Joyful_Dogs_of_Michigan

Socialization for Puppies

You got a new puppy and want to give it a great start. I thank you for that decision but please don’t think that means exposing your new puppy to every puppy kindergarten class, person, dog, location, festival, and rocket launch you can find. Socialization for puppies is a more complex thing than you may realize.

Socialization for Puppies starts very early in life!

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photo courtesy Pinterest.

Per the University of California, Davis, there are critical periods in puppy development. From birth through 49 days it’s almost all about learning to be a dog. The stages include Neonatal, Transition, Awareness, and Canine Socialization periods. Then, between 7 and 12 weeks comes the Human Socialization Period!

Human Socialization Period (7 to 12 Weeks):

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Photo courtesy Amazing Creatures blog.

The pup has the brain wave of an adult dog. This is the best time to take your new puppy home. He is capable of learning respect and can begin learning behaviors such as sit and come. The process of house-training begins during this period. You and the puppy being the bonding process. The puppy can handle gentle discipline and he begins to build confidence during this time.

While you want to introduce the puppy to certain humans during this period, it’s particularly important that you supervise the interactions. The learning done at this age is permanent. If the pup learns to be afraid of men in hats or old ladies with canes it will last his lifetime.

I do not let strangers interact with my own puppies or those I'm training. Most people can't really read a dog's body language and can inadvertently frighten the pup. Additionally, I don't want the puppy to take his focus from me. Laser focus on me (or his owner if it's a client's pup) is what we're trying to build. When your dog can't take his eyes off you, you don't need to worry about him yanking you off your feet to go see someone on the sidewalk or to chase another dog.

Socialization is more than just people

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People think of socialization for puppies as getting them used to interacting with a lot of kinds people. While introducing them to some people is part of socialization, it's only a small part. This is the time to slowly, carefully introduce the pup to the bigger world. New floor surfaces, concrete, water, different kinds of weather, smells, and sounds are all part of it. But because of the fear periods you need to be careful with this broader socialization!

During this period I recommend letting your dog see a lot of people and animals but not interact with them. I want my dogs to ignore everything but me when we’re out and about yet be able to tolerate the presence of another creature. You need to provide the pup with exposure but not necessarily contact with people and other animals.

As a trainer I like to play a lot of engagement games with pups during this period. It focuses the puppy’s attention where it should be (on me) and teaches him that I’m more fun that the things around him.

Fear Impact Period (8 - 11 Weeks):

During this period, you want to very carefully avoid any traumatic experiences for the puppy. Since this period overlaps the Human Socialization Period it’s imperative that you do not allow anyone to frighten the pup. This includes people and animals.

Your pup will undoubtedly show a little fear of new things at this period of his development. That’s fine as long as you do not encourage or coddle the fear. It is your job to build confidence in your pup by showing him that exploring strange new things is safe and fun!

Seniority Classification Period (13 - 16 Weeks):

This critical period is also known as the "Age of Cutting.” Pups are cutting teeth and start cutting the apron strings. Your pup is testing himself and you during this period. He will test dominance and leadership; his and yours.

Biting at this age must be firmly yet gently corrected. Praise for the correct behavior response is the most effective tool. It is important that the praise you give your puppy isn’t a knee jerk response to everything he does. Meaningful praise will teach correct behavior. Praising the dog for simply being alive teaches him that the praise you give for correct behavior has no value.

Flight Instinct Period (4 to 8 Months):

I tell clients that puppies develop selective deafness during this period. They are testing their wings and learning the can (although shouldn’t) operate without your direction. Since teething occurs during this period behavioral issues can be exacerbated by the physiological chewing. While it’s a balancing act, you must praise positive behavior and minimize negative behavior during these months. A good trainer can be a Godsend at this time!

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I tell clients that puppies develop selective deafness during this period. They are testing their wings and learning the can (although shouldn’t) operate without your direction. Since teething occurs during this period behavioral issues can be exacerbated by the physiological chewing. While it’s a balancing act, you must praise positive behavior and minimize negative behavior during these months. A good trainer can be a Godsend at this time!

Second Fear impact period (6 - 14 Months):

During this fear period the pup reacts with fear to situations more than humans or animals. It usually goes right along with the pup’s growth spurts. Therefore, small dogs tend to experience the fear periods earlier than large dogs.

You must be very careful not to reinforce any negative behavior at this point. Soothing the pup encourages his fear and force can multiply it. Patience, compassion (not pity), and good training at this stage will lead to the pup experiencing success and also teach him confidence and problem-solving skills,

The End of Puppyhood

There is one more period in the development of the dog. That is the maturity period (1 to 4 years). But socialization for puppies should be over by that time for most pups. There are breeds that mature more slowly but the basics will be complete by then. There are other issues that come up but exposing your pup to the wide world should be done before this time.

Seek help if needed

The correct socialization of puppies is crucial. If you have questions about it free to call Joyful Dogs of Michigan!

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