Many owners are under the belief that socialisation simply means exposing their new puppies to other puppies and dogs. This is an over simplification of a complex process which can lead to issues with temperament as an adult dog.
There are many developmental phases for a puppy which start before they are even born. Every experience they encounter will shape the dog they turn into. Some behaviour issues are even influenced by the approach of the breeder.
The mothers environment, experiences, how she is treated, nutrition and health status all affect a puppies development in the uterus. If she experiences stress this can have a direct impact on the puppies.
Gentle regular handling seems to be a benefit at this age to encourage a confident puppy. Although the puppy’s ears and eyes remain closed they experience touch and smell.
When the puppy’s ears and eyes start to open they begin the transition into the socialisation period. The puppy becomes more active and starts to develop skills such as standing and walking. Interactions with litter mates will increase with play fighting seen. This starts the development of communication skills and signals. They can learn quicker and can keep this learning on board into adulthood.
Puppy will accept gentle handling and will approach and interact with unfamiliar things. Introduction to friendly household dogs can start if the mother is happy. Introducing interacting items to the whelping box aids with confidence, enrichment and mobility.
This will be seen when interaction with the mother, littermates, other animals and humans are observed. The puppy is sensitive to bonds and will form attachments easily to other animals, humans and locations.
Important learning takes place during this period, including learning independence. How the breeder approaches time alone and interactions with the puppy might influence how they cope with alone time once in their new home.
The puppy is extra sensitive to anything negative so it is vital to avoid any negative experiences. Anything negative experienced at this time can stay with the puppy long term and it can be hard to overcome it. It would be preferable to place a puppy in its new home before this stage.
Gentle socialisation is important in this stage, especially if the puppy was already a little more sensitive. Puppy parties are ideal to start during this age range along with gentle social experiences. Exposure to other puppies that are appropriate can be useful avoiding too much rough play.
This stage can be hard to define from the previous stage. It can be determined by the presence of leg lifting in male dogs, and the increased ability to learn. The end of this stage can be determined by sexual maturity. During this stage the puppy will be less tolerant to change and the unfamiliar.
During this stage the puppy will also go through other periods, there can be an overlap between development stages.
Confidence is growing and you may feel like the the puppy is starting to test you out. It can be defined as the age when the puppy is cutting teeth.
12 weeks on wards is the perfect time to start puppy classes and set your puppy up well in a training regime.
This will be seen when the puppy starts to ignore the owner on walks defined as ‘not coming when called’. Careful handling and prevention of this happening in the first instance will help a lot.
Starting your training early will really help you deal with this phase.
At the end of the juvenile period once sexual maturity happens the puppy will move into adulthood. This can be any time between 18-24 months where the dog reaches social maturity.
Every breed develops and matures at different rates, this will affect what age your dog is defined as an adult.
Learning carries on through this stage and adulthood continues until the notice of decline (as a senior dog).
This is determined by the hormonal changes going on in the body which will be influenced by genetics, breed and sex. Things that the dog was previously fine with may suddenly become a problem which will come as a shock to the owner. At this age the dog may have the confidence to face anything that is ‘scary’, the owner may be shocked by an aggressive outburst. How these situations are handled will affect how the dog approaches it from then on and into adulthood
Once the dog has reached the end of adulthood they will transition into senior hood. This is determined by the decline in physical or mental state. This can be a little hard to pin point initially but might be noted in a decline in eyesight, issues with sleeping through the night or generally 'odd' behaviour.
The most important stage during development is the socialisation stage. During this period the puppy should only be exposed to POSITIVE experiences in a constructive way. Too much information will flood the puppy which can be detrimental also. If this isn’t carried out then the puppy or dog may become wary of situations. A puppy that is exposed to a structured socialisation program is more likely to be confident and less likely to display any behaviour problems. Want to know more? All students of Pooch Paws Dog Training club are given more information on socialisation. Looking for 1-2-1 help? Katey can also give you expert guidance on socialisation.