What is Puppy Socialization
Puppy socialization is the important window of opportunity for a young puppy to be introduced to humans, other dogs, animals and numerous novel sights and sounds. Puppies have to learn how to behave as dogs by being with their mothers and siblings. Experiments have shown that puppies taken from their mother and siblings at a very early age and then introduced to another puppy, the isolated puppy will not recognize the other pup as one of its own and will react with fear. Puppies have to learn that they are puppies in addition to learning about other dogs and humans. Fortunately dogs are born with a powerful desire to learn and explore their world and with the appropriate exposure will learn adaptive skills.
Puppy Socialization When Does It Begin
The original research done fifth-sixty years ago thought that the fetus and helpless new borrns were incapable of learning. It’s now known that puppies can learn to distinguish between odors even before they are born as well during their first three weeks. What about the 9 weeks prior to birth? It’s been established from studies on other species that the environment experienced by the mother can have profound effects on the character of her offspring. The research has shown (rats, mice, monkeys and humans) that the development of the fetal brain can be influenced by the mother’s experiences while pregnant. Although no direct studies have been on dogs with regard to the external influences, there is good reason to believe this would also apply to dogs.
Puppy Socialization Optimum Time Periods
It’s widely held that at three weeks puppies begin to be attracted to and bond with humans. The optimum socialization period with humans, other dogs, animals and novel sights and sounds is from three weeks to twelve weeks of age. Scientists call this the “critical period” puppies imprint not only onto their mother, littermates, and other animals but also onto people. The next period has been called the “sensitive period” in which a second phase begins. In the first phase the “critical” or socialization phase the puppy learned who it can trust. In the second phase the puppy will continue to learn what is friendly and what is foe. Now the puppy learns about what the world is like, how to deal with it, and what strategies help to cope with the world. The first three to four months of life is the most important time in a dog’s life. Extending on for about one year of age the dogs character is still very malleable. As time passes the dogs become more set in their ways and less flexible to change.
Puppy Socialization Why It’s So Important
A high percentage of dogs that are surrendered to animal shelters are because of behavioral problems. Proper puppy socialization will provide the pup with the coping skills they need to co-exist in our complex world. Puppies that are not well socialized can be fearful of meeting new people, dogs animals etc. A fearful dog has the potential to act aggressively and other behavioral problems. As explained above there is a window of opportunity were the puppy’s character and coping skills can be developed. Puppy socialization can occur within a finite period of time therefore, positive exposure to the world is critical for the puppy to experience to avoid losing the opportunity to build trust in the world.
Socializing a puppy is more critical today than ever before. A dog’s role now is most often to be a companion to man rather than the specific jobs that for centuries they were breed for. The modern environments that today’s dogs find themselves in presents a vast array of new things to learn and adapt to. The very least we can do for today’s dog is to provide them the opportunity to learn, explore and become comfortable with their environment.
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