Socialization of puppies is critical from 4-12 weeks of age. Time and effort are needed to help establish a happy and emotionally secure puppy.
A critical period in a puppy’s life is from 4-12 weeks of age. Their socialization to their littermates, people, places, noises, and objects is so significant during this time that their experiences have effects that are permanent for better or worse. It is for this reason that many reputable breeders will not let their puppies go to homes until this period has passed; they want to make certain that all has been done to create a positive foundation from which to grow.
Socialization takes place in two stages:
Phase 1- Socialization with dogs (4-6 weeks)
Puppies at this age begin to move about more freely. They are trying to get out of the whelping pen and usually succeed! They are also now beginning to eliminate on their own and naturally have an averson to relieving themselves in the same area that they sleep. It is extremely important that their area be cleaned and picked up religiously. Once out of the den, they begin to play with each other developing and understanding the roles of dominance and submission. This constant play gradually establishes a hierachy within the pack. The mother serves as a role model for the puppies, teaching them basic social behavior for her breed. Puppies taken early from the litter can develop serious behavior problems. Never adopt a puppy under the age of six weeks of age.
Phase 2- Socializaton with People (5-12 weeks)
The sixth week of life is a crucial pivotal time in a puppy’s life. Here, the emphasis shifts from socialization with the mother and littermates, to the outside world and people. Their eyesight and hearing are more acute and they are eager to investigate all corners, crevices, objects, and people without hesitation. They require all the postive attention they can get. It is during this time that frequent touching, petting, patting, and stroking reinforces the bond with humans. Intentionally making eye contact with them also helps to cement and reinforce the bond. There should be plenty of variety in expanding their environment in a controlled manner. This includes cement, tile, grass, gravel, and dirt as it feels differently on their paws. Introducing different sounds, such a loud talking, babies crying, hand clapping, music and jingling of keys can be introduced but in increments. Each puppy is an individual and must be evaluated and judged according to their progress.
People of all ages should be available to touch and handle the puppy. It is very important that the puppy become familiar with touching paws, having their mouths opened, and being brushed so that grooming becomes part of the routine.
Socialization of puppies takes time and effort. There is no shortcut. An understanding of a puppy’s natural growth and development will provide the basis for an emotionally happy and stable puppy.