Puppy Development Periods - When Is It Best to Start Training?

During the 1950’s several studies were conducted to determine when dogs would be the most impressionable and receptive to socialization. These studies also indicated that dogs were very impressionable and capable of learning at a very young age.

There are three puppy development periods:

First Fear Imprint Period, Optimum Bonding Period and General Socialization Period.

The First Fear Imprint Period occurs at the 6 to 10 weeks age.

During this time young puppies are extremely impressionable and sensitive to positive and negative environmental experiences. Try to keep the puppy’s experiences positive, to avoid fear problems later.

Optimum Bonding Period starts at 7 weeks.

In the wild, puppies younger than seven weeks old have limited interaction with other pack members outside of their mother and litter mates. By 7 weeks they are strong enough and active enough to start interacting with the pack in general. Puppies are best able to form new bonds with beings (including cats) outside their original family at seven weeks old. This is the reason that seven weeks is the age most often recommended for people to take a new puppy home to his or her new human family.

Puppies of this age should be encouraged to focus on

proper socialization with their humans during this period. Proper socialization means avoiding stressful or overwhelming situations. Interactions should be positive, mild and gentle. Avoid forcing the pup to explore new things. Instead expose the dog to new things and let him/her explore at their own pace.

General Socialization Period is from 7 to 16 weeks of age.

Proper socialization is probably the single most important thing you can do to avoid the most serious problem of them all - aggression. Dogs that bite are frequently banished to the back yard, re-homed, taken to the pound or euthanized. Therefore, proper socialization can be the difference between life and death. Dogs that bite are more likely to be euthanized than a dog that doesn’t heel or sit well. This also needs to be introduced so as not to cause negative reactions or fear. "Slow and steady" is my mantra for balanced puppy development.

Proper socialization is:

The positive exposure of the puppy to many situations and environments that the puppy may encounter during his lifetime.

All exposure needs to be introduced at the dog’s pace in order to be a positive experience and avoid any negative reaction.

Another term for socialization is de-sensitization. Un-socialized dogs overreact to many everyday things. (Other dogs, strange noises, tall people, children, a person wearing glasses, bicycles, etc). This de-sensitization is done by exposing the dog to the environment in small doses. It is important not to overwhelm the dog by overexposure to new things and places. This could cause the opposite result to the goal of positive association.

The ideal time to socialize a dog is BEFORE he or she is 5 months old. After this time, socialization socialization occurs at a slower rate. Socialization should always start as soon as possible as long as the pup or dog being socialized is healthy and that the socialization is done correctly.

History of Dogs In Our Lives
Stages of Learning
Problem Solving
Tools, Techniques, Treats and Toys - The 4 T's