07 Jan Puppy Development
Giving your puppy the best possible start to life means making a jump-start with training. The first weeks you have your new puppy are the most important in the dogs whole life! This is the time your puppy needs to be completely immersed in new situations and introductions as these experiences shape the rest of the dogs life. Socialisation and relationship building at this early age is key to shaping the way your dog will interact with people and dogs in the future.
Many new dog owners will focus on toilet training, tricks and addressing issues such as mouthing, but properly setting your dog up for life in a human world involves so much more than that!
Puppies normally leave the breeders home at around 8 weeks of age- midway through the socialisation period which lasts until about 16 weeks of age. This is the most critical point of the puppies life and it is here they learn about novel stimuli in the environment and build their confidence with new people/ animals.
The human socialization window ends at about 12 weeks and it is of vital importance that the dog is introduced to as many new people as possible during this time- hopefully the breeder has started this process for you. Canine socialisation lasts then until the full 16 weeks. The dogs personality and temperament is forming at this age and its vitally important to immediately address any behavioural issues you may notice.
Within these periods mentioned there is also another critical process occurring- the fear imprinting period. This peaks at 8 weeks but can last until 10 and a half weeks. Here, fear and anxiety will develop to hazards that the puppy may seek to avoid. Its important to always ignore this behaviour, never sympathise and cuddle the puppy in this state of mind!
From here to about 6 months of age the puppy is in whats known as the juvenile period. Often times the dog will become more mouth orientated here as baby teeth fall out and new adult teeth erupt. This is paired with a stage of significant growth and some vets will recommend neutering your puppy here as they are coming into sexual maturity- article to come on this subject!
At five months puppies will start their second-fear impact period lasting for 3 weeks time usually. Here the puppy is again sensitive to fearful experiences and owners should do their best to shield them from negative experiences at this time!
The next stage for you and your puppy to tackle together is the adolescent stage (between 6-12 months). This is where you’ll notice your young dog really starting to test its independence. Often training will seem to disappear as the dog becomes selectively deaf making recall frustrating! It is important to stay consistent and calm here, continue training at the dogs pace and keep established boundaries in place.
Do not despair that your puppy appears less interested in you and more distracted- this is just a stage of growing up!
After this point the puppy will gradually mature into an adult with most people agreeing dogs are still adolescent until 2 years of age. The most important thing to remember during all these transitions is to stay the most consistent, calm and authoritative leader possible for your puppy.