Life As A Puppy
Your Puppy’s “Stages of Growth”
Up to 8 Weeks – Neonatal, Physical Awareness, Canine Socialization
Up to the age of eight weeks, puppys spend all of their time with mom and littermates. During this time puppies learn how to correctly interact in a variety of different situations. They also learn proper social behavior through play. Young pups also learn to accept discipline from their mom for their improper actions. It is also during this time that they learn not to relieve themselves in the den. It is strongly advised that puppies remain with their mother and littermates through at least the age of 8 1/2 weeks.
8 to 16 Weeks – It’s A Strange New World
During this period of time a puppy’s mind is like a big sponge. The most rapid learning occurs durning this time. A puppy’s long term memory is established during this time. This is the perfect time to start basic training.
A puppy’s attention span is very short, so any training should be done in short segments of one to three minutes. Remember, any training you do must be fun for the dog or it will not want to learn. This would also be the best time to start introducing the puppy to other important things in its life. After the initial bonding period has been completed, take the necessary time to introduce your puppy to new things.
Things like new people, places, other animals, cars, the washing machine and other unusual items in it’s world. At this age, puppies are driven by curiosity, so they don’t usually have a fear of to many things. If you take the time to introduce all of these things in a positive and non-threatening way, you will have a more confident dog as time goes by.
From five to eleven weeks any traumatic, frightening or painful experience can have a more lasting effect on the puppy. It is advisable that you avoid or at least minimize any situations that might frighten, traumatize or cause pain. If handled incorrectly, you may instill a lasting fear of the things that frightened it. (car horns, loud noises, the vet etc). Never coddle, or over sympathize with the puppy if it shows a fear response.
If you have an already timid or fearful puppy this can further ingrain the fear and make it harder to remove it later. We suggest that you simply say “It’s OK” or “You’re Fine” and then redirect the puppy on to a positive activity like training or a play session.
One other point needs to be mentioned. The period between six and sixteen weeks can be a dangerous time for a puppy. Above all else, a puppies health issues must take center stage. Just one sniff at a location where a sick dog has relieved itself (within the last 6 months) can infect your puppy with the parvo virus or another life threatening disease. For this reason, when introducing new things, places and dogs, use your common sense. Only introduce it to places and dogs that you know are completely healthy.
13 to 16 Weeks – Coming into Their Own
Puppies start to cut their teeth about this time, so by now you should have discouraged all biting and your puppy should have learned bite inhibition.
It is also important that the bond between you and your puppy be fully established. If its not, this should become your top priority. If you don’t have a strong bond you will be in for a few very tough years. This bond of mutual trust and respect allows you the access to teach your puppy the things it needs to know as well as the behaviors you expect. With your consistent “parental like” leadership you will make leaps and bounds in your training.
The eight to sixteen week period is the most important time in your dog’s life. It will learn more during this time than it will at any other time in it’s life. Most behaviorists feel that the personality traits that your dog exhibits at sixteen weeks will accurately reflect what it will be like as an adult dog. The only way to change an unwanted trait will be extensive training and/or behavior modification. So it is important that you work hard to give your puppy the best start in life possible.