Part of the Family – A Well Socialized Puppy
At 3 weeks of age, your puppy is able to use sight and hearing to explore the world outside of the warm and food that mom provides. This marks the beginning of puppy socialization. Socialization is the process by which an animals learns how to recognize and interact with which it will live. Puppy socialization comes from two sources, the mother and the breeder. The primary socialization period (weeks 3 to 5) is the responsibility of the breeder; A secondary socialization period (weeks 6 to 12) is where the responsibility shifts from the breeder to you.
The earliest socialization comes from interactions between the mother and the littermates. The puppy learns specific behaviors that make him a dog such as chasing, barking and body posturing. He learns to accept discipline from mom and how and when to use submissive postures. Your puppy is also learning not to bite too hard and how to play with littermates.
Socializing Young Puppies
Your puppy is also exploring his environment. Introducing puppies to new things on a regular basis is vital to producing a stable, well-tempered puppy. Exposure to as many different things as possible by someone the puppy trusts reduces stress and helps her learn to adapt to new experiences and changing environments. Good breeders will generally follow what is called The Puppy Rules of Seven.
The Puppy Rules of Seven
The Puppy Rules of Seven states that by the time the puppy is seven weeks old they should have:
- Been on 7 different surfaces such as carpet, concrete, wood grass, newspaper
- Played with 7 different types of objects such as metal items, squeaky toys, milk jugs
- Been in 7 different locations such as basement, kitchen, garage, crate, laundry room
- Been exposed to 7 different challenges such as climbing out of a box, gone through a tunnel, gone in and out of a doorway
- Eaten from 7 different containers such as metal, plastic, paper, pie plate
- Eaten in 7 different locations such as crate, yard, x-pen
- Met and played with 7 new people including children and the elderly, men and women
During this initial socialization period the breeder will slowing introduce the puppy to new items and situations. Puppies introduced to the hair dryer, the vacuum cleaner, car rides, the sounds of traffic, opera and rock music in a safe environment as a normal course of their day, are less stressed and more adaptable as they continue to grow and develop. The rate of mental development of your puppy depends upon the complexity of the environment in which they live. Therefore, exposure to a variety of noises, surfaces, tastes, people and challenges is very important to their success as part of your human pack.
Good socialization starts with your breeder and continues with you throughout the puppy’s lifetime. Expanding on the Puppy Rules of 7, your puppy should meet 100 new people by the time he is 12 weeks old.
This second socialization period is a time of rapid learning. What your puppy learns during this period has the greatest impact on future social behavior. Studies have shown that the basic character of your puppy is set between weeks 7 to 16 by what he is taught, especially his attitudes toward people, his ability to please and his reaction to new situations and things.
The importance of good puppy socialization cannot be overemphasized. Behavioral problems in older dogs are often traced to undersocialization. A well-socialized puppy will be a well-adjusted, happy member of your family. Your new puppy will develop the attitude, temperament and manners to be an endeared member of your family pack.