Whatever a dog learns in the first 16 weeks of life will be the most important lessons that they will ever learn. A dog’s outlook on life is largely determined by its experiences during this period. Learning during the critical periods of development is far more permanent than later learning.
When a dog is introduced to the world, he or she will be exposed to a number of different external stimuli and how your dog interacts with these will impact their development forever. Giving the right training and attention during the first period of their lives is incredibly important. At this age, your dog is learning at a rapid pace, meaning that the environments they are exposed to and behaviours they are taught must be guided correctly by you.
During the first 2-4 weeks of a dog’s life, their senses are beginning to activate. After three weeks they can see, hear and have a better sense of things around them. This is an important time for a puppy to learn how to socialise, a process that is crucial to their development. When a pup is around 2 ½ weeks old, they should be handled for a minute a day, building up to five minutes. This allows the pup to be accustomed to humans as a normal part of their life.
You want your dog to feel comfortable in all situations and not be afraid of certain noises, surfaces or fear people, children etc. You want them to look at people & objects, hear all sorts of noises and think all are similar, to be fazed. It is also important to keep an eye on the mother’s behaviour as any kind of erratic, nervous behaviour can build up nervous tendencies in your pup.
The socialisation period of your dog’s life is paramount, yet many dog owners fail to understand the importance of this step, then wonder why their dogs misbehave or have a strong sense of fear when surrounded by others dogs or growl when people try to pat them.
The phase begins from four weeks and must be practiced up until your pooch is 16 weeks old. Once your dog hits 16 weeks of age, the window of opportunity to socialise your dog and teach them certain behaviours closes. The most important factor to remember is that leaning during the primary socialisation period is permanent and will be retained in the memory of the dog for life! That is why it is crucial that you can provide your dog with the correct training during this time.
The key to socialising your dog is exposing them to as many different situations as you can while they are still young. Take your pooch to a park, down the street, let them explore bushlands and climb on logs. Let them see cement surfaces, grated surfaces, sand surfaces and all other kinds of surfaces that you can, because once they are exposed to their different environments, they are accustomed to this forever.
Introduce your little pooch to young people, older people and all kinds of aged people from all sorts of different demographics, so that your puppy is comfortable around familiar faces and even strangers.
If your dog is overly shy and is struggling to interact with different kinds of people and environments, don’t give up be patient and help set your puppy up to succeed not fail. Visit a training centre to speak to an expert who can help your dog through this time, which is the most critical time for learning of all.