It is great to have a dog who is well-balanced, self-confident and friendly to other people, kids and pets. Early experiences and introduction to different stimuli can prepare your dog for future encounters in life. There are some crucial moments in puppy’s social development which you should take into considerations when taking care of your pup.
At 3 weeks of age, puppies are getting mobile and independent. Eyes have opened and this marks a start in social interactions. This is a critical moment for a dog to learn his boundaries with other dogs, bite inhibition, submissive and playful behaviours.
A period between the 3rd and 5th week is also great for introducing puppy to different species: cats, horses, humans of different sizes and ages and to strange things like umbrellas, vacuum cleaners and funny hats. Dogs at this age are fearless and bond easily. However, when a puppy meets a baby, a 11 year old kid and an elderly lady, it is like meeting 3 different species. Dogs do not generalise the different encounters as meeting humans, therefore at an early age a puppy has to familiarise itself with all possible age groups.
Between the 3rd and 5th week of life environment enrichment, a lot of play time with other dogs and humans are crucial.
The secondary socialisation takes place between the 6th and the 12th week. The mother isn’t intensively involved in the puppy’s daily life anymore, stops feeding and tries to withdraw for longer periods. Puppies substitute mum’s presents with play among siblings, where they learn sending and receiving signals, boundaries, growl and snap control. This period is very important for skill development with other dogs. Dogs weened too early and raised in isolation from other dogs tend to be aggressive and get attacked by other dogs, due to its lack of social skills.
The most critical development during the secondary socialisation is fear. From the 8th week of puppy’s life, puppy starts to be afraid of novel things. This is where it needs a lot of positive reinforcement and support. We suggest whenever your puppy is in an unpleasant situation (like vet visits, fire works, etc) meet his fear with laugh and distract it with a game. A soothing reassurance and hiding with your pup under the table just deepens the experience instead of making the situation something to be laughed at. We suggest that you walk your dog on the leash at least until it is 16 weeks old, so if it gets into any novel fearful situations you can easily take control over. Being fearful means being scared of new things or taking more time to accustom to it. This is why it is important to introduce pup until its 8th week to as many novel things as possible.
Between the 12th and 16th week of life, the socialisation period is closing up and dogs tend to become weary of other pets and humans, that they have never met before. We suggest you start dog school before the 12th week and graduate with the elementary training. At this age puppies are already able to concentrate on their tasks for longer periods.
Depending on the breed, giant breeds tend to mature longer, but dogs’ puberty starts at 6 months and can last until 15 months (e.g. Saint Bernard puppies). At this age dogs are independent, testing the limits, hormones are kicking in and they start showing sexual behaviour . Continue training with your puppy, taking him everywhere with you and laying a good base for its adult life. A dog needs plenty of stimulation and physical activity. It detests boredom.
Some dogs are considered matured at 10 others at 18 months, the growth has stopped, your dog is more concentrated and can work on complex tasks. Do not forget your dog needs a life long stimulation and learning obedience is possible at any stage of life, just requires more patience of yours.
Moving to a new home
Taking a puppy home too early can result in many behavioural problems – aggressiveness towards other dogs, possessiveness of toys and food, fearfulness. Most of puppies are completely weaned at the age of 7 weeks and eat solid diet, the first vaccination takes place at 8 weeks.
In our opinion the best period to take a puppy away from its mum is after the 8 and before the 12 week of age. A 5-6 week old puppy has to socialise with its siblings and learn rules of interacting with other dogs, a too early separation may result in reactivity to other dogs. A home environment is stress free and safe, so puppies are less prone to digestion upset and reactions to vaccines, when changing diet and getting the first shots. However, the socialisation period starts closing up between the 12 and 16 week, so in order to build a strong bond with a new family, rehoming before the 12 week is suggested. The puppy is already mentally stable and able to adapt to new changes.
The Dogo app is a great helping tool when training your dog. But keep in mind, your dog needs socialisation with other animals and people.