Did you know that a puppy’s primary socialization period is from 3 to 12-14 weeks of age?? That’s WEEKS not MONTHS! During this phase your puppy is primed to learn about the world around them. This is the stage in a dog’s life where they are forming opinions about the world – what is safe and what is not, what is scary and what is not.
Your puppy’s temperament is made up of 3 things. Their DNA, early experiences (or lack thereof) and environment.
DNA – This is the genetic material your puppy comes with, what they inherited from mom and dad, along with years of selective breeding to perform a specific task. You can’t do anything to change your puppy’s DNA, but you can learn what your breed of puppy was originally intended to do for a living. This will help you to understand why your puppy might do some of the things they do and prepare you for what lies ahead.
Early experiences – What a puppy experiences, even before birth, can have an effect on their personality. Puppies born to mothers that live in stressful conditions while pregnant have a higher chance of becoming anxious adults due to increased levels of stress hormones in the mother dog. From birth to 8 weeks of age it’s up to the breeder to provide positive socialization experiences such as meeting new people, experiencing new sounds and different surfaces, being handled and meeting children.
Environment – Once you get your puppy home, how you socialize, raise and train your dog will affect its temperament. This is the most important time for you to influence your puppy’s temperament. Your puppy needs to get out and experience the world! If you lock your puppy away in your house you run the risk of behavior problems later in life. Use treats and toys to create positive associations to new sights, sounds, surfaces, people and dogs.
So how do we do this safely before your puppy is full vaccinated?
If your puppy is small, you can carry them in your arms anywhere you’d like to go. You can take them out in a carrier, stroller or wagon. You don’t need to walk your puppy to get them out.
DO NOT go to dog parks, dog beaches or areas where a lot of dogs congregate. But you can carry your puppy around your neighborhood and allow them to observe dogs from a comfortable distance. Your puppy does not need to interact with a lot of dogs to be socialized to them. The same goes for children.
Go to home supply stores and put your puppy in the cart on a blanket. There’s lots to see and hear in stores such as these!
Take your puppy for rides in the car. Park outside of stores and allow your puppy to observe the world through an open window.
Play recordings of noises such as thunder, fireworks, children playing, dogs barking, and sirens at a low volume while you and your puppy engage in a fun game or while your puppy is enjoying a good chewie.
Finally, and this is very important, your puppy must be having a good time. If your puppy is overwhelmed or scared you are not socializing, you are terrorizing. Make these experiences fun by keeping them short and having plenty of delicious treats and fun toys with you.