PUPPY SOCIALIZATION

By Fernand Beaudry

A question that is often asked is "when should I start to socialize my puppy?"

Many experts will say that puppies should be socialized from the time they are born. They are correct. Puppy socialization should be the responsibility of all breeders to make sure that puppies are ready for social acceptance of people.

At 1 to 13 days

Daily handling sessions of five to fifteen minutes in which the pup is touched and stroked will greatly increase the puppy's social acceptance of people.

It has also been stated that introducing the puppy to mild stress even at this age will allow the animal to better cope with stress later in life. This may occur in the wild, less controlled environments, for example, through temperature changes, which we can mimic, by placing the animal on a cool floor for a few seconds each day.

The removal of the puppy from its nest and siblings is stressful, but the stress is alleviated by placing the animal back in its nest after a few seconds.

At 14 to 28 days

At this age the pup's senses are now being stimulated and the pup will forever be influenced by the images formed in his mind. What he experiences now will influence him for the rest of his life.

We must ensure that the pup's environment is stimulating and educational and a sensory rich environment which will positively influence the dog's mind.

You can stimulate the dog's mental development by placing harmless yet novel toys or objects within the nest. Examples are: a small soft squeaker or squeaky toy, a low step and/or platform that the pup may crawl on, a ball or a small nylon bone.

Use your imagination, but ensure that it is not injurious. The more a pup becomes accustomed to and explores now, the more confident and assured your pup will be in the future. You can effectively influence your pup's behavior and mental development even in its first four weeks of life.

At 29 to 84 days

If there is no socialization with humans in this period, it is most likely the dog will always be fearful and shy of people. The pup is extremely dependent on frequent human contact and handling between five and twelve weeks of age, whereas its main social interaction with other dogs is between four to six weeks of age.

A puppy should never be adopted before six weeks of age, the interaction occurring within the litter at that time is too critical to a puppy's development.

Furthermore, around eight to ten weeks the puppy goes through a fear period where it is extremely susceptible to physical and psychological trauma, the effects of which may be permanent and irreversible.

This makes the ideal time to adopt a puppy at between seven and eight weeks of age. At this age, the pup is capable of forming strong relationships with both dogs and human beings.

Every effort should be made to fully socialize the dog, that is, socialize it beyond the normal casual encounters with people.

It is highly recommended that you develop a program that will expose the dog to a wide range of different sights, sounds, and textural feelings, both environmentally and socially.

Textures

should include pavement, rugs, cement, sand, grass, gravel, linoleum and dirt.

Sights

would include trees, insects, other animals, men with beards, women with hats, people in wheelchairs, people with canes and many children.

Sounds

may include traffic, airplanes, trains, railroad crossing signals, construction and the sound of children playing.

At the same time, further increase the environment enrichment of the puppy's nest or den, by adding new toys, a Kong, a piece of heavy rope, or a ball with a bell in it.

Suspend a rubber tug ring at the puppy's eye level so it can pull on it, or bat it.

The greater the exposure you can give your dog during this critical period, the more it will lead to improved social flexibility, social communication, emotional stability and trainability.

At twelve to sixteen weeks of age depending on your puppy's immunization status, every attempt should be made to take your dog to a puppy class.

The classes should be using training methods that are based on positive rewarded responses.

Classes should include socialization and play periods with other puppies, children and adults.

Puppies should learn to be handled and touched by adults and children. The whole family should participate in the puppy class.

Basic commands: sit, down, come, stay and off should be covered.

The class should be conducted in an atmosphere of fun and happiness. Rewards should be used extravagantly. Puppy class should be fun for puppy and family.

Every effort should be made to educate the new puppy owners, as to what is needed to socialize their puppy.

If all efforts are made from the time the puppies are born, the breeder does his part in socializing them and if the new owner does his part in socializing his puppy, the results will be a bond between you and your pet that will increase in strength and intensity.

You will have a relationship that you can be proud of and enjoy for the life of your chosen pet.

Reprinted from The Wonderful World Of Bouviers, 4th Edition.