PUPPY SOCIALISATION AND THE CRITICAL LEARNING PERIOD

Posted by Puppy Training Melbourne on April 05, 2012

WHAT IS THE CRITICAL LEARNING OR SOCIALISATION PERIOD?

The Critical Learning/Socialisation Period is the age that puppies learn the most - up to 12 weeks old.  It continues to 16 weeks and then for the next couple of years and is ongoing but most learning is done by 12 weeks (3 months).   By the time we get our puppy at 8 weeks of age we don't have much time left.   We can only hope the breeder has been socialising the puppy to people, children, men and their environment.   We really need to do as much as we can as soon as we can.  They're like little sponges during this period so we need to make the most of it.

WHAT SHOULD I DO TO SOCIALISE MY PUPPY?
If you haven't been able to find out much about your puppy's early socialisation period, assume your puppy hasn't had any.  Exposing a puppy to their new world needs to be done mindfully while monitoring your puppy's body language, so you can understand if your puppy is coping okay.  Learn about dog body language and learn what your puppy is telling you.  There are lots of books around or a good trainer can help you.

WHAT'S NORMAL PUPPY BEHAVIOUR AND WHAT'S NOT?
It is normal for puppies to be scared or concerned about new things and in fact the puppy that gets a fright then goes back to explore is learning and building confidence more than a puppy who isn't bothered by the same thing.  Some puppies may be very scared of something and won't go back to explore the perceived threat.  This tells us we need to work very much on building confidence straight away.  It needs to be done as much as possible but always at the puppy's own pace. 

WHAT SHOULDN'T I DO WHEN SOCIALISING MY PUPPY?
Don't be in a hurry.  Forcing a puppy to do something is no good.  We need puppies to chose to explore and discover in their own way.  
Exposing or introducing a puppy to anything and everything, if done incorrectly, could cause the puppy to sensitise to their environment or the perceived threat, making them more fearful as they grow up.  We need to expose puppies to positive experiences in a gentle and positive way at their own pace.  And if they are a little scared, we need to let them know we're there for them if they need it.   It's all about choice - they need to choose to investigate so don't force them.


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