Saturday, March 21, 2009

Canine Developmental Periods

Relevant developmental periods in canine:

1.  First Fear Imprint Period
2.  Optimum Bonding Period
3.  General Socialization Period

1.  First Fear Imprint Period:  6-10 weeks
During this first period puppies are extremely sensitive to positive and negative experiences and extremely impressional.  It is very important to avoid any training that involves negative and abrasive techniques at any age, but especially during this period.  This is why positive reinforcement training is so important.  Positive reinforcement rewards the puppy for something good s/he has done, and therefore the puppy will want to engage in this behavior again and again throughout its life.  When someone refers to "this thing that happened that scared my dog for life," they are probably referring to a negative incident that occurred during this period.

2.  Optimum Bonding Period:  Begins at 7 weeks
This is the time a puppy is most likely to bond with other dogs and/or people.  This is why 7-8 weeks is the age most often recommended for people to bring home their new puppy.  Bonding with your pet is very important for many reasons.  You want a strong positive bond with your puppy so they will continue to be the dog you have always wanted throughout their life.  A dog that has a strong bond with his/her owner will listen to commands and respond better and be more overall focused on their owner.

3.  General Socialization Period:  7-16 weeks
Once your dog has been properly vetted and given the okay to interact with other dogs, it is vitally important that you socialize your puppy AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE!  An under-socialized dog is much more likely to be frightened, misbehave, and possible bite someone in the future.  The more you can socialize your puppy to every situation possible, the more comfortable your dog will become with anything you can throw at them in the future.  For example, when my oldest dog, Nekita, was a puppy, I took her everywhere I possibly could with me.  To the park to go swimming and grill out with friends, to another person's house, to a party, and for walks in busy areas with lots of commotion.  Anywhere and everywhere I possible could take her, I did.  This is why today, I can take Nekita anywhere, even leave her overnight with a friend, and she is fine.  She does not get anxious or nervous, she does not wine or pace, and she does not get scared when finding herself in a new situation or place.  The best thing you could ever do for your puppy is to proper socialize him/her!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Proper Dog Socialization

Many people may be confused about what it means to properly socialize your dog.

Proper Socialization is teaching a dog not to react to everyday things they will encounter by slowly desensitizing them to these things.  It is important to positively expose a puppy to as many different environments and situations as possible.  Keep in mind that exposure needs to be slowly introduced at the dog's pace, not the owners.  Letting a puppy explore new things at his/her own pace will help them become more comfortable and help avoid negative reactions.  Another way to think of socialization is to consider it desensitization.  For example when having your puppy meet new people remember to include a variety things:  such as people who are short, tall, adults, kids, someone with a hat or glasses, someone in a wheelchair or on crutches, etc.  Improper socialized dogs can be frightened by normal human greeting behaviors.

Proper socialization is the number one way for you to avoid having a dog in the future that will develop serious behavior problems such as aggression.

Once your dog has been approved by your vet to be around other dogs, start taking your dog everywhere you possible can.  A friend's house, a barbecue, a busy street, different pet stores, or even to work (if you're allowed).  The more places you can take your puppy, the better socialized and more calm your dog will become in any future situation.

Remember to go at the puppy's pace and not your own.  A puppy should always appear happy and relaxed during socialization.

Socialization for a puppy should start as soon as possible but the best time to socialize a dog is before five months of age.  This does not mean socialization after this age is not important.

So think about it...what are your plans for this evening or tomorrow?  Can you take your dog with?