July 9, 2020 | Tips and Training
Part 1 of a 3 part series where our industry expert Penny Milne sheds some light on some all-important training techniques and tips.
The Sensitive Period for Socialization in dogs is from about 3 weeks to about 12 weeks, with some authorities suggesting it may stretch to as late as 16 weeks. During that time period the puppy establishes his “database of normals” – what to be confident with, what to be scared of. Puppies need to meet and enjoy a broad range of people, different ages, ethnicities and appearances, from toddler to teen to adult, bearded people, people with hats and canes, and more… Puppies also need to meet and greet other healthy, friendly dogs.
Puppies who lack socialization during the Sensitive Period are more likely to be fearful and even fear aggressive later in life.
Note that these Socialization meets-n-greets MUST be positive – meet a person, eat a cookie! Do not overwhelm the puppy, by, for example, handing him into the arms of a scary stranger. Let him make choices. Watch his body language to make sure he’s comfortable.
So, what about vaccinations? Your puppy’s vaccination schedule, as set by the veterinarian, may not have your puppy completing his/her vaccines til 16 weeks. But the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior’s position statement says “The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior believes that it should be the standard of care for puppies to receive such socialization before they are fully vaccinated… Behavioral issues, not Infectious diseases are the number one cause of death for dogs under three years of age.” And, in the Canine Life Stage Guidelines, the American Animal Hospital Association recommends that veterinarians “Encourage clients to attend group classes prior to 4 months of age to promote socialization”.
Of course, you must take into account both your puppy’s physical health AND his behavioral health! Do avoid dogs with an unknown vaccine history, or dubious temperament, and avoid areas they may have soiled. (Note – your veterinarian is the expert on your puppy’s health. Some puppies may have less competent immune systems or maybe at more risk of infectious disease for other reasons. Your veterinarian can help you individualize recommendations.)