Updated: Sep 26, 2021
Puppies between 6 weeks and 16 weeks (give or take, every dog is different) go through a development change. During this time, their brain is most inclined to accept new experiences and they act as sponges to absorb information from the world around them. This is why it is often said it is easier to train puppies during this time. The most important thing for puppies to learn during this age is to socialize. What your puppy encounters during this critical time will shape their character, temperament, and behavior for the rest of her life. Socialization gives dogs a bigger world, gives dogs a bigger brain (literally), ensures bonding with humans and creates an overall healthier dog.
The term socialize often is misleading in dog training. In everyday life, socialization is described as interacting closely with an object or person. However, in dog training, a puppy does not have to interact closely with other people or animals. Interaction can be done at a distance such as observing from across the street. In the long run, this will help teach the puppy that they do not have to "say hi" to every person on the street or every dog they pass. However, puppies should interact with over 100 people by the time they are 16 week old.
As a rule of thumb, puppies should...
· Encounter 12 different surfaces
· Encounter 12 different objects
· Encounter 12 different locations
· Encounter 12 different people
· Encounter 12 different kids
· Encounter 12 different animals
· Encounter 12 different noises
· Encounter 12 different fast-moving objects
· Encounter 12 different challenges
· Explored 12 different locations with a leash & collar
· Encounter 12 different handling exercises each week
· Eat from 12 different shaped containers
· Eat in 12 different location
· Socialize with 12 different balanced healthy and vaccinated dogs/puppies
· Been left alone safely in a crate away from family and other animals (5-45 mins) 12 times a week
· Been left alone safely in a crate near family members (5-45 mins) 12 times a week
...by the age of 16 week
When socializing your puppy, I recommend to give it a command name. I like to use “Say Hi”. When you give your socialization command, this lets the puppy know that you are giving them permission to check out the item, person, or other animal. If the puppy doesn’t seem interested in checking out the item, person or animal make an effort to encourage them to check it out. If that doesn’t work, take a step back and have the item, person or animal nearby while you are playing with your puppy. Introduce this item, person, or animals again a day or two later, but a little closer. Keep repeating this step daily until your puppy is comfortable with the item, person, or animal.
Once dogs hit puberty, typically around 6 months of age, your dog will begin to look at life differently. Your dog will rely on their previous learning experiences to help them respond to situations they encounter in life. As a dog owner you should encourage and supervise as many quality social experiences as possible.
Puppies that encounter daily positive experiences in their first 16 weeks will be much more balanced and will cope with experiences later in life. Puppies who have had little or no socialization or bad experiences, are more likely to show aggression, fear, avoidances, or submissive urination later in life. Such behavior problems are the number one reason why dogs are surrendered to a shelter or rescue. Behavioral issues are the number one cause of death in dogs under that age of three. Puppies who were born during the Covid-19 Pandemic are more at risk than ever for showing these signs when they mature. Do yourself and your dog a favor and take the precaution of socializing your puppy to as much as you can during this critical time in their life. Use the rule of 12 above and our Puppy Socialization Items to help raise a balance puppy.
Even though socialization is important for puppies during this developmental period, please keep in mind that your puppy does not have all of its shots yet. So be smart about it!...Carry the puppy, use a cart or puppy stroller when out.
As always, if you have any questions regarding this please reach out to your Veterinarian.
Kathlyn Lawrence of All Jazzed Up Pet Services LLC is a Certified Professional Trainer (CPT) with years of experience training dogs and working with animals. For more information on our Pet Services please visit our website.