With the rising number of aggressive behavior being seen from many dogs and breeds, it is crucial that we humans do our part to do what is necessary to make sure for our dog’s sake that they get properly socialized in the crucial small window of time there is.
Yes, there is a very specific schedule if you will, that propper socializing of your puppy is absolutely crucial and if they aren’t socialized properly and at the correct time in their development it’s likely to haunt them throughout life as an adult dog. Most likely deeming them a social misfit.
If you were to ask me when to start socializing puppies? As a Siberian Retriever breeder, I would say, it starts at birth and should be a constant. The Socialization process for puppies has stages all very necessary to ensure a well-socialized adult dog.
In an effort to prevent Improper puppy socialization we are going to go over the socialization process, so you and I as owners or caregivers know when to start socializing puppies.
This is the time that puppies form primary social skills, relationships or attachments with all others including humans so it’s called primary socialization.
As your puppy grows social relationships change as he/she matures with four different periods of behavioral development. they are referred to as 1. The Neonatal Period 2.The Transition Period 3.the Socialization Period 4. The Juvenile Period..
Structural and functional changes that occur in the nervous system of your puppy take place in each of these stages.
1. Neonatal Period: Birth to 14 Days
Most of the socialization interaction your puppy has these first two weeks is with the mother and a very limited amount of interaction with littermates.
Newborn puppies are born quite helpless with eyes and even ears closed with minimal smelling abilities.
They are able to find the nipple to suckle because they are able to feel the warmth of the mammary glands.
They can’t regulate their body temperature they stay warm from the mother and littermates.
Newborn puppies need the mother to stimulate in order to defecate for the first two weeks of life.
Basically all social interactions in this stage by the puppy are reached through care-seeking behavior.
If the puppy is cold, hungry, or hurt it will whine or cry until comforted.
As a breeder, I have always felt its important for our puppies to completely trust the humans that we pick for them so although I don’t handle the newborns much I spend most of that first 2 weeks sitting with the mother and her puppies,
I will talk to my dog and pet her a lot telling her she is a good girl and because my dogs are spoiled if she wants help moving one or something I will give her a hand with that.
I feel that this assures that the puppy is almost as familiar with a human as they are with their mother when their eyes and ears open.
The puppies are always born in the warm comfort of my home then after 4-5 days, we will transfer them and mom to the dog house. This isn’t for cruelty the house is heated and the puppies are just as comfortable.
It is much easier to house train a puppy that learns the basics from the mother.
For the best method for house training puppy check out our post how to house train puppy.
2. The Transition Period: 3rd week
The transition period happens in the 3rd week of the puppy’s life. This is the beginning of motor, sensory, and psychological capacities associated with adult behavior.
The puppy changes from completely dependent on his/her mother to relatively independent. this is when they begin to respond to audio and visual stimuli.
The puppy is able to stand, chew, and walk, they are now more alert and aware of their environment and will deliberately and intensely start exploring.
The puppies learning capacities change and by the end of the transition period, you will start to see some of their adult behavior is showing by now. they are wagging their tales when seeing other animals and humans.
The puppy starts playing with littermates, pawing, biting, and chewing on one another. They no longer need the mothers to help to defecate. At the end of this stage, they are at a state of recognizable adult behavior.
This is when we start playing with and interacting with the puppies as well. Petting them and playing with them showing them they can trust humans.
It’s this period that the puppies are observing the things mom does, like leaving the nest to defecate.
3. The Socialization Period: 4th week to 12th or 14th week
For the puppy, the fourth week is the beginning of the socialization period and it lasts until the 12th to 14th week of age. It is probably the most important period in the socialization process.
Puppies develop almost all sensory, motor, and learning abilities at this time. It is the experiences your puppy has in the 4th to 12th or 14th week that will have the biggest impact on their ultimate adult behavior.
This is when you will see which is the smartest, most timid, the most mellow and the trickiest each puppy will now show signs of the character that the adult dog will likely have.
When the puppies play now they will growl at one another as they play fight and in competition for food and other objects. The behavior demonstrated now is necessary to establish a litter social hierarchy.
Around the 5th week, I start bringing them inside which also means I start the house training with them too. They don’t have much control over their little bladders which is why a consistent schedule is important.
Until the puppy has had their first vaccine the only playmates they should have had is their littermates, the first vaccine is recommended to be given from 6-8 weeks. The vaccine shouldn’t be given until a puppy is weaned from its mother’s milk.
In the time that I, as a breeder have the puppies, I am playing with them correcting unwanted behavior, mainly I focus on getting them outside with as few accidents in the house as possible and teaching them how to play with humans.
Around the 8th to 10th week is when most puppies go to their forever home. If your puppy hasn’t had his first set of shots now is when you should do so. You don’t want him socializing with just any other animals until he has been vaccinated.
Below is a list of safe places and ways to socialize your puppies before they have had all the proper shots
- Friends- Invite your friends over so that your puppy gets used to different people and animals coming in his space. You should also take your puppy to close friends that have vaccinated pets for your puppy to socialize with, getting him used to new experiences and situations.
- Car Rides- Help your puppy get used to the motion for times when he will go for rides because socializing your puppy isn’t just about exposing them to people and other animals its also about exposing them to different situations.
- Dog-friendly Businesses- Carry your puppy into businesses that are pet-friendly keeping him in a cart or crate let him see and hear all the activity going on around him.
It is very crucial for your puppy’s social behavior that he continues to play with other animals especially at this age. Playing at the dog park, doggy daycare, or playdates are just a couple of different ideas of how to start socializing puppies.
When to start socializing puppies? As soon as you get them home and vaccinated if you want a well-socialized adult dog.
If you are preparing to bring your new fur baby home check out our Checklist for Puppy/dog Proofing Your Home
4. The Juvenile Period:12 to 14th Week to Sexual Maturity
If you haven’t been socializing your fur baby to this point then you have your work cut out for you and you need to start socializing your puppy now.
During the juvenile period of the socialization process, the behavioral activities depend mostly on the environment. A young dog with a human family environment develops differently than one growing up in a kennel.
Whether in a family or kennel it’s during the juvenile period that your puppy will develop social independence. In a home with a family, the young dog may try to become the dominant or alpha and this is when behavioral problems occur if there hasn’t been any training or discipline to this point.
It is very important to keep your puppy socializing with other animals and humans regularly for a well-socialized adult.
For help in avoiding destructive behavior check out our 8 tips to prevent destructive behavior in dogs.
If we truly want to eliminate aggressive behavior in dogs it is crucial that everyone gets educated about when to start socializing puppies. If you have just adopted your fur baby then now is definitely the time to start socializing puppies.
Please remember not to have your puppies exposed to animals that you are unfamiliar with and carry them if you take them out of your yard until after vaccinated.
If you are having problems with finding a name for your puppy check out our over 285 male puppy name ideas and our 2019’s cute female puppy names list, over 140 names, for some great ideas for names.
Help spread the word on when to start socializing puppies to stop seeing so much aggressive behavior in dogs and breeds.
Have Fun Socializing Your Puppies For A Well Behaved Adult Dog.