Critical periods in your puppy’s psychological growth:
0 to 7 Weeks
Neonatal, Transition, Awareness, and Canine Socialisation. Puppy is with mother and littermates. During this period, puppy learns about social interaction, play, and inhibiting aggression from mother and littermates. Puppies must stay with their mother and littermates during this critical period. Puppies learn the most important lesson in their lives–they learn to accept discipline.
7 to 14 Weeks
Human Socialisation Period. The puppy now has the brain waves of an adult dog, but his attention span is short. This period is when the most rapid learning occurs. Learning at this age is permanent so this is a perfect time to start training. Also, this is the ideal time to introduce the puppy to things that will play an important part in his life. Introduce the puppy to different people, places, animals, and sounds in a positive, non-threatening way.
8 to 10 / 11 Weeks
Fear Imprint Period. Avoid frightening the puppy during this period. Any traumatic, frightening or painful experience will have a more lasting effect on the puppy than if it occurred at any other time in its life.
13 to 16 Weeks
Seniority Classification Period or The Age of Cutting. Puppy cuts teeth and apron strings! Puppy begins testing who is going to be pack leader. You must discourage any and all biting because such biting is a sign of dominance! It is important that you are a strong and consistent leader. Formal training must begin. Such training will help you establish your leadership.
4 to 8 Months
Play Instinct Period. Flight Instinct Period. Puppy may wander and ignore you. It is very important that you keep the puppy on a leash at this time! The way that you handle the puppy at this time determines if the puppy will come to you when called. At about 4-1/2 months, the puppy loses his milk teeth and gets his adult teeth. That’s when puppy begins serious chewing! A dog’s teeth don’t set in his jaw until between 6 and 10 months. During this time, the puppy has a physical need to exercise his mouth by chewing. PTO
6 to 14 Months
Second Fear Imprint Period or Fear of New Situations Period. Dog again shows fear of new situations and even familiar situations. Dog may be reluctant to approach someone or something new. It is important that you are patient and act very matter of fact in these situations. Never force the dog to face the situation. DO NOT pet the frightened puppy or talk in soothing tones. The puppy will interpret such responses as praise for being frightened. Training will help improve the dog’s confidence.
1 to 4 Years
Maturity Period. You may encounter increased aggression and renewed testing for dominance, but because you have spent a lot of time with your dog, this will not present a problem at all – in fact you will probably hardly notice this, it is just something to keep in mind. Continue to train your dog during this period. Your dog may have another fear period between 12 – 16 months of age.
Regardless of your reason for acquiring a puppy, you’ll have to win it over. You, not your dog, will have to be the leader of the pack if your pup is to develop into a well-mannered family member instead of a burden. Dominance and alpha behaviour are important concepts that every dog owner should comprehend.
Dogs are animals, not human beings. They are pack animals by nature. Every pack has a leader, known as the alpha animal, which dominates and leads the other members of the pack. The alpha is the boss who makes decisions for the entire pack. Usually the pack will have an alpha male and an alpha female. All the other members of the pack form a hierarchy of dominance and submission where everyone has a place.
In your home, you and your family become your dog’s pack, as do any other dogs you may have. It is your responsibility to establish yourself in the alpha position. If you fail to do this, your dog will do it as a natural behaviour. Many people assume that they are automatically in charge just because humans are superior to animals. But are you really the pack leader? Does your dog know it?
Being the pack leader does not mean you have to be big and aggressive. Nor does it mean that there has to be a battle of wills after which you are the victor. Anyone can be the pack leader. It is an attitude an air of authority. It is the basis for mutual respect, and provides the building blocks of communication between the two of you. Read and follow my Need for Leadership/ Leadership Checklist
Stan Rawlinson ( Doglistener) is a Dog Behaviourist and Obedience Trainer who has owned and worked dogs for over 25 years, starting with Gundogs then moving on to the behavioural and obedience side of Pet Dogs in 1996. He now has a successful practice covering London, Surrey and Middlesex you can visit his Web Site at www.doglistener.co.uk