The title theory is one of my favorites and is derived from some of the best trainers and behaviorists in the U.S. It implies that not only should you bring your dog to puppy training classes early – when your pup is 10 weeks of age and after the second series of vaccines is ideal – but there are a number of other obligations you have toward your new pup’s development.
The early social imprint period on your puppy’s behavioral development is actually very short, ending at about 20 weeks of age. There is a whole lot to do before that.
The first six to eight weeks of a dog’s life are provided by the pup’s breeder or the shelter environment. What do puppies learn in this situation? They learn how to get along with their siblings; their place in the dog pack; bite inhibition from the mom; handling by different people; exposure to differing surfaces – i.e. concrete, grass, vinyl, wet, cold, etc.; and confinement areas.
Once the pup goes home with you, a whole new series of experiences needs to be addressed.
Inside the home: Sounds such as TV, microwave beeping, movement and sound of vacuum cleaner, babies crying. Get the pup used to seeing people wearing caps and sunglasses, and carrying objects such as mops or brooms.
Stairs are a challenge, so start with just one or two. Let him experience crates, baby gates and being confined so he learns he cannot always be with you. Make sure there are toys for appropriate play: squeaky, tug, rubber, balls, soft, hard bones, safe edible bones.
Start petting her early on by handling her paws and face and ears. Brush her regularly to get her used to it. The more you do this, the better your dog will adjust to touch by others.
Outside: Lawn equipment, cars, bikes, trucks, drains on the street, trash cans. Introduce him to those wearing uniforms, children (crawling, walking and stationary), people of all races, men and women.
The planet in general: Different textures; grass, mulch, the road and walking on wet textures as well as walking in the rain. Learning to walk on a leash in a variety of equipment such as harnesses or collars.
Let her play with other puppies, both large and small, on a one-on-one basis or in a class – but not in a dog park until she’s older and has age-appropriate vaccines. Safety and supervision is critical.
Very early on, car rides to the veterinarian and groomer are critical. Clippers, brushing, blow drying, bathing, touching by strangers is a serious need when pups are young, as it may take time to work through their fears.
Go to outdoor restaurants or other businesses that allow pets. Have the puppy meet people in walkers and wheelchairs, canes and more. Have as many people pet them as possible – as long as your pup is not jumping.
If you do all of this and more, your puppy will become a well-adjusted pet and a pleasure for you to share your multi-faceted life. Every day should be an adventure for you and your dog.
Abby Bird is owner of Alpha Dog Obedience Training. AlphaDogTrainingAcademy@gmail.com