The extended Scholl Animal Hospital family has grown again with the addition of Mya, a yellow Labrador Retriever puppy. Recently Mya has been visiting the clinic, where she has encountered Marlo, as well as other staff members. These are the types of social interactions that will help to shape her future behaviour.
Proper socialization helps puppies to learn how to interact with other animals and people. The cognitive development of puppies can be divided up into a series of periods, called sensitive periods, that are crucial times for shaping learned adult behaviours. Two important sensitive periods occur between 3-12 weeks and 16-20 weeks of age. Puppies learn best how to interact with other puppies during 3-8 weeks of age which corresponds with the time that a puppy normally spends with its litter mates and mother. Therefore, it is recommended that puppies should stay with their litter until at least 7 weeks of age.
Socialization with people has the greatest impact on learned behaviours from 5-12 weeks of age. At this time it is also important to encourage the puppy to explore new environments. Unfortunately, this period coincides with the fear stage ( 8-12 weeks of age and 4-6 months of age) and exposure to new environments need to be positive.
Puppy socialization classes are available and puppies can attend after they have received their 1st vaccination and deworming. These classes are intended to teach the puppy how to accept other puppies, people and different situations. Dogs that attend puppy classes have increased responsiveness to commands and increased retention in the home later in life.
Socialization – 3 to 12 weeks
- Imprinting – dog identification and learning social limits
- 5-8 weeks optimum for socialization
- 8-14weeks stranger danger develops and peaks, also parallel fear of object
- Reinforcement of socialization and environmental complexity is necessary
- Often secondary fear period at 4-6 months
More information regarding puppy socialization and training can be found below
AVSAB position statement on puppy socialization
Sophia Yin Puppy Socialization – Stop fear before it starts