The Critical Learning Time for Puppies

by Bonney Brown

When it comes to cuteness, nothing tops a puppy. What you may not realize is that inside that adorable furry head their brain is going through the most important development period of their lives. During the first 12 weeks of life, puppies are in their critical socialization period, meaning that they are especially open to learning new things. After that point, they are less able to adapt to new things and more likely to view them with fear.

During these first 12 weeks, you want to expose your puppy to many different experiences—sights, sounds, environments, people and animals—to help them grow into a happy, well-adjusted dog. The goal is to make these new experiences positive, or at least neutral, for your puppy.

Touch is a good place to start—familiarize your puppy with being stroked all over their body, handle  paws and ears, look in their mouth frequently. Many dogs experience hugging as unwanted restraint, but you can help your puppy accept hugs by immediately providing a treat.

Introduce your puppy to a wide variety of different kinds of people, all the while making these experiences positive with treats or play. Meeting men and women of all different ages and varied races, as well as people wearing hats, walking with canes, etc., creates a relaxed, friendly dog. You can carry treats with you and ask strangers to give one to your puppy.

It’s also important for your puppy to learn to develop good canine social skills so that they can get along well with other dogs. Interacting with other puppies and friendly adult dogs is the only way your puppy can develop these skills.  Puppy classes are very beneficial, but your puppy will need additional time working with you outside of class. Of course, you want to be sure that your puppy is properly vaccinated to protect them from canine viruses.

You will also want to train your puppy to become comfortable spending time alone, to control the use of their mouth (bite inhibition), to get along with cats and to allow you to take away food and other objects.

You never want to physically punish your puppy as this teaches them to be afraid of you. The goal is to help your puppy develop into a wonderful companion with a strong and positive bond with you.

Events that Help Animals

Spring Fling Adoption Promotion, March 20 – April 2 at Nevada Humane Society. $20 for adult cat adoptions and $45 for adult dogs. Call 775-856-2000 for more information.

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