Critical periods in a puppy’s life have been determined by behavioral scientists. It has been proven that early environment and socialization make lasting impressions on the puppy. The goal of socialization is to see that each puppy matures to his potential with confidence and without fear. Proper socializing ensures a well balanced, flexible animal that can take all kinds of situations in stride.
Following are the critical periods of a puppy’s development:
1st Stage (birth to 3 weeks): Needs food, warmth, sleep and their Dam (mother) – ears open/eyes open – beginning of tactile and visual stimuli.
2nd Stage (3-5 weeks): Period of very rapid sensory development, puppies see, hear and have the ability to learn “housebreaking” in the whelping box begins; low levels of unfamiliar auditory stimuli can be introduced.
3rd Stage (5-7 weeks): Weaning begins but puppies are kept with the Dam and siblings – Pups removed at this time do not socialize well with other dogs and may become fighters; human contact is important. Transfer of affection and dependency to humans requires hand contact.
4th Stage (7-8 weeks): Puppies fully weaned; brains are neurologically complete; introduction to new areas are recommended. May go to new homes; naturally destructive – everything goes in their mouths; brief excursions to all parts of the house; daily human contact is a must. Simple obedience commands can be done for fun. Introduction to housebreaking.
5th Stage (8-10 weeks): Flight/Fear imprinting period; care should be taken that nothing traumatic happens to puppy.
6th Stage (10-16 weeks): Period to develop independence and self-confidence and a strong bond with owners; cutting teeth begins (remember, a puppy is like a baby and looks for things to chew on.
Trauma that occurs during the 2nd and 5th stages will have a permanent effect on the pup. They will never be as well adjusted to people or new experiences.
Many puppies will be kept by a breeder for show evaluation. Do not be concerned about purchasing an older puppy that you feel comfortable with.