Guess what the "M" word is here... Let's think... "M" is for mischievous, "M" is for manipulator, "M" is for... yep! MATURITY!
How does this simple M word affect your dog, besides the obvious? Maturing equals losing that puppy fluff & getting their "big dog" coats. Maturing can result in that conversation about "parts" with your pre-teen children - (ever fostered a recently neutered large breed male adolescent dog, for example?) Maturing equals usually growing into those out-of-proportion paws. BUT in (or outside!) the world of dog training, maturity equals behavior changes. No way around it.
Now, bear in mind that this article is written with candor by a rather candid dog trainer - a multi-certified dog trainer, but a dog trainer nonetheless. I am not going to slap on the medical terms or too much scientific jargon, nor am I a veterinarian. I want to explain in laymen's terms how K9 MATURITY affects dog training & behavior modification through the eyes of a dog trainer. That is all.
OK, first of all, there are a lot of misconceptions about "puppies." How long is a dog a "puppy?" A puppy is not a scientifically-defined term, per se, and for the purposes of this two-part article, the more important question is how long does "he's just a puppy" really hold water?
A BRIEF SYNOPSIS OF PUPPY STAGES ***Reminder that even the experts differ on some of the following details. Whatever.***
First seven or eight weeks of puppy life constitute the early neonatal period, transitional period and the early socialization period, most notably for this article, the early socialization period. This is an early developmental phase in which puppies should be exposed to safe, mild doses of what they will encounter later in life, per se. This is also a very important time that young puppies should be learning from a benevolent mother & littermates. A singleton puppy can pose issues later on if especially special precautions aren't taken during this phase, especially with a new or overly submissive or fearful mother dog (dam). ***Bear in mind that these parameters can be argued about from breeder to breeder until the cows come home, but this is a generalized and paraphrased definition of this time period.***
NOTEWORTHY: From around eight to twelve weeks of age is the generally-accepted time for Puppy's First Fear -Imprint period. More on that later!
From about eight weeks to four months is what is commonly referred to at the SOCIALIZATION (or "second" socialization period, depending on what you read). This time is especially important for the development of puppies expected to live in a human society and will, to more and lessor degrees, determine certain aspects of their personalities & henceforth their lives.
During this "second" period, if a puppy doesn't receive adequate socialization - meaning he meets a myriad of examples of people he'll meet throughout his life, he walks on different surfaces, sees & interacts with different safe dogs, experiences UN-over-whelming crowds, car rides, hikes, kids, etc. - these are things that may come back to haunt you or him DESPITE how sweet & "submissive" toward those elements he seems right now.
A LACK of exposure and the affects thereof during this time period may - and likely will - affect "puppy" for life. In no way, shape or form is that an excuse to accept current canine behavior as it is.
NOTEWORTHY: Puppy's Second "Fear Period" may occur during this stage. One of the best definitions of this time period I ever heard was this: think about puppies that are domesticated dog (Canis familiarus) and their relation to the gray wolf (Canis lupus). When puppies (domestic or otherwise) are really little, they don't toddle too far away and gain a vast amount of knowledge about the world and acceptable behavior from their mama and littermates... When they get a little older, gain more of their senses (and more control of their senses), they become more independent and begin to "toddle" out of that damn nest. This may mean bumping into a threat outside the den, and it would behoove the puppies for SURVIVAL to be afraid of that stimulus and return to safety (OR act accordingly.., that response could be largely temperament-determined, i.e. Nature vs. Nurture). I call the Fear Imprint at this age a "kick back" from their wold ancestry. It is VERY important during this age to socialize your puppy but it is even MORE important to do it RIGHT. Dog park is a dramatic NO for me.
To Be Continued... Stay tuned to the website www.hexdogs.com for Part II.
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Cassie & Kim own HEX Dog Training and bring their experience to you in this entertaining collection of articles on all things dog training.