Why socialize your Puppy ?
Puppy socialization has been a buzzword for a few years now. Is it really as important as people make it out to be, if so, why, and what should you be doing with your puppy to socialise him correctly?

Early puppyhood is regarded as one of the most important periods in a dog's life. Just like little children, young puppies absorb impressions like a sponge, and sometimes they retain things we would rather they forgot.

The brain of a dog (and of a human) is both specific and plastic. Specificity refers to those brain characteristics which are absolutely hard-wired and unchangeable. Plasticity refers to those aspects of brain structure which are pliable and subject to environmental influences. Generally speaking, the higher up the evolutionary tree an animal is, the higher its brain plasticity will be.

Although the temperament of a dog is partly genetic, puppies come into the world with highly plastic brains; in other words, they are extremely susceptible to environmental influences. This window of susceptibility closes at around 16 weeks (although it may take until 5 months to close completely), by which time the brain has more or less completed its development. After this, although the dog can still learn, he will not be as adaptable and susceptible as in those early weeks. The impressions created in those first few weeks literally affect the way the brain develops, and are extremely difficult to eradicate later.

Negative impressions in those early weeks can affect the puppy for the rest of its life; similarly, positive impressions bear fruit for years to come.

Puppies at this stage are said to be imprintable; the first encounter with a particular stimulus will be difficult to eradicate. So, for example, if a Dobe puppy is bitten by an adult Siberian the first time he meets one, he may develop a lifelong fear and dislike of Siberians, or of furry dogs in general, even if his subsequent encounters with them are positive.

Maternal imprinting takes place within the first 24 hours of life. The puppy bonds with his mother and learns to recognise her by smell. The mother accepts and recognises her puppies; breeders have plenty of anecdotes about bitches who can count and know when even one puppy is missing from the litter!

Fraternal imprinting takes place between 3 and about 8 weeks. This is the period during which the puppy learns to interact with other members of its species. Older puppies will teach one another bite inhibition, play behaviour and the beginnings of sexual imprinting (learning the behaviour appropriate to one's own and the opposite sex.) For this reason, it is important not to remove a puppy from the litter too early, otherwise it may have lifelong difficulty in getting along with other dogs. Around 7 or 8 weeks is usually a good time, but if the puppy is left with the litter for longer, then the breeder needs to begin socialisation to people, strange dogs, cats etc so that further social imprinting can take place.

Between about 8 and 10 weeks of age, a puppy is especially susceptible to fear-producing experiences, which may have a lasting effect.

What should you be doing as a new puppy owner to ensure that the puppy's socialisation continues on a positive note?

Join a puppy class: Good dog training schools usually operate a puppy class for puppies of 8 weeks and older. The most important thing the puppies do here is play! They spend time with other puppies, have a ball, overcome their shyness, get told off by other puppies if they get too boisterous, and generally learn the basics of dog manners. They also learn that meeting other dogs is fun, and this does wonders for preventing dog aggression in later life.

Meet people: Expose your puppy to people of all shapes, sizes, sexes and colours from an early age. Dogs discriminate extremely well, and many dogs are undersocialised to certain groups; for example, dogs belonging to single women are often wary of or aggressive toward men. It's particularly important to introduce your puppy to children - but supervise the situation and don't allow the puppy to be mauled or bullied. Get people to feed him high-quality treats; remember the power of classical conditioning and try to make his socialisation positive rather than neutral! Older children can also feed the puppy.

Go for walks: Take your puppy into all sorts of neighbourhoods - the noisier the better. Get him used to traffic, sudden noises, crowds, shopping centres. Two words of warning here: your puppy is not fully immunised until he has had his third vaccination, so try to avoid places where he might be exposed to disease. Also, make sure that your puppy is not becoming stressed by his surroundings. If he seems to be struggling, take him out for shorter periods and feed him treats while he's out and about. Remember, you want to create a positive experience, not a negative one!

Go to the vet: Take your puppy to the vet a few times just for a visit. (It's a good idea to wait until after the 2nd shot to do this.) Ask if you can take the puppy into the surgery for a few moments, and ask the vet to feed him a couple of treats. This will make your life much easier later on, when those visits may mean injections or other painful treatments.

Handle the puppy: Go through a grooming routine with your puppy every day. Examine his ears, teeth and feet. Trim his toenails if you can. Feed him treats while you do this. Ask other people to do the same.

Practise object exchanges: Teach your puppy to give up toys and other objects easily by giving another toy or a treat in exchange. Do this with his food as well; pick up the bowl while he's eating, add a couple of treats to it and give it back. If your puppy objects to you removing his food, feed him from your hand for a couple of days. This will go a long way toward establishing you as dominant and preventing resource guarding in the adult dog.

Carry on teaching bite inhibition: Puppies who have been left with the litter for long enough usually have quite good bite inhibition, but you can help. Whenever the puppy's teeth close down too hard on your hand, yelp in a high-pitched voice until the puppy lets go, and then withdraw your attention for a moment. You can gradually shape the puppy's bite to a point where he barely touches you.

Introduce your puppy to adult dogs: Your pup needs to meet older dogs, and needs to learn to treat them with respect. Find out how the older dog usually behaves with puppies before attempting an introduction; you don't want your puppy to be bullied or even injured. Most adult dogs are very tolerant of puppies, but will sometimes discipline them by giving them a quick shake and a growl if they get out of line; this is not a cause for alarm and is in fact often beneficial, particularly with a boisterous puppy who may otherwise get himself into some nasty fights as an adolescent. read more
Before and After Getting Your Puppy
Before & after getting your Puppy
Ian Dunbar
More information:
There's a Puppy in the House
By Caroline Barnard
Companion Animal Behaviourist

(This article first appeared in the Spring 2000 issue of Dobe Capers, the newsletter of the Dobermann Club of the Cape, for which Ms Barnard is the behavioural consultant. Reproduced by kind permission of Mrs. Caroline Barnard)
There's a Puppy in the House:
Surviving the First Five Months
by Mike Wombacher

More information:
Development stages of a puppy
Selecting a puppy with personality tests
bulldog information
Site Information
 Site Map
Copyright & Credits
Recommended Books
Related articles


The Ultimate Puppy
by Terry Ryan
More information:
Mother Knows Best:
The Natural Way to Train Your Dog
by Carol Lea Benjamin

More information:
The Ultimate Puppy
Puppy pages
Dog books
Bulldog costumes and clothes
Bulldog gift ideas
Bulldog supplies
Bulldog books
Home > Articles > Puppy Pages > Why Socialize your Puppy ?
Puppy Checklist
Related Books
 Bulldog Books
Puppy raising & training
Dog training
Housebreaking a puppy
Dog nutrition
More dog books...
Chewing, biting, jumping
Behavior problems
| More Dog breeds | Molossers | Bulldog breeds | Japanese dogs |
Where do you begin ?
New Pet Dog Checklist:

(Dog Supplies Top Sellers)
Beds & Accessories
Leashes & Collars
Feeding Supplies
Fleas & Ticks Control
Housebreaking Aids
The Bulldog Information Library 2003-2007 © All rights reserved.
Original idea, design and development by C. Marien-de Luca. No part of bulldoginformation.com may be copied, distributed, printed or reproduced on another website without the owner's written permission. Please feel free to link from your site to any of the pages on this website in a non-frame presentation only.
Bulldog posters
Bulldog Gift Ideas
Bulldog T-shirts
Bulldog Products

Bulldog Supplies
Music for Bulldogs
Cute & fun photos
Bulldog Names
Bulldog Memorabilia
Featured links
Gift Ideas
See also:
Chewing, biting, jumping
Puppy training
Housbreaking your puppy
Puppy Training DVD
Puppy training DVD - It's not the puppy
It's Not the Puppy.... Training You to Train Your Puppy - DVD
Learn how to train your puppy  and correct behavior problems from the very beginning
More information:
Another Piece of the Puzzle: Puppy Development
Another Piece of the Puzzle:
Puppy Development
by Pat Hastings
More information:
The Perfect  Puppy
Gwen Bailey
More information:
The Perfect Puppy
How to Raise a Puppy You Can Live With
The Perfect  Puppy
Gwen Bailey
More information: