Socialization is all important with Service dogs. Without proper socialization your dog will not be able to
work as a service dog. The first 12 weeks of a puppies life is when the most important socialization occurs. If a puppy is
not properly socialized you will have difficulties with a dogs behavior and reactions to new situations.
A puppies primary socialization begins at 21 days of age. This is an important time for the puppy to learn
from mom and siblings and time for them to explore their environment. It is important that they be in a stable environment
and not be subjected to new stimuli overload.
From 3-12 weeks a puppy will develop that all important emotional and temperamental development. A puppy that
is pulled away from mother and siblings before 7 weeks can have issues with biting and mouthing. It is also important during
this period for a puppy to learn the difference between sleep area and potty area. Without this socialization a puppy may
never learn to not potty in their crate or sleeping area and can make potty training much more difficult. Also during this
stage it is important to learn isolation from the pack for short time periods. This will help the dog to be more confident
and not suffer from separation anxiety. Intellectual and mental development happens during this period. It is important to
stimulate puppies by widening their environment. The more things a puppy can be exposed to during this period the better.
Positive training for basic obedience skills can begin at 5 weeks of age. During this critical time they will learn important
pack behaviors from their mother and other pack mates. They learn the important puppy play that is necessary to proper mental
and physical development. They also should get the very important first introductions to human socialization teaching them
how to properly interact with us as our companions.
Do please remember though that even though socialization is important, you must be aware that your puppy is
still susceptible to canine diseases until they have received their full series of immunizations. So please be very careful
and make sure you are in a safe environment.
A puppy will go through their first fear stage is from 8-11 weeks of age, although I have seen it start as
early as 6 weeks. It is the way a puppy is introduced to things during this stage that will sculpt the way a dog will behave
its whole life. If a puppy of this age is subjected to abuse or neglect, it will negatively affect the adult dog.
At 7-12 weeks is the most critical time for the new owner of the puppy to develop their puppies social skills
and behaviors. This is when most rapid learning happens. This is a great time for puppy socialization classes and early puppy
training classes. Once again taking into account the immunization status of your puppy. Remember too when training in these
early weeks that a puppy will have a short attention span and will have limited physical capabilities since they are still
growing physically and developing muscle control.
At 10 -16 weeks is the time you want to develop proper dominance or pack orientation with your puppy. Your
puppy needs to respect YOU as the leader or alpha of the pack. This is of utmost importance. If your dominance is not established
then the puppy and latter the adult dog will run all over you. Training will not take effect and more threatening behavioral
issues will emerge.
At 4-8 months you will notice your puppy really testing you. Many call this the teenager phase or terrible
twos. Your puppy will try to challenge you for the alpha roll. They seem to forget almost everything you have taught them
and want to do their own thing. This is where you will run into problems if proper socialization and dominance was not previously
established. Be well aware that this stage is coming and that your puppy will eventually get his mind back. Be prepared to
work hard and have to reinforce what you have previously taught. This is also the teething age so you need to be prepared
for excessive chewing by giving him extra toys. Your puppy may sleep a lot or not feel real well while teething. This is normal.
It is also normal for them to swallow teeth or to even have a spot or two of blood in their stool.
A dogs second fear period is during 6-14 months. This is also a time of a lot of physical changes and growth.
A puppy matures more sexually and male will start to lift their legs, so you will need to work on that behavior. A puppy that
previously outgoing and confident may suddenly become shy and apprehensive during this stage. Work gently with the puppy to
build confidence again and make the experience positive. Puppies can have an increase in aggression during this stage and
become more territorial and guarding of personal items. You might also see some of that teenager phase reappear and your pup
may try to challenge your authority again. It is important to be careful during this phase as to not reinforce bad behaviors.
Petting and telling a dog its ok, while displaying fear or nervousness is just telling the dog its ok to be frightened and
can lead to bad behaviors latter. If your puppy is scared about the situation its better to avoid confrontation than to continue
with the situation. Situations that your puppy sees as overly stressful should be avoided during this period. You can begin
to rebuild your dog confidence by careful positive training.
Once your dog has reached maturity it does not mean that training and socialization stops. If you stop all
training, reinforcement and socialization you will find your dog reverting into past bad behaviors. Continue their active
lifestyle and taking them with you and revisit your training to keep it strong and you will have a wonderful companion for