Puppy Steps (Part 2)

Last month, in Part 1 of Puppy Steps, we covered genetics, gestation and the first two weeks of a puppy’s life; this included the opening of the puppy’s eyes.  In Part 2, we’ll cover from the third week until the puppy leaves for its new home.

Weeks two through six are very important.  It’s the pre-fear period for the puppy.  Puppies will associate what happens in weeks two through six as very positive.  Since this is positive time, it’s important that the new owner visit the puppy as many times as possible.  The scent of the new owner will become imprinted in the puppy’s brain and that’s a good thing.

Weeks four or five is what I refer to as “explore” time.  Puppies should be put outside and allowed to explore their environment.  At first, just grass should be explored.  They’ll encounter new smells, uneven ground and obstacles even if only puffs of grass.  The puppies will learn to become more mobile.  They will also be able to become more active with their littermates.  Although these outdoor adventures should be mostly puppy time, human interaction is good also. All of this activity leads to better socialization.  If the play becomes too aggressive, only the mother should be allowed to break-up the fracas.  Puppies then learn who the boss is.  Human interference will only teach the puppies that if the cry loud enough, some human will come to their rescue.

Speaking of human interaction, the four to five week period is a good time for the puppies to be picked-up and held.  They should be held in our arms and in different positions.  Their mouth, feet and ears should be touched and gently fondled.  The more touching by humans, the easier it will be to control them as they grow older.

Now we approach a truly critical time; the fear period.  Research shows that fear begins in the sixth week, progresses rapidly through the seventh week and reaches its peak in the eighth week and begins to become less up to the tenth week.  If proper socialization with humans and littermates was done prior to the fear period, the pups will be able to cope much easier with major “fear events.”  If proper socialization with humans and littermates was done properly, a “fear event” will create temporary anxiety but a return to normalcy is quickly accomplished.  However, if socialization was not done correctly, permanent issues may develop which will be very difficult to live with.

In Part 1, we mentioned Dr. Ed Bailey as a foremost expert in dog behavior.  In the March/April/May 2012 issue of Gun Dog Magazine, Dr. Bailey states:  “The window for socialization on dogs and on people closes forever at 12 weeks.”

So, when should a new owner be allowed to pick-up his new puppy?  The often used formula of 49 days is not a good time.  The fear factor is too dominant at seven weeks.  Many states have a law that mandates eight weeks as the minimum.  If a puppy has been properly socialized over the first seven weeks, eight weeks should be suitable.  If I were to raise a litter, I would allow my puppies to go to their new home at either nine or ten weeks.  The nine or ten week period would allow the puppies to have a full introduction to life as a dog.  And, that should lead to a happy life.

And, speaking of puppies, be sure to raise your puppy on Native Puppy Level 3.  Native Puppy Level 3 is formulated for the growing canine.

Paul Fuller is a lifelong sportsman.  He’s been an outdoor writer since 1971. He’s the host and producer of the award winning Bird Dogs Afield TV show (www.birddogsafield.com) and produced the epic video Grouse, Guns & Dogs. Paul shot over his first German short-haired pointer in 1961.