Development Periods

Fear/Socialisation Period: 3 to around 16-18 weeks

This is an extremely important developmental period in your puppy’s life. Anything that your puppy is exposed to in this period that scares them or is a bad experience, could affect them into their later life and cause them to have a fear towards that bad experience E.g. An attack from another dog at this stage could create your puppy to be aggressive towards other dogs for the rest of its life. It is vital that you are constantly reading their body language and respecting what they are trying to say. If their body language is indicating that they are scared then it is our responsibility to make sure that they are not forced to stay in that environment as that will only reinforce a fear. Instead encourage you to come into the new environment themselves; do not force a puppy into a new situation and make sure to reward their bravest moments. Make it exciting and interesting and positive. Our goal is to ideally avoid or limit as much as we can any negative experiences your puppy might have. During this period it is vital that your puppy is positively exposed to different experiences to make sure that they develop into a well balanced, easily adaptable dog. This is also the age where rapid learning occurs. The greatest impact on future social behaviour will be made by any experience that happens at this point. This is the ideal time to capitalise on educating your puppy and setting them up for success in life. Advance at your puppy’s pace when introducing them into the real world and don’t chuck them in the deep end when they haven’t even seen water. Socialisation does not just include interacting with other dogs or people and I recommend that you don’t let your puppy say hello to every dog or person it comes across as you can create a big problem for yourself later on such as a dog who loses it when they aren’t allowed to say hello and the over excitement turns into frustration which can lead to frustrated aggression. Socialisaiton really is exposure, exposing them to different aspects of this human world and associating it as a good thing. An aspect of socialising your puppy can be as simple as you walking down the street and your puppy sees another dog/person across the road. As they are looking at the dog/human you bridge and reward them by putting the treat in their mouth whilst they are still looking at the dog/human. It is important that you always choose an appropriate place and time to allow your dog to say hello to other people and dogs and it doesn’t need to be all of the time. It is also really important to remember that just because your puppy might want to say hello doesn’t mean that the other dog or human wants to and your puppy needs to be able to cope with that. Teaching a puppy to be able to see another human and dog without saying hello is equally important when it comes to socialising. Because the last thing you want is a dog who is so well socialised that when you are crossing a highway for example and another dog is approaching you that they can confidently continue on and your puppy doesn’t lose it or melt into the ground and won’t nudge until it has said hello (a client's dog did this). This is why it is important to teach your puppy appropriate time and place. If they can’t say hello you need to, in the initial stages, teach them the value in not saying hello and reinforce them staying calm, focusing on you and moving on. As exciting as that world is out there you must establish in your puppy’s mind that you are better and the most valuable thing that trumps anything, if you want to develop a dog that willingly works alongside you. Here is a great exposure and team work exercise to work on with your puppy (especially if they tend to ignore you out in the real world): Step 1: Sit on the ground with your puppy and hold their leash with no tension (just so they can’t wander off). Let them look at, pull, lunge, bark towards the distractions as much as they like, but don’t let them go. Don’t talk, don’t scold, don’t pull back or add leash pressure. Let them strain as much as they would like towards whatever they want to get to. Step 2: If they however turn back towards you (even for a split second), bridge and give your puppy a treat. This is empowering your puppy to make their own good choices. Instead of telling them what to do, you are letting them figure out themselves the consequences to their actions which is they can not go and engage with the distractions. However, your puppy can always look towards you for rewards. Very soon they will realise that focusing on you is in their best interest. Also make sure that you positively expose your puppy to:

  • A wide range of people; Including children, toddlers, babies, women and men, including people with beards, caps, sunglasses, hoodies, boots, masks, etc.
  • Exposure to household noises; E.g. vacuum cleaners, radios, TV, blenders, banging, kids running around, bikes, skateboards, rollerblades, prams, microwaves etc - This is a great spotify playlist to play to your puppy. When introducing sound, start nice and quiet and slowly increase the volume. Also make sure you play it in different rooms and areas around the house:
  • Gentle handling; Ears, feet, tail, mouth, eyes, paws and collar and lead, etc. daily.
  • Travelling in the car.
  • Going to a vet or groomer just for fun.
  • Spending time in a crate and self entertainment.
  • Separation anxiety or isolation distress prevention (more details on the portal).
  • Walking on a lead; Getting used to walking on different surfaces like concrete paths, the beach, grass and wet grass (so the pup will still toilet outside in the rain).
  • Introducing and exposure to other animals.
  • Playing with toys and enrichments; With you and alone.
Below is socialisation program that you can save. Whilst your puppy is in the socialisaiton period, aim to positively expose and tick off as many of these as your puppy experiences. Here is also a fantastic link on how to socialise your puppy during Covid:

Rannking Period: 13 weeks to 7 months

So as long as you provide your puppy with structure, direction and purpose, this transition should be relatively easy. Your puppy will be teething and will want to relieve pain. Provide them with lots of appropriate outlets to avoid your puppy chewing and destroying something you don’t want them to. Learning is very important at this stage. Your puppy is rapidly developing both mentally and physically. Their confidence will be building and they will be wanted to go and explore this big exciting world that they live in. It is important that you continue with training and opportunities for your puppy to learn at this stage.

Second Fear Period: 8 months to 16 months

Your puppy that was once very confident may suddenly be apprehensive, shy or timid of new people, dogs, situations or environments. That is because they have now had some life experience or things happen to them. It is very important that you continue to reinforce their bravest moments and show them that everything is fine.

Maturity: Somewehere between 1 to 4 years

Depending on the breed of your puppy and the size that they are expected to get to depends on when they reach adulthood. This stage is when you may now see things that you missed in reinforcing, counter conditioning or desensitising them to in the earlier developmental stages of your puppy’s life. It is always best and easier to create a well balanced dog from an early age. Think of your puppy as a colouring in the stencil of a dog - the black outline is the DNA makeup of your puppy that we can not influence (however can use to our advantage) and the blank canvas that we get to colour in is now up to us. We are the ones who get to decide if we want