knowing your puppy

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Fourth Critical Period: 50 - 84 days (7 to 12 weeks).


The trainability of a puppy is ripe and operating to capacity as the puppy enters the eight week of life. Thus, the puppy enters the fourth critical period of emotion; growth (50 to 84 days). What the puppy learns during the fourth critical period will be retained and become part of the dog's personality. If a puppy is left with its mother during the fourth critical period, its emotional development Will be crippled. The puppy will remain dependent upon her, but in her will find very little - if any - security.


When a puppy remains with the litter beyond this time - and without adequate human contact - its social adjustment to human society will be crippled, and what it learns will be learned from the litter mates. The optimum time for taking a puppy into a new household is at the conclusion of the puppy's seventh week.


Because a pup's trainability and learning facilities are operating at full capacity during the fourth critical period, it is better that a puppy do his learning from his new owner. And learn he will! The fourth critical period marks a time when a new puppy will learn at a fast and furious pace. And much of what he learns will stay with him a long, long time. What the puppy learns during the fourth critical period will help to shape him into the kind of dog he will be forevermore!



Fifth Critical Period: 12 - 16 weeks (3 to 4 months)



The fifth critical period is the 13th, through the 16th week of a puppy's life. A highly significant thing will happen during the fifth critical period, and puppy owners should be prepared for it. A puppy will make its first attempt to establish itself as the dominant being in the pack (family). It is during the fifth period that a puppy will learn whether he can physically strike out at his owner - and get away with it!


If a puppy is allowed to get away with it, he will lose the confidence and the respect for the owner that developed during the fourth critical period. The tolerance level toward the owner will be narrowed. The puppy will learn that by rebelling he'll get things his own way. It is during this fifth critical period that authority will be challenged. It is here that the challenge must be met head on by the pup's owner.


Instructing people as to the best method for dealing with the problem is quite difficult because not two dogs are exactly alike. Disciplinary measures for one are not necessarily suitable for another. In my own training school the question is often asked, "What shall I do if my dog bites me"? My answer usually goes something like, "What would you do if your child hit you"? Heaps of love and understanding are not applicable here. A puppy must be shown swiftly and firmly that though his is loved, you the owner - are the dominant being.


Formal obedience training should begin not later than the age of six months for optimum ease in teaching. This is not to say that a dog who has attained the age of 10 years cannot or should not be trained. As long as a fog is healthy, there is no maximum age limit for training, It is always easier to train a dog that has not had too much time to develop bad habits.


Being aware to the five critical periods, providing the correct environment during these periods, and instituting proper learning techniques will allow a puppy to develop emotionally and socially to full potential. Each tome you marvel at a guide dog leading its blind owner through busy traffic, you can be assured that the five critical periods in that dog's life were handled with great care and concern.


The puppy you acquire can grow up to be all the things he is capable of becoming. Pay close attention to the critical periods in his life. Those are the periods which shape and mould his character and personality. He is in your hands. What he is to become he will become during those five critical periods.


Most formal obedience classes conducted throughout the country will not accept a puppy for obedience training unless it has attained the age of six months or more. It is unfortunate, however that by the time some dogs reach six months of age, they have already become problem dogs. Obedience training may or may not help, depending upon the severity of the problem. In too many cases, it does not. This is simply because obedience training does not teach a dog to refrain from turning over trash cans, chasing cars, barking excessively, or tearing up the living room furniture; these bad habits are learned during the five critical periods.


The Pack Instinct


The natural instinct of the canine is to try to assume dominance within the pack. As was stated earlier, he begins this during the fifth critical period, and the dog will periodically "test" the owner's ability to dominate. The fact that a dog will periodically test the owner's dominance does not mean that the dog does not love or respect that owner. However, if the owner is permissive and weak - thus allowing the dog to achieve dominance - his love and respect for the owner will quickly wane. The dog owner then becomes inferior in the dog's eyes, and the owner is destined to be owned by the dog. The scales of love and discipline must be equally balanced. That is the magic formula for success in the rearing of any puppy.


Security: Prime Ingredient For Emotional Growth.


Although your new puppy may be destined to become the family dog, one member of the family should be designated the puppy's foster mother during the remaining critical periods in its life. This is not to suggest that other members of the family should be restricted in their association with the puppy. On the contrary, all should share in the joy of caring for - and playing with - the new arrival. But the bond between the puppy and its litter mother has been severed by removal from the litter. For optimum emotional development, the puppy should have the security of knowing which member of the human family has taken the litter mother's place.


It is strongly urged that a child member of the family not be given this responsibility if optimum emotional growth is to be achieved. Many children are presented with puppies to "help the child to develop responsibility". But in all too many cases, it does just the opposite; often children will find excuses why they cannot take the time to feed, water, train and care for their new charges. Dog pounds and humane societies (not to mention research laboratories) are filled to overflowing with dogs and puppies awaiting execution because their child-owners failed to develop the hoped-for responsibility.


A puppy knows very well when it is unwanted. Being unwanted brings insecurities to a puppy, just as it does to a human. Insecurities breed emotional problems. Emotional problems during the puppy's critical periods will remain as personality faults throughout the dog's life. The personality faults can cause fear biters, piddlers, runaways and perhaps complete emotional withdrawal from human society.


To increase the puppy's security, he should have his own bed in a place where he can be alone when he wants. You must expect the first four nights to lend themselves to some inconvenience - for you and the rest of the family. Your new puppy will be lonely at night, having been accustomed to the presence of his litter mates. Although the puppy may have been playful during the first day in his new household, nightfall - when you and the rest of the family have gone to bed - will give the puppy time to remember (and miss) his litter brothers and sisters. By the fourth night, however, the pup will have adjusted to his new environment and to your family's routine. It takes just four days for the average dog to adjust to a new environment.