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Critical periods in puppy development

8721 Views 17 Replies 17 Participants Last post by  Chi4me
The following article, "The critical Period in the Life of a Puppy," is based on the research of Dr. J. Paul Scott,
Animal Behaviour Division of the Rosco B. Jackson Memorial Laboratory, U.S.A.

After studying hundreds of puppies as they grew up with their mothers and litter mates, it was found that the social development of puppies can be divided into defined periods, based on the beginning and ending of certain important social relationships inherent in all breeds.

FIRST PERIOD (0 - 3 weeks)

The puppy is on its mother, or substitute mother, for the first 21 days of it's life. Some of us have worried because a mother will scarcely leave her litter during this first five or six days after the puppies come, even to eat or to relieve herself. This is because the puppy is so completely dependent upon her and its litter mates for warmth, that it is necessary for it to snuggle up to its mother and brother and sisters. A temperature of 85 F - 90 F (29.4 c - 32.2 c) is about right for the first week of a puppy's life.

It has been noticed that the puppies just seem to sleep and eat, and the mother constantly massages them with her tongue. This licking is necessary, not only to keep them clean, but to cause elimination, for the puppies at birth and for many days afterwards are not able to eliminate on their own. Nursing puppies eat a little and then rest against their mother's warm breast and she massages them. This is repeated many times a day.

The first 21 days of a puppies life is very crucial as the time of survival. Warmth, food, massage, and sleep are the things a puppy needs for this period.There is a slight variation in the length of the first period, but with all puppies of all breeds it is complete by the 21st day and then there is a sharp break. A PUPPY UNDER 21 DAYS OF AGE CANNOT LEARN OR BE TRAINED!

SECOND CRITICAL PERIOD (4 weeks - 7 weeks)

Beginning on the 21st day, the puppy can see quite well, and can hear and smell. From now on, environment plays its part in the development of the dog. Suddenly the big world about him is opened up to his attention and he needs his mamma very much. He can be handled, however, and socialization can start so that he will start to form attachments to human beings. For the next four weeks, his brain and nervous system are developing, and at the end of seven weeks of age puppies have the capacity of an adult dog, but of course, not the experience.

During this period (4 weeks - 7 weeks) the puppies socialize with their mother and litter mates and thus form their attachments to other dogs. This is the normal thing for them to do and plays a very important part in the well-rounded development of a dog. If they are taken from their mother and litter mates before the end of the seven weeks, they miss some of their canine socialisation and show less interest in dog activities than if they are left the full seven weeks. Experience has shown that the puppy who does not complete his seven weeks of canine socialization is often the same dog that, when grown, picks fights with all the strange dogs he meets, is terrified of other dogs, or is difficult to mate.

During this four-week period, from 21 days to seven weeks of age, playing and even play fighting begins. In some of the litters this becomes quite serious fighting, and order of dominance has begun.

It is believed that the ideal time for the puppy to go to a new owner is at approximately nine weeks of age, which is also a good time for weaning. The two things are probably best accomplished at the same time.

Experiments have shown that you cannot really teach a puppy until it is about 21 days old, and that it is probably best to leave it with its mother and litter mates until it is 8-10 weeks of age. The question arises 'When is the best time to teach a puppy." The answer is, of course, as soon as it can learn, which is during the second critical period (21- 49 days of age).

THIRD CRITICAL PERIOD..... (7 weeks - 12 weeks)

During the third critical period, from the 49th day to the 84th day (7 - 12 weeks), the puppies should get as wide a variety of experiences and instructions as their puppy minds and emotions are capable of absorbing. Experience has indicated that it is detrimental to give puppies longer training periods than daily 15 minute sessions at this age. The advice is that a puppy should have the benefit of its trainer's wholehearted and undivided attention to make it feel important.

Evidence points to the fact that puppies have a short period early in life when social relationships are established with members of their kind and after which it becomes increasingly difficult or impossible to establish them. The same applies to their relationships with human companions. The period in which puppies can best be socialized and begin their training is in the period of 5 weeks to 12 weeks of age.

FOURTH CRITICAL PERIOD...... (12 weeks - 16 weeks)

This fourth critical period is from 12 - 16 weeks of age. This is the age of cutting. At last the puppy, if allowed any freedom, cuts it's mother's apron strings and declares its independence. It wanders away from the nest alone or with a companion. It gets into mischief, it cuts its teeth both literally and figuratively. It will make up, however, for anything lost through neglect in earlier training. This is the time when man and dog decide who is boss. Serious training can and should be started: a transition from play training to disciplined behaviour.

A puppy who has had no socialization before it is 16 weeks of age has little chance of becoming the type of dog that anyone of us would want as a companion. Playing with the litter has some socializing effect, but it misses the important things: the development of the individual dog as a companion. There is no training that develops a puppy to his highest potential faster than the simple expedient of taking him entirely away from the other dogs and having a pleasant session of just getting acquainted.

There is no point in making it hard for a puppy to learn either how to obey, or to pay attention. The more ideal the surroundings, the better the results will be. The puppy must come to feel that he is an important individual before the maximum results can be accomplished.

Understanding the critical periods in a puppy's life gives the dog breeder, as well as the individual dog buyer, an excellent tool with which to sharpen the character traits of individual puppies so that they may attain the highest potential in adaptability to the life they are to lead, and to excel.

THE TIME IS SHORT... from 21 days to 112 days in all... (13 weeks altogether)... and once it has passed, it can never be retrieved. The implications of what this short time means in the development of a dog are so great that it is extremely important for puppy raisers to employ this time wisely. It can never be made up at an older age.
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WOW Mia, this is great info, thanks ;);)
My Sophe is 4 months and I am working with her and training. House breaking is not easy. Its almost like she is playing and then stops does her stuff and then is surprised when it scold her. She is fiially understanding that I dont approve of going potty in the house, but I have not yet noticed a signal to let her out.
I really really want her to learn to come to me when I call her no matter what she is doing.
Thanks for the info! :grommit: :wave:
16 weeks

Hi there, I have some questions if anyone can help me.

My scooter is approaching 16 weeks. She is 70% potty trained (the other 30% is just her pooping and peeing elsewhere for no good reason). She also can sit on command, roll over, beg, and fetch. I'm very impressed by her ability to learn these tricks.

I would like to know what I should be concentrating on in this stage of her life. We have let her know that she is not the alpha dog, and she is very submissive. She only nips by accident when she is playing, and never bites down purposefully. I'm concerned with a couple of things, however:

1) Why does she still pee on the floor when the litter box is only one foot away from her sometimes? When she has pooped or peed on the floor and I find it, I see that she has already rolled over in her submissive position, as if she knew she did something wrong. If she knows that she's doing a bad thing, why does she do it? How do I break this habit?

2) We recently put her on a leash, and to my surprise, she would not be led at all. In fact, she bucked and pulled at the leash and grounded herself so that we had to drag her. We tried to leave her alone with the leash on, to get familiarized with it, but she just sat in the same spot. We've tried to lead her and put treats in front of her, and she's refused the treats. How can we train her to walk on the leash?

3) Are there any other things I should be concentrating on, at this time?

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Mikey's 11 weeks old and sounds pretty similar to your pup w/ the housebreaking. Yesterday he peepeed on the floor. Well, I caught him licking it up. It's like he thought he could get rid of it before I caught him :angry7:
As for the leasch issue. Mikey was also doing the same w/ the leasch. Refused to move or would make me drag him... So what i've been doing is sorta helping both probs. He's kept on his leasch all day. Attached to me that is. Now I can move around my house and do what needs to be done ,while watching that he has no accidents it's getting him used to the leasch.
Elle is having trouble being on her leash as well. I don't want to force her into it and make it to where she associates the leash with something bad. But, I know she needs to get familiar with it. Perhaps it's a Chi thing?

I've been lucky with the potty-training, though. Due to the fact that the woman I bought Elle from mis-informed me, I recently realized she is actually eleven weeks old and not ten. The breeder told me she was six weeks old when I bought her, but she was really seven. I'm just glad to have her with me now and not with that horrible woman (the enviroment she was in originally was not well of the reasons I purchased her at an early age, so that I could "rescue" her). ANYWAY, at eleven weeks I have her pretty much potty-trained. She knows to go to the bathroom outside and the only accidents she has are in her kennel over night and when she simply can't hold it. I take her out very often, though, so I guess she's gotten the idea. I figure she's not quite old enough yet to have the control of Inu, my five-year-old Pekepoo, so the few accidents she has I don't freak out over.

Okay, I'm rambling. But, if anyone has any advice on the leash ordeal, I'd be much obliged.
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Help with the leash

Hey, Scooter was very resistant being on a leash as well! First we put her collar on for a couple of weeks whenever we were around (don't put it on when you're not). She grew accustomed to that. Then we put a bell on the collar. She hated that, but she grew used to that as well after a week or so. Then the leash.. oh man, she bucked and whined, and planted herself into the ground.

Well first we let her run around the house with the leash on, just to get used tot it. Then occasionally, we'd pick it up and try to tug her along a bit. We put treats out in front of her in a trail and when she moved forward to eat them, we'd encourage her with "good girl scooter!"

Then we meant business, and we started tugging her along a little more and fed her treats by hand if she went along for a few yards.

After the frst time I took her outside, she was very excited to be on the leash from there on, because she associated it with going outside, which she loves!
This is very good information! Thx for posting, Mia! :)
oh the joys of parenthood,lol
i took my pup outside and she had a harness an lead and i had no bother as she was chasing after my youngest in fact it was my hubby who had trouble keeping up with honey,lol
she now can do fetch and she comes back with her chewy and plonks it on my lap.
im now trying to teach her to sit,i find when we have a game of tug she can get over excited and she then uses her teeth an nips so im trying to stop her doing it.
she pees on her pad great even poos but she still poos somewhere in our hallway and not on pad,i guess she likes to do it bothways,lol
she now barks if she hears someone at our door. :lol:
Leash Training

Frasier is 17 weeks and he just started losing baby teeth. He will chew on any and everything he can get in his mouth. I had just started leash training. He will walk with me on the leash, but only if it's in his mouth. I think I should stop the leash training until the worst part of teething is over because we are not accomplishing anything with the leash hanging out of his mouth. I am afraid if I don't give it a rest, he'll think that is the correct way to walk. Give me advice please, should I lay off the leash training for awhile?
Thank you Mia for posting such good information. I have really learned alot from it.

Gadget turned 8 weeks yesterday. He is getting so big... His personallity is wonderful... very social and he is so smart.. We are starting him out with his harness and he seems to like it.. I have put the leash on a few times and walked him through the house... He seems to be learning about that fast... walks right beside me.... he is also starting to learn what lay down means and what "NO" is. he hears "NO CHEW" alot, since we are trying to teach him not to chew on our body parts... He likes our ears and my hair...

I think that he is doing good with his learning at this age already... I think it has helped him that he has been with us for 5 weeks now... he is very much a big part of the family.
This is a great article. Because our puppy & her sibling will be here from 5.5 weeks of age, I want to be aware of the social aspects of having a chi pup this young.
We have already decided to Socialize as much as we can as soon as she has her first vacc's, and I think because she will be with her sibling for a few weeks, it will help somewhat more then if she were to be on her own amongst humans.
Great info. It makes me glad that I am getting to be there for all of Angelo's early stages so that he will be well socialized and ready to come home when it is time.
babyjane1968 said:
oh the joys of parenthood,lol
i took my pup outside and she had a harness an lead and i had no bother as she was chasing after my youngest in fact it was my hubby who had trouble keeping up with honey,lol
she now can do fetch and she comes back with her chewy and plonks it on my lap.
im now trying to teach her to sit,i find when we have a game of tug she can get over excited and she then uses her teeth an nips so im trying to stop her doing it.
she pees on her pad great even poos but she still poos somewhere in our hallway and not on pad,i guess she likes to do it bothways,lol
she now barks if she hears someone at our door. :lol:

hiya i was wondering when the website will be up and runny baby jane looks fantastic cant wait
Wonderfull Articale good to know as I am getting a puppy soon
Wonderful article. Thanks for posting.

My Popo loves to go for walks. We use a puppia harness and lead.
I found a leash with a harness and not a collar works best. No danger then of pulling on the trachea.
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