History of Puppy Socialization

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History of Puppy Socialization

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I’m learnin’ the History of Puppy Socialization!

John Paul Scott and John L. Fuller, in their 13-year study begin­ning in the 1950s at Bar Har­bor, Maine, sum­ma­rized in the clas­sic book Genet­ics and the Social Behav­ior of the Dog (1965), set out to answer the ques­tion of what influ­ence, if any, hered­ity had on behav­ior.  Although they wanted to under­stand human behav­ior, they said, “Any­one who wishes to under­stand a human behav­ior trait or hered­i­tary dis­ease can usu­ally find the cor­re­spond­ing con­di­tion in dogs with very lit­tle effort.”

One of their dis­cov­er­ies was that there were cer­tain peri­ods in a puppy’s early life where cer­tain events must take place, for exam­ple, con­tact with humans or expo­sure to other dogs.  If those events did not take place, then that oppor­tu­nity was lost, and the puppy would not develop to its fullest poten­tial.  Those were called “crit­i­cal periods.”

Clarence Pfaf­fen­berger worked with the Guide Dogs for The Blind and later worked with Scott and Fuller.  His book The New Knowl­edge of Dog Behav­ior (1963) chron­i­cles his research on how to find the ideal guide dog puppy.  He applied their work to his own and came up with addi­tional findings.

In the 1960s, the US Army was try­ing to breed a dog that was genet­i­cally and behav­iorally sound for use in the mil­i­tary.  It was called The Bio-Sensor Project” but was later changed to “Super­dog.”  Dr. Michael W. Fox was involved in this project. In Under­stand­ing Your Dog, Dr. Fox talks about “how envi­ron­men­tal influ­ences early in life can have pro­found and endur­ing effects on behavior.”

Dr. Car­men Battaglia, although not a par­tic­i­pant in the Bio-Sensor project, came up with a series of han­dling exer­cises based on Dr. Fox’s work which he now calls “Devel­op­ing High Achiev­ers,” for­merly known as “Early Neu­ro­log­i­cal Stimulation.”

He came up with a series of five exercises:

  • Tac­ti­cal stim­u­la­tion (between toes)
  • Head held erect
  • Head pointed down
  • Supine posi­tion
  • Ther­mal stimulation

If these exer­cises are done cor­rectly, pup­pies gen­er­ally are more behav­iorally sound than if they are not done and seem to have a ben­e­fi­cial effect on the puppy’s men­tal and emo­tional devel­op­ment although there have not been any sci­en­tific tests to prove this.

The next devel­op­ment in puppy social­iza­tion came from Dr. Ian Dun­bar who both researched pup­pies and popularized what are now com­mon­place – puppy classes.  These classes help pup­pies learn about play­ing and dog body lan­guage, BUT they are not a free-for-all where pup­pies can run around and do what­ever they want.

This was an excerpt from my book Puppy Socialization – An Insider’s Guide to Dog Behavioral Fitness. There are hundreds of suggestions on puppy socialization both for the breeder and the pet parent.

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