Why Puppy Socialization, Habituation and Enrichment are Important
When a puppy is born, he does not know that he is a dog. It must be learned through the process we call primary socialization. He must also learn how to interact with humans and other animals and also to be comfortable in his environment. That’s why puppy socialization, habituation, and enrichment are important while he is a puppy.
Puppy socialization (interacting with canines and other species) and habituation (by environmental enrichment and exposing puppies to new situations and their adapting to it before puberty) are important because puppies who are not well socialized and habituated before 16 weeks old will not reach their full potential as adult dogs, the ultimate result being that puppies will not grow up to be a behaviorally fit dogs.
I work with a lot of rescued and adopted dogs. Many times their owners say that their dog has been abused since it acts so fearful or aggressive in novel situations. That may be true, but another possibility is that their dog did not go through proper socialization when it was a puppy.
There are certain periods in a dog’s life which are sensitive periods, during which a little learning goes a long way, and that learning influences his future behavior with both beneficial and damaging effects. We are concentrating on that learning here.
A dog’s ultimate temperament is determined by his genes and how he is raised. Breeders can control whether they want to temperament to be a part of their breeding program. How both breeders and owners raise the puppies for the first 16 weeks of their lives has a tremendous influence on whether the puppies will become well-adjusted and behaviorally fit adult dogs because puppies are, essentially, a clean slate. The small amounts of time in giving puppies positive early learning experiences will influence and will have a dramatic impact later on.
How puppies act as adults is determined by
- The temperament of the dam/mother
- How the dam acts towards people, events, and other dogs
- How people interact with the puppy
- The age at which the puppy is separated from its mother and litter
- How many people, places, events, sounds, sights, and locations thepuppy has been introduced to before 16 weeks.
If a puppy is not does not have proper socialization and habituation, it will never reach its potential and will likely be
- Shy or timid
- Fearful of anything new, both people and events
- Unable to relate or communicate with other dogs
- Medically unsound (Since he is in a state of stress and anxiety, his body will not have the energy to fight off illnesses)
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.
Click here for the Table of Contents.