two Puppies playing

Work with COVID19 Restrictions

Question:
With stay home in place, what do we do if we get an 8 week puppy who needs classes and socialization?

Dr. Nichol:
You are right to make this a priority. The sensitive period for puppy socialization is ages 3-12 weeks. This means healthy, happy play and handling with lots of gentle people, dogs, and cats of various descriptions. A series of classes, with each puppy pupil current on vaccinations, is the gold standard.

The developing canine brain will accept – for a lifetime – nearly any creature who treats them well. Dogs who missed out on these essential exposures during the 3-12 week window are prone to react badly toward dogs and people who appear different than those they knew when they were babies.

Much like our children, puppies need to be set up for a successful life. At 3-8 weeks these little tykes should learn to socialize with other puppies. Overlapping that period, from ages 5-12 weeks, they’ll learn to trust differing varieties of humans. New environments are best added from 10-12 weeks and again at 16-20 weeks. Research has shown that puppies who were not exposed to new stimuli, people and other dogs during these periods were more likely to react with aggression, defensiveness, and fear later in life.

COVID19 restrictions have put the kibosh on puppy classes. Don’t postpone social exposures; when that 3-12 week window closes, the train has left the station. Many of the fear-related disorders I treat in my behavior practice were preventable. These struggling dogs and their people can certainly be helped but the handicap is permanent.

Reach out to the folks who adopted your puppy’s siblings as well as friends with gentle adult dogs. Wearing face coverings meet in someone’s big yard, keeping a healthy 6 foot distance from each other. The puppies can play and get to know other people and dogs. Doing this every day would be ideal; a couple of times a week will help shape those burgeoning personalities nicely.

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Dr. Nichol will teach a free webinar on separation anxiety at 11 AM on Tuesday, April 28. Dog parents can sign up at assisianimalhealth.com/pet-owners/webbies

During the COVID19 crisis Dr. Jeff Nichol is conducting behavior consultations by telephone (505-792-5131) and video rather than in-person. Each week Dr. Nichol shares a blog and a Facebook Live to help bring out the best in pets and their people. Sign up at no charge at drjeffnichol.com. Post pet behavioral or physical questions on facebook.com/drjeffnichol or by US Post to 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuq, NM 87109.