Do you know that the most critical period for a puppy is between the age of 0 and 4 month? It’s during that stage that all it has learned, good or bad, will be “recorded” in such way that they will shape the character and the behaviour of the dog.
All the experiences the puppy has lived and the way it reacts to these experiences are important because it is during that age that connections between its neurons take place. At the age of 5 weeks, the puppy is able to learn and 80% of its neural connections are made during the first weeks of his life.
The brain is at a stage of development: it records and memorizes everything. It is at that moment that the puppy will make associations with its environment and use those all its life. It is therefore crucial that the experiences it is living be positive in order to avoid lifelong trauma.
The place the puppy used to live at before your home already started shaping its behaviour. If the puppy has always been in a completely isolated cage, it would not have learned much and might develop a fearful attitude since everything is new to the puppy. If the puppy had been interacting with other dogs, through playing, noises and odors, it would have already practiced many behaviours and would have dealt with anything new.
Keep in mind that when you welcomed your puppy 7-9 week-old puppy in your home, it came with a significant baggage of experience and you must continue with the process of socialization in order to maximize its learning before it reaches 4 months.
The purpose of the puppy’s socialization is to enable it to go through different new experiences and to learn to make good associations.
A good socialization allows to repair bad associations the puppy can make due and following a negative event; it also helps to avoid a lifelong trauma.
The dog can associate newness to something positive instead of something that is scary. The most common traumas occur when the dog is in a situation of immersion and does not have the chance to escape.
Catherine Gouillard, BSc Biology
Certified Animal Behaviour specialist