While the early weeks of a puppy’s life are considered “critical” growth stages, by the time they reach 12 weeks old, they are entering into a crucial socialization period. This is the time when all of their experiences, both positive and negative, will influence their behavior as they grow into adult dogs. It is often referred to as the “foundational period” that informs who he becomes for the rest of his life.
So how can you help your puppy during this crucial period? The best way to do this is to expose him to as much as possible, ensuring that all of his experiences are positive. Now that his immunity has matured, it is safe to go to public places such as pet stores and parks. It is also a great time to enroll him in puppy kindergarten, such as the AKC STAR Puppy class, where he will have the opportunity to play and interact with a variety of other dogs, and people, while learning important social and behavioral skills.
Now is also the perfect time to start introducing your puppy to a variety of sights, sounds, and smells. If you ensure that your puppy has positive experiences with different people, things, voices, and more, then he is less likely to be surprised, scared, or even worse, aggressive when he encounters something new.
The following is a checklist of suggested situations to expose your puppy to as he grows up:
Child on a bike
Man wearing a hat
Person walking a puppy/dog
Person in a wheel chair
Man with a beard
Child dancing and jumping
Person using a broom
A festival or party
Ride on an elevator
Person pushing a baby stroller
Person in a trench coat
Women in a dress
Man in a suit
Person with a ball
Child playing with a toy
People of different races
Person with sunglasses
Children at a playground
Person at a drive-through window
Trucks and Cars
Person in uniform
Outdoor sporting games (basketball, baseball, tennis, etc.)
Of course, these are only a few suggestions, as there are a number of other opportunities you may be aware of based upon your own neighborhood situations. The greater the variety of experiences, the more comfortable your dog will be when she comes into contact with these situations. A knowledgeable dog is a confident dog!
Most importantly, make sure you take the time to share as many positive moments with your puppy as possible. Nurturing that relationship now will lay the foundation for a lifelong, loving bond between you and your dog.
Now that all the puppies are living happily with their new families, we are focusing our efforts on helping Hadley adjust to life here on the farm. In order for everyone to have a happy life here, we all must demonstrate good manners and respect one another. In the dogs’ world, this means demonstrating understanding of commands like sit, down, stay, come, leave-it, off, etc. And, of course, most importantly, knowing that they go “potty” outside.
We begin working on the concept of “housebreaking” when they are as young as 5 weeks; however, once they move onto their new families, or stay here with us at the farm, this training becomes more extensive. We believe that having a consistent schedule that includes playtime, nap time, and meal time is the most effective and quickest way to housebreak a puppy.
Here is an example of the schedule that we follow here at the farm:
- Take your puppy out of her crate, put her on her leash and take her to her potty spot. When she goes, be sure to praise her and use your “potty prompt” such as “go potty” or “go in the grass” or something that helps her learn to associate her actions with words. When she is done, praise again and then give a treat. If she doesn’t go, put her back in her crate for a few minutes, then take her back out to her spot to try again.
- After your puppy has gone potty, this is a good time to work with her on a little training. Work on commands such as “Leave-it” “Take-it” “Sit” “Stay” etc. Make sessions short…no more than 5 minutes at a time as her attention span is short and you always want to finish training session on a positive note. This stimulation will also tire her out.
- Feed your puppy her breakfast. After about 20 minutes, take her outside and follow the 6am routine. Afterward, put her in her crate until it’s time for the next potty break.
Mid-morning (for pups younger than 10 weeks old)
- Take your pup to the potty spot and follow the routine. Then, come inside and play with your puppy for a little while, do a short training session, take her out again to potty, and then put her in the crate until the next break.
- Take your puppy out and follow the routine. If the puppy is less than 6 months old, feed her some lunch, spend some time playing and do another training session. Take her out to potty again and then put her back in her crate. Once she is older than 6 months, skip her lunch.
Mid-afternoon (for puppies younger than 10 weeks):
- Same as mid-morning routine.
- Take puppy outside for potty routine. Then feed her some dinner and then take her back outside for another potty break. This is a good time then to leave puppy out of her crate as long as someone is keeping a close eye on her.
- Great time to play with puppy, do short training sessions, etc. Because the puppy will be more active, she will likely need to go potty more often than she does during the day when it is quieter so watch for circling, sniffing, pacing or other signs that she needs to go outside. We use a bell on the door that puppies quickly learn to jingle to let us know they need to go out. Only put the puppy in her crate if no one can keep a close eye on her.
10 to 11:00pm
- Take your puppy outside for potty routine. Then put the pup in her crate for the night. If she is older than 12 weeks, she should be able to sleep through the night without needing to potty. Younger pups normally need to get out at least once in the middle of the night.
We have had tremendous success with this schedule. Furthermore, going in and out of the same door whenever taking the puppy out, it does not take long for them to grasp the concept that potty time is outside. Here we are at 10 weeks of age, and Hadley is not only completely house-trained, but understands that her crate means it is time to rest, which makes for a peaceful night for the other residents on the farm!