Socialization studies confirm that the critical periods for humans (infant) to be stimulated are generally between three weeks and twelve months of age. For canines the period is shorter, between
the fourth and sixteenth week of age. During these critical time periods two things can go wrong. First, insufficient social contact can interfere with proper emotional development which can
adversely affected the development of the human bond. The lack of adequate social stimulation, such as handling, mothering and contact with others, adversely affects social and psychological
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Like babies , puppies thrive in stimulating, complex environments. In a study in which puppies were
placed in complex environments for the first time at 12 or 16 weeks of age, these dogs were inhibited and explored less than puppies that had been placed in increasingly complex environments at
earlier ages. In another study, dogs raised without contact with the outside world until 10 months of age became hyperactive, with six times the activity of normally raised dogs, when placed in
a normal environment. They learned slowly and forgot easily compared to the normally raised dogs.
~See more at: http://www.akcchf.org/canine-health/your-dogs-health/caring-for-your-dog/growing-smart-puppies.html#sthash.PTnnvUzR.dpuf
WINDOW OF OPPORTUNITY
The most influential time of a puppy's life is between three and six weeks. FEAR is not present in newborn puppies. It begins to develop slowly around five weeks of age, and increases
gradually until it escalates in the fear imprint period during the eighth week.
~See more at http://www.puppyprodigies.org/Early%20Learning%20Focus.htm
There is a sensitive period of development in which socialisation and habituation must occur and be properly completed if the dog is not to grow up to be maladjusted.
The degree of deprivation a dog suffers in respect of socialisation and habituation will be reflected proportionately in the extent of
maladjustment. Accordingly, a dog that has had no experience of a specific stimulus at the completion of the sensitive period will always be fearful of it; a dog that has had some exposure, but not
sufficient, will be better adjusted, although not entirely sound; and a dog that has had adequate experience of the stimulus in the sensitive period will grow up to be "bomb proof". Dogs that grow up
to be fearful because they have been subjected to stimulus deprivation can be improved by counter conditioning programmes, but the maxim prevention is better than cure was never more applicable than
the first few weeks of a domestic animal's life.........
Puppies housed in conditions devoid of stimulation were placed in a test area with various articles for just half an hour at five, eight, twelve and sixteen weeks. These puppies were found to be
increasingly keen to explore the items and to develop a preference for those that provided more complex stimuli. However, puppies who did not enter the test area until they were over eight weeks old
tended to withdraw from rather than explore the items, and those who did not experience the test area until they were twelve or sixteen weeks old frequently became catatonic with fear (Fox 1971a).
Experiments have also shown that puppies, pre-stressed in early life, subsequently have a good capacity for coping with stress
and those that do not receive the stressful experiences respond to stress less well as they mature (Fox). This has to be
significant for anyone interested in dog training as it is essential to the success of training that a dog is able to cope with stress and has a positive response to complex stimuli and situations.
Stress inhibits learning, and training requires of the dog the capacity to process complex stimuli...........
One may ask why a fearful response develops if puppies don’t actually have an unpleasant or fear evoking experience associated with novel stimuli. The answer is that in their natural environment wild
canids, specifically the wolf, to whom the domestic dog is related, have to be alert to danger, which means treating anything which they are not already familiar with as potentially hazardous. This
means that wolf cubs have only a few weeks to develop positive associations with their own kind and immediate environment, after which they become increasingly cautious about things and situations
not previously encountered. This saves them from blithely trotting up to something such as a snake and investigating it. The problem the domestic dog has is that it needs to become familiar with an
enormous number of stimuli in a very short time so as to be able to live in and cope with the diversity of our world.
What practical applications do we have that bear out the research? Guide Dogs for the Blind, who, until 1956, used to rely on the donation of adult dogs which they took on approval to maintain their
training stock. The success rate of these dogs fluctuated between 9 and 11 percent and it was recognised that this could be improved if the association could supervise the rearing of puppies. These
were purchased and placed in private homes at between ten and twelve weeks old or even later. Things improved, but the results were not good enough. It was Derek Freeman, who pushed to have puppies
placed in private homes at an earlier age to optimise socialisation and habituation during the critical development period. Derek had a strong belief in Scott and Fuller’s work and importance of
early socialisation and habituation in the production of dogs that were best able to survive and perform in the world at large.
Derek found that six weeks was the best time to place puppies in private homes; any later critically reduced the time left before the puppies reached twelve weeks; but if puppies were removed from
their dam and litter
mates before six weeks they missed the opportunity to be properly socialised with their own kind, which
resulted in inept interactions with other dogs in later life. The training success rate soared because of this policy, which was carried out in conjunction with the management of the gene pool via
the breeding scheme Derek also pioneered. Annual success rates in excess of 75 percent became common. You might think that this is a special scheme for dogs with a special function. In fact, what the
scheme provides is adult dogs with sound temperaments. These dogs coincidentally make the best material for guide dog training which does not start until they have been assessed at ten months or
older. As a result of the breeding scheme, Derek Freeman also proved, if proof was needed, that you cannot dismiss the importance of genetic predisposition, i.e. the basic material required for good
temperament can be produced through good breeding. Conversely, a lack of habituation/socialisation can ruin the chance of an individual developing a sound temperament, however good the
-See more at http://www.apbc.org.uk/articles/puppysocialisation1