Socialization begins when puppy is born. Although, their eyes and ears are not open till they are about 10 days old, we hold them and kiss them and hum happy little tunes to them, believing they can feel the vibrations, and that their brain is imprinting our gentle touch. Each puppy is held daily and soon, little toe nails are trimmed, their coat is kept clean and they are exposed to new sounds and smells and sights. They hear the kitchen noises during meal preps. They smell different smells throughout each day and night. They hear adult voices and teenage voices and on occassion, children’s voices. They hear radios, vacuum cleaners, blow dryers, washing machines, and are exposed to a car ride the day we take them for their vet check. Each mother dog is different in how she interacts with her litter. Some are more playful and some are more focused on cleaning. Some are goal oriented and once nursing is done and a lick here and there, they are off to their own life and plans. Some mother dogs love being a mother and would happily adopt everyone’s babies. While other mom’s do their due diligence and then embrace their freedom. But each puppy is influenced by their mom during their time in our home. That is their primary companion and that is nature’s design. The humans in their world are kind and loving and trustworthy. This sets the stage for deep bonding, ultimately with you, their new human parent, their life long. We cannot emphasize enough… each puppy, although all are Chihuahuas, is an individual. They have their own temperament, their own goals, their own little personality. Because they leave our home at 9-10 wks we can only guess at that temperament. You, the new family, will learn more about your puppy than we ever could in the few weeks we know them. That is part of the fun and adventure of adopting a puppy! Getting to know that new little companion, and watching them grow and learn.
We send our puppies home between 9-10 weeks. When puppy goes home they will typically have only one of their puppy shots and will need two more before they are fully vaccinated and protected from potentially fatal infections. Therefore, we highly recommend that any of the below suggestions be started ONLY AFTER PUPPY HAS ALL HIS/HER PUPPY VACCINATIONS, and not before.
The below was copied from the Nutrena World website. The link is at the bottom of this page.
Ages 8 wks -13 wks
At this age the puppy will be more mobile and will begin activities outside of the home. Outdoor access should be limited to spaces where unvaccinated animals and wildlife do not go as your puppies’ vaccinations will not be complete at this age. Avoid dogs of unknown temperament or aggressive tendencies that can scare or injure your new puppy.
Your puppy will need to learn to travel to new locations and interact with new people and other healthy, vaccinated pets. Providing these experiences early on will allow your puppy to have positive interactions that will build competence and confidence in coping with new situations. Car anxiety and motion sickness should be addressed early before it becomes a learned behavior or lifelong fear. Enriched, new environments and a variety of toys will encourage play. Interactions should be supervised so no one gets overly excited and causes an accidental injury that can induce fear and anxiety.
Enroll in a socialization class outside of the home at 9-10 weeks of age. This will help to reinforce early lessons about interacting with other dogs and people. Socialization classes should also teach owners appropriate handling and early training exercises.
Expose your puppy to diverse groups of people of different genders, ethnicity and ages. Include people wearing hats, carrying umbrellas, briefcases and backpacks. Watch closely to be certain he does not show any signs of anxiety or fear. If he does, allow him to retreat, then start again slowly rewarding positive behavior with treats and praise.
Provide positive experiences in different types of environments such as concrete, metal, tile, carpet, linoleum and sand. Allow him to withdraw when anxious and provide treats to encourage him to remain calm and relaxed.
Gradually train your puppy to walk on a leash using treats to encourage him. Walk in safe places before he is fully vaccinated, avoiding parks and other areas where dogs of unknown status may congregate. This should include wooded areas where wild animals may carry diseases such as parvovirus and distemper.
Continue working on handling exercises. Place your puppy in positions that allow all parts of his body to be examined. Handle his ears, feet and mouth to prepare him for ear cleanings, nail trims and teeth brushing. Never verbally or physically reprimand for non-compliant behavior, but rather use slow gradual exposure with rewards and praise.
Puppy Socialization – Fear Periods
In our previous article on getting started with puppies, we talked about early socialization focusing on your puppy’s early acclimation to his surroundings, people and other animals. In this article, we will discuss fear periods. There are two major fear periods in a puppy’s socialization. One is at 8-11 weeks and the other is 6-14 months. These fear periods are evolutionarily programmed and are protective for dogs in the wild. Even though dogs live as pets now, these genetically determined behavioral patterns are still present. Early socialization allowed wild puppies to become accustomed to their early environment but learning to fear strange situations, as they matured, was necessary to protect them from predators and other dangers.
The first fear period from 8-11 weeks coincides with the second socialization period when puppies are going to a new home and facing a whole new environment and set of situations. During this time much care should be taken to not frighten your puppy. Children or other animals in the home should not be allowed to inadvertently hurt the puppy. Young children in their excitement may grab, chase or handle the puppy in ways that he will perceive as scary.
When young children are interacting with the puppy during this time a parent should always be present to monitor this activity as children may not pick up on body behavior that can indicate fear or anxiety. Slowly introduce your puppy to new people and situations and always allow him the option to retreat if he is anxious or uncomfortable. Learning at this age is permanent and learned fear behaviors can be difficult or impossible to extinguish. There is a growing body of research that shows significant traumatic experiences at this age can lead to a lifetime of behavioral issues.
The second fear impact period occurs between 6 to 14 months of age. Generally, this critical age occurs earlier for small dogs and later for larger ones. Development of these fears tends to be more about situations than to specific people. If your puppy seems fearful of a new situation, forcing him into it is the worst thing to do. Fear should be handled with patience and kindness. Allow him to retreat and try again from a distance where he feels comfortable. Praise positive behavior. Additionally, routine training during this period can help set him up for success. This will allow him to work things out while building self-confidence.
Remember, socialization is a life long process, not just something that is finished at a year of age. Your pet’s response to situations may change over time, so continuing to reinforce positive behaviors are important. Be aware that some dogs are innately nervous and fearful and may need extra time and patience. If at anytime it seems that your puppy is not progressing well, ask your veterinarian for help or for a referral to a behavior specialist. A little extra time and investment now will pay off in good behavior for the rest of your dog’s life.