Early Puppy Socialization with Dr. Christopher Pachel

By Jeff Stallings

The most common—and preventable—root of aggression and fearfulness in dogs is a lack of socialization as puppies, especially in the most crucial period from seven to 12 weeks (although puppies are primed for further socialization up to 16 weeks of age.)

In a perfect world, all puppies would meet 100 people before 12 weeks, including babies and the elderly, teenagers and children, tall men with beards and short, women with hats, etc.  They would also play with many other puppies, meet and greet older dogs, see bicycles, skateboards, horses, cats, buses and anything else they might otherwise experience as new and strange threats later in life.  I always compare that open mind of those young puppies to children, who learn new languages with ease:  It’s a short window of brain development that closes, making it more difficult (or scary in the case of dogs) later on.

Puppy Socialization

One reason puppies need to meet other puppies and dogs is to learn the ABCs of dog communication, including both dominant and submissive gestures.  An unsocialized puppy can grow into a dog that does not understand how to read and respond appropriately to the body language (tails, stance, ears, etc.) of other dogs, which can lead to dog-on-dog aggression.  Worse, a puppy not familiarized to a large variety of people at that early age might show dog-on-human aggression, which is obviously particularly dangerous.

Portland-based board certified Veterinarian Behaviorist Dr. Christopher Pachel taped a 45-minute seminar about the latest research into the importance of early puppy socialization, which I encourage all new and prospective puppy owners to watch with the entire family:

Dr. Christopher Pachel:  Canine Socialization Period – Part 1

Dr. Christopher Pachel:  Canine Socialization Period – Part 2

Keep these development stages in mind as you introduce your puppy to the world.  But even if you adopt a dog that missed out on an intensive socialization program, many (though not all) of the resulting imbalances can be addressed with focused training and behavior modification exercises.

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About Jeff Stallings, CPDT-KA

Having owned well-trained dogs all my life, I started Better Nature Dog Training to exploit decades of experience teaching across a number of fields. I am nationally-certified through the highly-respected Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers and am a professional member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers. I teach people how to effectively train their dogs by clearly demonstrating that every interaction counts when training a dog to come when called, for example, or instructing a puppy how to best get along in life. I take a scientific and holistic approach to dog training. The scientific aspect comes from understanding dog psychology from an evolutionary perspective, knowing how dogs are both similar to and distinct from their ancestors, including the grey wolf. The holistic component derives from taking into account all facets of any particular dog’s situation, including upbringing, prior training, traumatic events and—most importantly—the characteristics of his home and family life. Training a puppy or dog can be a most rewarding life experience; it can also be stressful and perplexing. One of the best services I provide is taking the guesswork out while lending a sure, guiding hand in successful dog behavior development and modification.
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