It’s puppy season! Seems like almost every day I bump into someone at my kids’ school who is proudly holding a brand new puppy. Of course, being a trainer and puppy lover, I am always one of the first in line to meet the new family member. Very often people ask me how old their puppy needs to be before he begins training and many are surprised when I say “right now!”
During the first three months of a puppy’s life, I tell my clients that their dog is creating a “mental file cabinet” full of things that are good and safe. It should include files for people of all kinds, animals, sights, sounds and experiences. Your goal is to stuff that file cabinet so full of good experiences that as an older dog, when he encounters something new and tries to find it in the file cabinet, it’s so full that he just decides “It must be in there somewhere. I’m sure there’s no reason to be worried.” Unfortunately, the file cabinet is only available for adding new things for about three months. By the time most puppies go home, that only leaves a short time for the new owners to take action. Puppy socialization classes like AnimalSense’s Puppy Pre-School focus on exposing puppies to many new experiences in a safe and controlled way.
In its position statement on puppy socialization, the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior says, “Behavioral issues, not infectious diseases, are the number one cause of death for dogs under three years of age. While puppies’ immune systems are still developing during these early months, the combination of maternal immunity, primary vaccination, and appropriate care makes the risk of infection relatively small compared to the chance of death from a behavior problem. In general, puppies can start puppy socialization classes as early as 7-8 weeks of age.“
To read their full position statement, click here.