21 to 49 Days: Canine Socialization
Puppy is with mother and littermates. During this period, puppy learns about social interaction, play, and inhibiting aggression* from mother and littermates. Puppies must stay with their mother and littermates during this critical period. Puppies learn the most important lesson in their lives--they learn to accept discipline.
Social awareness, learning to become dogs (note: first week of this critical stage of development overlaps with second period of development). Play fighting behavior becomes increasingly intense. Pups are developing problem-solving abilities, physical co-ordination, and bite inhibition. Mother begins weaning pups during this period, those beginning to initiate discipline. During this time puppies will begin to move to the far corners of their bed, box, or pen to urinate and defecate. House breaking can begin!
Leave pups together as litter and allow dam free access to pups.
During 4th week (21-28 Days) introduce food to pups without removing the mother. You can feed her in the litter box at the same time. Begin escalating sensory experiences (see notes on second critical period). Continue daily handling by breeder and family members.
During 5th week (28-35 Days) introduce pups to the outdoors. Take them outside to urinate and defecate after waking or eating. When this is not possible provide pups with a designated bathroom spot to begin their housebreaking.
Begin handling pups individually away from littermates and the mother for at least 10 minutes each day. Enlist the help of family members, friends, neighbor and prospective puppy owners in this process. If you cannot handle 10 minutes each day, do 5 minutes. Daily experiences away from littermates are crucial.
During 6th and 7th weeks (35-49 Days) increase sensory experiences with brief car rides. Introduce pups to vacuum cleaner. Puppies can begin simple training routines using food lures and social attraction at this time. Start teaching pups to stand on grooming table to be examined or to be brushed.
This is the prime socialization period. Introduce new people, especially children. Pups enjoy interaction with a gentle adult dog - a kindly aunt or uncle who will baby-sit with patience. Introduce situations that will stimulate problem-solving behavior - tunnels, cardboard boxes, gates, steps, fences, logs, etc. Allow pups to have successes and reinforce these successes with food.
REMOVE PUPPIES FROM LITTER DURING THIS PERIOD! Do not completely remove mother. Do not correct for play fighting, housebreaking errors, or mouthing.
Dominance period where pup solidifies social position. Pups will begin testing their place in the world during this time. They tend to become emboldened. This is a period of very fast physical growth.
Pups must be treated as individual dogs. If they are still with breeder they should no longer be treated as part of a litter and should sleep alone in individual crates at night and all training and grooming sessions should be individual.
Introduce behavioral dominance exercises. "Alphabetize" yourself and your family - feed pup after you eat, move crate to different locations so pup doesn't become site protective, take food and toys away from pup while eating or playing.
Continue socialization and obedience training providing slight distractions. TEACH THE RECALL AND PRACTICE IT SEVERAL TIMES EVERY SINGLE DAY!!!! Do this before pup enters the "flight period" at about 16 weeks.
Play tug of war games. Do not allow pup to sleep in bed with humans. Absolutely forbid all chasing games with children.
4 to 6 Months: Flight Instince
The flight period, corresponding to teething. Pups begin testing limits. May attempt to assert dominance over human pack members (especially children). May "forget" housebreaking.
This period is characterized by independence and willfulness. Owner or breeder is no longer Mommy substitute.
Keep pup on lead when outside fenced enclosures. Continue recall training and response to commands. Continue passive dominance and touch sensitivity exercises and handling all parts of pup's body.
Let pup off lead if at all possible. Do not chase pup or play chasing games.
Sexual maturity, hormonal changes. Fearfulness of new situations, objects, people, other dogs. Male dogs begin lifting legs. Some individuals will pass through these periods faster than others, often with no noticeable problems. Others may display marked changes in behavior in strange situations. Reinforce the behaviors you want; do not reinforce fearfulness by coddling or protective behavior. But also try to avoid punishing fearfulness. Try to adopt a firm but patient and kindly attitude to the pup's fearful behavior. Continue socialization to humans and other dogs. Avoid or postpone extremely stressful or traumatic experiences for animals that appear to be in this fear imprint period.
** Special thanks to the Portuguese Podengo Club of America for this article.