Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Window of Opportunity

There is an absolutely critical period in a dog's social development when its experiences are absolutely vital to the rest of its life.  This window of opportunity is called 'The Critical Period'. This period varies from breed to breed but basically it refers to the first few weeks of its life when it goes out and explores the world.  For some breeds like German Shepherd, it starts to feel fear at seeing new experiences as early as 5 weeks old. For other breeds such as the Labrador, this fear period does not start until it is 10 weeks old.  For most breeds this window of opportunity shuts at about 15 weeks old.
Therefore, it is critical to get your dog socialised to the outside world before it starts to feel fear. This is the time to take it out and show it the world. Cars, people, trains, pavements, traffic, cats, children... absolutely everything.  If you miss this opportunity then the dog will never fully become confident around the experience that it has missed.
The most common problem is that your vet will probably advise you not to take your puppy outdoors until it has had its second set of injections at 15weeks. By that time it is too late! You must think of creative ways of introducing your puppy to the outside world as much as possible. Carry it around your local garden centre, put it in a push chair, go for a car ride, make every opportunity you can to introduce your puppy to life before 15 weeks. 
 In one awful case I heard of recently, a breeder recommended that a giant breed should not leave its house and back garden for 6 months until the bones had a chance to develop fully. This dog will never get over this start in life and will lead a fearful life. There is no repairing the damage done.
You must take a calculated risk as to whether you think there is any likelihood of catching these doggy diseases if for instance, you take it for a walk to your local shops. You must weigh up the risks of catching these diseases, with having a well socialised and fear-free dog for the next 15 years or more.