Your puppy and the critical FOUR month window to socialise with dog walkingIts so easy to be in the dog walking and socialisation business and forget that for many people, a "dog is just a dog", or they want to care for their pup but have NO idea where to start. Well this article can change all of that for the owner and the dog for the length of its life, so listen up!
There is irrefutable scientific dog trialled evidence (ie science papers) that as soon as a dog is weened, that the window between that (often 8 weeks minimum) up to 4 months (16 weeks) is absolutely critical to the socialisation level your dog can achieve FOR LIFE.
This is not a scare campaign, but hard facts.
The trick for new owners is getting the confidence to expose their dogs to other dogs at the puppy stage. YES, the dogs need to be fully vaccinated, however you can begin exposing your dog in a parvo free back yard with a dog fully immunised before your puppy is immunised to give it a real kick start.
This very small window is when a dog learns that the world is not scary and should not be anxious about it. It learns and keeps the knowledge that humans are also ok. It learns social norms and what is acceptable behaviour. It will then be able to go to off lead dog parks without anxiety or aggression. It will then fit in with your lifestyle at home and when you go out.
There are not hard and fast percentages of what a dog's level of socialisation will be limited to, but I feel its around 80% maximum from what I have seen. Even if the dog is walked every day of its life after missing out on the first 4 months.
That means that when a dog that missed this socialisation period, but has been walked regularly off lead by new owners is brought into a dog walk pack of fully social dogs, it will learn from these dogs BUT when a less than social dog is encountered, all the social dogs know what to do, but it is still often left with a flight or fight response. The worst thing in a park is two not quite social dogs meeting each other. They both have suspicions the other is not quite right and often bad behaviour results between the two.
What about the Husky puppy in the photo and socialisation from dog walking?Glad you asked.
The more powerful or ancient the breed of dog (such as a husky), the more critical it is for its own survival that it is exposed to other social dogs at a young stage. Social dogs means it will learn how to be social. It also means that it might not follow its predatory or fighting instinct that it was evolved and bred for by man (the breeds created for these things). NOT all dogs were created by man to be hunters, but they will have that in their genes to some extent.
When you have a large powerful breed, that is not socialised when it is young it might be great around your home, your family and your friends, but you may never feel very good with trusting it in unfamiliar situations. If any dog tries to bite or scare another dog seriously in public it might result in a lot of bad owner language, however if the dog is big and aggressive it can often lead to being put down. A small breed dog such as a jack russell might get more leniency.
The husky in this photo was trying to play harder than socially acceptable with my dog on a couple of occasions, and my dog was telling it off, socially. The husky was a beautiful friendly dog, and it was learning boundaries. This social play will mean that it can play off lead in dog parks, while its other husky friends might not. They will have a sad life.
As dogs age, they can lose socialisation as well if the off lead walks are not kept up. So you can get a dog that is wonderfully socialised up until it is six months old, then the owners situation changes and they walk the dog once a month after that. I have a programmer acquaintance who thinks his dog is lucky when it gets its monthly walk, but in reality it is deplorable and dog abuse. The owner should be lucky to have such privileges on themselves!
A dog can learn to be 100% social in six months then drop back to 80% within a year because of its breed, its temperament but mostly its lack of walks during the last six months leading up to its year birthday. Like the owners level of socialisation, it depends on practice, and if you can't manage it, there are always pro dog walkers around like myself for advice and walks.