Many dog owners lovingly refer to their dog, puppies, and other pets as "fur-babies" or even their children. Recent polls even suggest the younger generations are holding out on having biological children for longer and adopting a furry alternative in the meantime. However, while these names might seem to be just cute terms of endearment, referring to our dogs as our babies may be a little more accurate than you might think.
When a child is born, it is brought into a world it knows nothing about. For most of the next eighteen years, the parents will help the child to learn about the world, about the people and places in it, and which experiences are to be enjoyed and which to be avoided. For a puppy however, the window of time in which the longest lasting impressions are made is much shorter, and these impressions may have a lifelong effect. To maximize his potential as a companion and as a dog, a new owner should make the most of the first twelve weeks of a puppy's life to build his character base through new experiences.
During the first seven weeks of its life, a puppy will learn much of its social behavior from the mother and litter-mates, such as when to bark, bite, or use posturing to form social relationships, and much more. The puppy establish appropriate psychological behavior playing with its siblings and through love or discipline from its mother, but when the puppy is old enough to leave his canine mom for a adoptive family, there is still so much for the puppy to learn and for his new human parents to teach.
The next five weeks of a puppy's life (weeks 7-12) are the most important weeks for the puppy to be exposed to new people, places, and experiences. In very similar way to how parents of an infant or toddler help their baby to learn about the world around her, the new adoptive parents of a puppy must introduce him to the human world around him. Brief, repeated experiences to new things will help your puppy become comfortable with everything new. Help your puppy become familiar with your life (your family, your home, the places you like to visit), but also try to introduce your puppy to as many new things he might encounter elsewhere as an adult. For example, meeting a horse as a puppy will mean as an adult he will be less afraid when he meets another when he is older.
To make it fun for both of you, try the following Scavenger Hunt to introduce your puppy to as many new and different things as you can find. Remember to make every experience as positive as possible to help your puppy associate these experiences with positive memories! Also, please be mindful of exposing your puppy to places other dogs may frequent before your puppy has been given the first three vaccination shots against contagious diseases.
We would love to hear how your scavenger hunt went, and about any other fun encounters you and your puppy had!