Puppies need a lot of help from their canine and human families to grow into healthy, well-socialized adults. Puppies are born unable to hear and with their eyes closed. They cannot regulate their body temperature or eliminate without the aid of their mother. By the time the mother begins to wean her pups (between three and seven weeks of age), they will have gone through several stages of sensory, social, and cognitive development.
That’s just the beginning, though. Puppies will experience several more developmental stages before reaching full maturity around 2 years of age. Typically, before a puppy is six months old, it will have experienced these four stages of development:
The age when many young puppies go home to new human families (around eight to twelve weeks of age) is a critical time for socialization with other dogs and people, and for building their confidence in dealing with the world around them. It’s an important time for introducing basic obedience skills and household manners using positive reinforcement methods.
At this age, puppies are developing their canine social skills and are capable of bonding with humans. However, they also begin to experience fear for the first time and may develop life-long fears stemming from anything frightening or traumatic that happens during this time.
Shortly after these “socialization” and “fear” periods of development begin, a “ranking” period begins during which puppies begin to use dominance and submission behaviors to define their place socially or improve their status in the household.
Flight Instinct Stage
By about four months of age, puppies begin to experience a second “fear” or “flight instinct” period, during which a puppy may tend to venture off alone and resist coming when called.
Puppy Kindergarten to the Rescue!
The complexity of this developmental sequence, and the specific challenges posed by each stage, can seem daunting to many people raising a young puppy. Taking a Puppy Kindergarten class can help.
An effective Puppy Kindergarten class will be guided by an experienced trainer who:
1) ensures appropriate play between puppies to develop dog-to-dog social skills;
2) structures positive interactions between puppies and people in order to develop dog-to-human social skills;
3) incorporates brief, age-appropriate training sessions in basic obedience skills;
4) shares positive training approaches and helpful tips to use as the puppy continues to grow and mature.
Puppy Kindergarten at KCFA
The Kennel Club of Fort Atkinson’s (KCFA) Puppy Kindergarten class is specifically designed to focus on raising a well-adjusted, well-mannered puppy. In addition, the KCFA’s instructors help owners learn how to care for their puppy and be responsible dog owners.