Featuring my grandson Francis and puppy
Critical Periods in Puppies Development
Scientific studies have shown that there are FIVE critical periods in a puppy's life. That is five phases of mental development during which adverse conditions could cripple a dog emotionally for life. Conversely, positive conditions during these five phases, will produce dogs of the highest calibre mentally and socially. So important were these scientific findings that the Guide Dog Foundation instituted these "positive conditions" for puppies being raised to become Guide Dogs for the blind. These dogs received the most rigorous and exacting training of any dogs and therefore must be perfectly adjusted.
Zero to 21 days: As a result of many years of scientific research it has been determined that the first critical period covers the entire first two weeks of the puppy's life. During this period the puppy's mental capacity is nearly zero, and the puppy reacts only to its needs of warmth, food, sleep and its mother.
21st Day: On the 21st day. ALL of the puppy's senses begin to function. The senses were present in the puppy during the first critical period, but were dormant. The 21st day of the puppy's life is like an automatic switch that turns on. It also turns on the second and possibly the most important critical period in the puppy's life.
It is during this second critical period in the new puppy's life that the characteristic of nervousness can generate shyness and other negative qualities in a puppy. Once adverse conditions have developed negative qualities in this second critical period, no amount of re-conditioning or training, later in life will alter or significantly modify the resultant negative characteristics.
5th to 7th Weeks: This must be considered as the third period in the puppy's life. The puppy will venture away from home, not very far, and do a little exploring. At the beginning of the 6th week, awareness of society will dawn. That is, the society of man and the society of the dog. The puppy's nervous system and trainability are developing and by the end of this critical period, will have developed to capacity.
During this third critical period, your puppy will learn to respond to voices and will begin to recognise people. It is during this period that a 'social pecking order" will be established among the puppies in the litter. Some of the puppies will learn to fight for food, they will be the bullies. The litter mates that are cowed by the aggressive tendencies of the others will become shy. The third critical period ends during the 7th week and the puppy is now considered emotionally developed and ready to learn.
8th to 12th Week: This fourth critical period extends to the 12th week of the puppy's life. Since the puppy's trainability, or learning facilities, are operating at full capacity now, it is better that he do his learning from his new owner. And learn he will. This period marks a time when the puppy will learn at a fast and furious pace. Although the "come, sit, stay and no" commands are invaluable if taught during the fourth period, perhaps the most important single response during this period is learning to fetch. At first glance this may sound unnecessary and unimportant.
13th to 16th Week: The fifth and final critical period is from the 13th to 16th week of the puppy's life. A highly significant thing will happen during this period and the owner should be prepared for it and ready to handle it smoothly and with confidence. The puppy will make it's first attempt to establish itself as the dominant being in the "pack" (family). It is now that the puppy will learn whether it can physically turn on its owner and get away with it.
The puppy learns by rebelling that it gets things its way. It is during this 5th critical period that absolute authority will be challenged. It is here that the challenge must be met, head on, by the dog's owner. Instructing people as to the best method of dealing with the problem is difficult because no two dogs are exactly alike.
When you bring your puppy home, the critical periods which will follow will be critical periods in your life as well. The way you handle those periods will determine what kind of dog you will have in the years to come.The puppy you acquire can grow up to be all the things you want and desire it to be, if you acknowledge and adhere to the critical periods in its life. These are the periods which shape and mould it's character and personality. The puppy is in your hands. What it is to become, it will become during these critical periods.
(Taken from: Dog Fancy - 1972)