At Aztec Animal Clinic we are dedicated to doing everything possible to help you build a healthy relationship with your new puppy. The importance of socialization has become clear. As puppies develop socially into young adults, the experiences that they have with their environment will shape how they see their world. Studies have shown that the most critical period for development of “social skills” is from 3 weeks to 16 weeks of age. Most puppies are able to stay with their littermates and mother until 7-8 weeks. During this time, the pup is gaining skills of playing with other puppies as well as interacting with people. For more information read Puppy Socialization and Fear Prevention on our website
Once your puppy has joined your family, it is critical that the socialization continue. Because this window of time is so short, we have developed a couple of handouts that list different “contacts” that your puppy should be exposed to before 16 weeks of age. You can find them in the “All about Puppy” section on our web site. The more opportunities that a puppy has to experience these things, the more likely that he or she will not develop fearful behaviors which often can transition to fear aggression as an adult. We also have a handout for you about the importance of recognizing fear in your puppy as well as what to do when you see it (see Canine Communication-Interpreting dog language handout) . Helping ease these early fears during exposure will help your puppy gain confidence and resilience as an adult.
This new approach to the early lives of our youngest canine patients does mean that we no longer want your puppy cloistered at home. We still advise that you avoid high traffic places like busy parks, the Bosque and foothill trails. However we now want you to take your pup out and about more (friends houses, big box stores, coffee shops and brewery patios) where he or she can have closely monitored and controlled interactions with lots of “scary things”. Using treats to reward the puppy for all new interactions will help him or her to see new things as having an upside. More details are available in the articles/handouts in our Puppy Resources.
In addition to giving puppy owners advice and resources, we have started a weekly “Puppy Preschool” for Aztec puppies between the ages of 8 and 16 weeks of age. We meet in the reception area on Tuesday evenings from 6:30-7:30 PM. There is a short discussion period about common puppy issues but the main purpose will be to provide a setting for the puppies to interact and play in a safe, clean environment. We will also be introducing a variety of interesting objects for them to check out. This class is offered free of charge but enrollment will be limited so if you have a puppy heading your way or already in the nest, get signed up. Call the clinic and ask for Janann, our receptionist that does the class with me. We have had over 250 puppies “graduate” from Puppy PreSchool with many of them now dragging their owners into the clinic to see us; lifelong fans of their friends at Aztec.