Your breeder has called, and you now know the date when you can bring home your little bundle of furry joy. The first two months of Fido’s life have been spent with his breeder, his littermates, and his momma, learning all of the things he will need to know to grow up to be a great dog. He’s had his first set of shots, been dewormed multiple times, and microchipped. Now what?
The Period from 8-12 Weeks
A good breeder will lay the foundation for socialization and proper manners for your puppy. He may be housetrained already, but if not, he will be at least somewhat familiar with the concept, and most puppies are already well-versed in the ways of crate training. So, what happens between weeks 8 and 12?
If you are like most dog owners, you are terrified you will take this perfect little bundle of joy and somehow mess up all of the great work your breeder did. Not so! Armed with foreknowledge as to what to expect and do during these important weeks, you will sail through the third month of a puppy’s life like a charm.
Getting To Know You—Bonding Time
At eight weeks of age, a puppy is primed to develop deep and lasting bonds with his new family. This is primarily why it is the age most breeders select to allow their puppies to begin to leave the nest. Prior to this would be detrimental to a puppy’s social and emotional development, but eight weeks, for many is ideal. You’ll want to spend as much time with your puppy as you can during this month. This is not a hardship at all as most owners wish they could take time off work, so that all of their time can be devoted to their newest little family member!
Brain Food for Brain Growth
But bonding isn’t the only thing going on in a puppy’s life during this time period. His cognitive function is strengthening and growing with each passing day. This is but one reason why it is so important to introduce puppies to novel experiences during this time. The more you can expose your puppy to, the better. But be sure to keep each experience positive as any exposure to negative things may inadvertently reinforce fear and have a lasting impact on your puppy.
A large part of this developmental period should be comprised of appropriate socialization opportunities. A quality breeder will begin to introduce your puppy to the things that will make up his life with his new family, but since a puppy’s vaccination cycle is not yet complete until 15-16 weeks, it is not possible to expose him to many things outside the home. During this period, it is a great time to introduce your puppy to new people of all shapes and sizes. Children, adults, elderly people, even babies—your puppy will love meeting them all, and it is wonderful for him to meet such a diverse group of people and ones that he will continue to encounter throughout his entire life.
It is also important to socialize your puppy with more unusual situations like people carrying umbrellas or wearing different types of hats. Wheelchairs and even people who walk with a limp are novel experiences to introduce your puppy to. Since puppies are most open to approaching with confidence during the early portion of the third month, it is the ideal time for them to experience as many new situations and people as possible. But you must take care as a fear period begins around 9-10 weeks. It does not always occur at exactly the same time for each puppy, but your new furry friend will experience one sometime during the third month. Be on the lookout for it as during this period, your puppy may shy away from things, including things he used to approach with enthusiasm! This is quite normal and is to be expected, but during this time, it is important to ensure that any new experience will be 100 percent positive only as during fear periods negative things can imprint on a puppy and affect his response to that stimulus for life. Many people simply opt to put socialization on hiatus during this time as it really only lasts a week at most. This prevents the risk of accidental exposure to a negative stimulus.
Teach Me, Teach Me!
Puppies have short attention spans, but they love to spend time with you, and they love to learn. This makes 3 months of age the perfect time to attend a puppy socialization or obedience class. During this time, it is also a good idea to teach your puppy to learn to stand on a table and to be handled as during his lifetime he will have to make visits to the vet and the groomer where he will be expected to stand for an examination.
If your puppy received his initial shots at age 8 weeks, he will require his second set of shots at age 12 weeks. Once the puppy has received his second set of vaccinations, he typically possesses enough immunity from disease to venture into protected areas in his community. You will still want to avoid heavily trafficked places like dog parks or dog day cares, but you can comfortably take your fave pooch along with you to pet stores or for walks in your neighborhood so long as you do not permit him to sniff things that may contain bacteria that could be harmful for him.
Yes, month 3 of a puppy’s life is grand fun! It is the time of life when your puppy will be the snuggliest and most attentive, making it the perfect time to teach new skills and spend lots of time cuddling. What could be better?