Puppy Imprinting

New Puppy Training Essentials
Yep, we did it.  We got a Boxer puppy and her name is Willow.  I’ve been a Boxer person for 35 years now, I know my breed.
After having 3 rescued dogs in a row, we decided to get a new puppy from a conscientious breeder.  One who health tests, temperament tests and breeds only to improve the breed we love.  I wanted to take all the knowledge I had acquired over the last 10 years, since my last puppy Talia, to see what I could do better to help Willow become the best dog she could be for our family and to further help my clients with training their puppies.
Over the years the biggest mistakes I see my clients make is that they don’t teach dogs to accept separation, teach self calming and imprint (socialize) their puppies enough from the beginning.  The latest studies show that the prime period for puppy imprinting ends somewhere between 12-16 weeks. Yikes!  We had always thought we had more time than that!
Coinciding with that prime period is the risk of parvovirus, even with vaccination during that period, due to the mothers antibodies potential to override them creating a window of susceptibility in the puppies.  As dog trainers we were told that the puppy should be kept away from other dogs and places, basically kept at home, until at least 4 months of age.  Now, looking at that, we realize we are potentially missing out on our prime period for imprinting, what should we do?
I believe that the imprinting is very important to the emotional health of the dog and should take precedence.  Using lower risk environments and dogs we know or that are immunized and meeting the puppy in low risk places such as at the other dog(s) house and not the vet or dog park.
Take that puppy everywhere!  Carry him around town, in a cart at Home Depot, let him see the world.  Lots of different dogs, people, bicycles, skate boards, little kids, fire trucks, tractors, umbrellas and walk on different surfaces.  Play noise off YouTube or cds with things like thunderstorm, heavy equipment, baby’s crying, kids screaming to acclimate them to these sounds.  How many things can you expose him to safely and without overwhelming or scaring him?  This lays the foundation for his life.
Puppies also need to learn that separation in okay and not a scary thing.  That you are indeed coming back, and won’t be gone long.  I started Willow on this practice with use of the crate and also exercise pen, immediately. I did not let her follow me, or the other dogs, everywhere in the house.  This very quickly helped her learn that our being out of sight wasn’t a scary event and also helped with housebreaking.  She has become a very independent puppy in a very short time!  She plays well by herself, without being overly needy or busy.  She has learned to self calm by the use of crate at night and nap time and the exercise pen during the day.  She has slept thru the night within two weeks of getting her.
For car rides she is crated so she has learned how to be still and lie quietly during our curvy mountain road rides without getting motion sickness.
So if you want a puppy, go for it!  Pick a reputable breeder if you want a purebred or rescue.  Avoid puppy mills or backyard breeders who breed unhealthy and emotionally troubled dogs.  In other words, know your breeder by researching them thoroughly.  Please do not adopt litter mates, there are many problems associated with that as well.  Do the leg work up front and you’ll have a great family member for life!
By Nan Long, APDT
Now And Zen Dog Training

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