The Puppy Olympics are almost here!
8 weeks ago, on April 1st 2016, our foster dog Harlie gave birth to 11 tiny puppies. WOOFS! has fostered many pregnant moms and their puppies over the past 13 years, but this time we decided to do something different. We assigned each puppy a WOOFS! trainer. Each trainer was responsible for their pups early socialization and training. The results of these efforts will be on display at the Puppy Olympics on June 3rd. The puppies will be 9 weeks old.
We are doing this for one reason only: the importance of early socialization. The most important time in a dogs life is between 3 and 16 weeks of age. This is known as a puppies critical socialization period. During this time a puppies brain is very plastic and is programmed to be open and accepting of new experiences. After this period a puppies brain changes and is programmed to be much more wary of new things. This means that it is critical to expose a young puppy to as many positive experiences as possible before the age of 3 to 4 months. Since most of this time passes before the puppy gets into their new home, it is critical that the caretaker of young puppies has a robust socialization plan.
So what did we do? This puppies were taught many things. We taught them basic sits and downs and we started them on crate training. We exposed them to new places, people, animals and experiences. Some of them have been to softball games. Some have been to different vet offices. Some can do puppy agility equipment and some have played with children.
WHAT they did does not matter. The fact that they did THINGS is what was important. A puppy that has many interesting experiences during this critical time will be more likely to adapt to new experiences throughout their lives. Perhaps this reduces anxiety? A puppy that learns that training is fun and rewarding is likely to be a lifetime learner. Perhaps becoming very well trained? A puppy who thinks new people are awesome might be less likely to ever bite someone. The bottom line is that early socialization gives the puppy the best possible chance at a long and happy life.
We invite you to come and see what we have done with these pups. The Puppy Olympics will be held on Friday June 3rd at 7:30 pm at the WOOFS! Shirlington campus. Admission is free but registration is required. Space is limited -- register now!
You can also view what we have been doing for the past 8 weeks on our Puppy Olympics Facebook group.
Finally, you can learn more about early socialization from Operation Socialization.
Many thanks to the Animal Welfare League of Arlington for rescuing a very pregnant Harlie and trusting us with her pups. They do a fantastic job. A huge shout out to the WOOFS! trainers who volunteered countless hours to help these puppies have the best chance in life. They are an amazing group of people.