Puppies are not supposed to be “obedient”, focused, patient or calm…that’s a houseplant you’re thinking of…
Different areas of the brain, so different abilities, develop along different timelines in young puppies. Puppy’s behaviour can provide us with insight about how development is proceeding. For the brain to develop normally, it must be challenged, experiencing appropriate feedback from puppy’s world. (Stolzlechner et al, 2022)
But here’s the problem. These processes are time dependent. The brain must be exposed to certain types of challenge, providing feedback from their world, at particular developmental stages. (Hubel & Wiesel 1970)
The puppy’s behaviour informs of where they are in terms of development, and we must respond accordingly with appropriate challenge to support and enhance that development.
While teaching and learning are certainly important for young puppies, concentrating on our human constructs and expectations, such as ‘obedience’, is not a good use of our time. We have limited time to make sure we support puppy in developing complex skills and tendencies through appropriate exposure. (Cutler et al, 2017)
There are many contributors to these processes, including puppy’s genetic background, and related effects, early exposure, particularly that in puppy’s first five weeks, and clues from the behavioural tendencies of related individuals.
This early work we implement in puppy’s first weeks and months are among the foundations upon which your dog’s adult behaviour is built. We get the payoff months and years later. (Puurunen et al, 2020)
We take an enrichment approach to behavioural development, which is often different from “socialisation” lists, puppy classes and play groups.
Just like children, puppies need time early on (their first weeks) to develop skills that will support them throughout life (McEvoy et al, 2022). Prioritising ‘academics’ at this time misses the mark.
If you were hoping to have a patient, obedient, focused, non-biting, appropriate toileting and chewing, calm wee-beastie, a puppy may not be for you …and if you wish for those things in an adult dog, prioritising behavioural development with appropriate challenge, social & environmental exposure in their first weeks is where you start.