If your dog is constantly barking at young children or keeps jumping on the kitchen table to bite off a cake, we have bad news for you: Breaking this behavior can be very difficult. Not impossible, but still difficult.
“The longer a dog exhibits an undesirable behavior, the more difficult it is to change that behavior,” dog trainer Martin Rotter told Business Insider Germany.
Because studies show that dogs later find it difficult to shake off the behavior that they acquired as puppies and young dogs. “In terms of keeping the dog, it is important that you communicate well with the puppy and get used to many environmental stimuli. If, for example, the puppy does not know anything other than to procrastinate during this important time, and therefore behaves anxiously and insecurely, you will only be able to to change this behavior to a limited extent,” says Rutter. Therefore, as a dog owner, you should not fall into the trap of thinking that as a puppy, the dog should only get used to the owner before he later gets to know other people.
Dogs should be used by different types of people
Biologist John Bradshaw wrote in his book In Defense of Dogs: “Dogs are not friendly to humans.” They will only get used to people in a positive way if they meet friendly people in the first few weeks of their lives.
In their study in the 1960s, researchers at the Roscoe B. Jackson Memorial Laboratory found that dogs after 12 weeks of life could no longer be used with people in a way that would allow them to enjoy normal human-canine relationships. For the experiment, puppies were isolated with their mothers for the first 14 weeks of their lives, without any contact with humans. Each puppy was taken out of isolation at a different time and spent a week with the people. The researchers came to the conclusion that it only makes sense to socialize puppies from the third week, and not before.
From the fifth week, puppies are already critical of people, but quickly get used to them. Those dogs that have been in isolation for ten weeks get close to people, but find it very difficult to get used to the leash. And those who were kept in isolation for 14 weeks, never adapted to people — even after months of intense training. Lack of contact with people is enough to socialize the puppies.
There is a sensitive stage in dogs
We also know from previous animal studies that behaviors acquired by animals during this time period, called the sensitive period, are difficult to correct later. If the puppies are exposed to an unexpected messy environment during these weeks, they may develop into anxious adult dogs.
This critical window should also be the time taken to accustom a dog to a cat, for example, if you own both animals. It is similar with people: in order for the dog not to criticize one gender or children, for example, he must already get used to different people in this important window of time as a puppy, and not just the owner. “This is why owners often have problems with dogs from puppy farms and pet stores; dogs’ concept of how the human race looks and behaves is very limited,” Bradshaw says in his book.
According to his theory, dogs have the ability to get used to what he calls different spaces. This is the world of dogs in the first place. Dogs also need to learn how to interact with dogs, but most of the time they learn this by interacting with their mothers and siblings. If the puppy is socialized early enough, there is also the human world, or even the world of children or cats. Your dog will behave a little differently in each room. These voids are formed in the sensitive phase.
Making mistakes in dogs is human
According to Bradshaw, the next time, the youth stage, is just as important as the first critical weeks. “What a dog experiences during this time can forever shape its personality.” It is the stage when dogs apply the behaviors they learned as puppies to the environment. It’s also the time Bradshaw says dogs should learn that leaving them indoors alone for a few hours isn’t a disaster, although he stresses that there aren’t any studies to support this assumption.
Also read: “These 3 Training Mistakes Are Hurting Your Dog More Than Others, Says Martin Rütter”
Of course, as a dog owner, you don’t have to feel the need to do everything right in the first few weeks, or else your dog’s life will be disrupted. Or as Martin Root says: “Make mistakes are human. A mistake sets you back a bit in the training plan. However, if you then build the additional training so that mistakes don’t happen again, it will have no major implications, neither on the training nor on the relationship between The human and the dog.