There is a very important and sensitive time period that spans between 3 and 12 weeks of age, where the puppy's personality can be shaped and moulded.
It is the true socialisation period.
Anything one does after 12 weeks in terms of further socialisation is important, of course, and will have a further impact, but in no way is the effect on the puppy's personality as profound as that which can be achieved in the sensitive period.
This is the philosophy of the Puppy Culture program, developed by Jane Killion, to make the most of the puppies developmental stage in each week of life. The aim is to provide the puppy with 'life skills' in dealing with new situations, coping with stress, frustration and fear, and becoming an 'enrichment seeker'. This means that the puppy embraces new experiences and views them as inherently positive events rather than something to be feared and avoided.
To ensure we provide our puppies with the best possible start in life, we follow the week-by-week Puppy Culture socialisation program.
The Puppy Culture website is a very useful resource for both breeders and puppy owners, and it is definitely worth a look.
There is a lot of relevant information on puppy rearing, training, and general behavioural advice for dog owners, including books written by Jane Killion.
As part of the puppies' education, we use a series of 'desensitisation' CD's, which we start playing as soon as the puppies can hear.
There are many CD's (and apps, on iTunes for example) that are aimed at exposing the puppies to a range of different noises and sounds. They are not only useful for breeders, but also for puppy and dog owners, as they can continue the puppies' education after they go to their forever homes.
We use a German series of CD's called 'Nur Keine Panik'.
The reason we like it is because the noises are hidden, at least initially, under soothing music, and only gradually emerge and become louder. So it is a much more subliminal process.
How our puppies are reared
One of the most important reasons for buying your puppy from a responsible breeder is the effort invested in rearing the litter.
Raising puppies is not just about ensuring that they get enough food, are wormed, vaccinated and microchipped.
Of course puppies will come with a certain genetic predisposition, both physically and in terms of temperament. But the question of Nature vs Nurture is actually the wrong question to ask.
We now know that environmental factors can impact on which genes are switched on and expressed, and which remain turned off and dormant- that is how our environment interacts with our genes. This process is called epigenetics.
How a puppy is brought up, from the very beginning, starting with the care for the pregnant mum through to how they are born, whether they are nursed by mum or bottle fed, how they are reared, fed, handled and stimulated, can make a difference to how this puppy's genetic predisposition is expressed.