If there is ONE takeaway about properly raising a Barrett puppy, let it be proper socialization.
While genetics play a key role in a puppy’s temperament and attitude, how your puppy grows up, and who he or she becomes is largely shaped through enrichment, socialization, and exposure.
In the first eight weeks of your puppy’s life, we socialize the bejeezus out of them. By day 56, the puppies will have had 1:1 time, been on car rides, walked on a leash, slept in a crate, met a bunch of strangers, and been “left alone.” From day 57 to about day 5,475, it’s up to the new owner to pickup the torch and continue what we’ve started.
The most critical part of socialization for the new owner is day 57 through day 112 (16 weeks). This period covers a critical canine development window where your puppy is most likely to be able to soak in new experiences and bank them into long-term memory for life.
Why is this important?
After this development window closes, dogs enter another stage where new experiences are not as welcome; we call this the secondary fear period. This period may last a few months, and when dogs come out the other side, what’s in their memory bank is what they’ll draw from to frame their world outlook. More importantly, and especially for Weimaraners, what’s not in their memory bank is typically met with suspicion, fear, and (negative) reaction.
Okay, so what does this mean?
Let’s talk about bicycles for a moment. If a puppy is properly exposed to someone riding a bicycle at the age of 13 weeks, and understands that bicycles (and their riders) are nothing to be afraid of and nothing to be predatory over, that experience goes into the memory bank as a positive experience. Fast forward to the age of 2 when the dog is out on a remote trail, off-leash hiking with his owner and all of a sudden, out of nowhere comes a mountain biker, using the same trail… What’s the dog supposed to do?
If he understands that bicycles and their riders are nothing to worry about, he may watch the biker go by and carry on.
Unfortunately, and especially for dogs who have high prey drives (Malinois, German Shepherds, Weimaraners, etc.), without this understanding, their instinct may cause them to chase… to bark… to react… and in some cases, to bite.
Sadly, this happens all the time, not just with Weimaraners, but dogs in general. While we haven’t scientifically deduced how much of this is due to lack of training and socialization, we can bet that it’s a lot. And it’s preventable.
Raising Cane – Week 8 through Week 12
A message to new Barrett puppy owners:
Your new puppy is a sponge! All he wants is for you to interact with him, teach him, train him, show him the world, and be his best buddy. Don’t look at enrichment, socialization, and exposure as a chore, but instead see it as bonding time between the two of you, and a game plan for making him the best dog he can be. This will pay off in spades and you’ll end up with people complimenting you on what a great dog you have for the next decade and beyond.
Need some guidance? Follow the Raising Cane micro-blog to see how another Barrett puppy is getting socialized, and print out a copy of the Barrett Puppy Socialization Checklist for a list of what to do.
- AKC – Puppy Socialization: Why, When, and How to Do It Right
- Dr. Jen’s Dog Blog – Socializing Your Puppy – Why Later is Too Late