The next few weeks with your puppy will shape how he matures and how his personality develops. A good breeder will have spent a lot of time to ensure that the puppy you have taken home is well balanced and well adjusted - the rest is now up to you. Below is a summary of socialization activities and the different periods a puppy will go through. If possible try to take your puppy to a puppy kindergarten and then follow that with a more formal obedience course. It is essential that you get your pup "out and about" over the next few weeks.
At around eight to ten weeks the puppy goes through a fear period where it is extremely susceptible to physical and psychological trauma, the effects of which may be permanent and irreversible. This makes the ideal time to adopt a puppy at between seven and eight weeks of age. At this age, the pup is capable of forming strong relationships with both dogs and human beings, though most breeders will not allow a puppy to leave prior to 8 weeks of age unless it is to a trusted, experienced doggy home.
Every effort should be made to fully socialize the dog, that is, socialize it beyond the normal casual encounters with people. It is highly recommended that you develop a program that will expose the dog to a wide range of different sights, sounds, and textural feelings, both environmentally and socially.
Textures: could include pavement, rugs, cement, sand, grass, gravel, linoleum and dirt.
Sights: would include trees, insects, other animals (horses, cows, chickens etc), men with beards, women with hats, people in wheelchairs, people with canes, children, traffic, planes, trains, pedestrian traffic, long grass, lawns, thick scrub.
Sounds: may include traffic, airplanes, trains, railroad crossing signals, construction and the sound of children playing, music, normal household sounds etc.
At the same time, further increase the environment enrichment of the puppy's nest or den, by adding new toys, a Kong, a piece of heavy rope, or a ball with a bell in it. Suspend a rubber tug ring at the puppy's eye level so it can pull on it, or bat it.
The greater the exposure you can give your dog during this critical period, the more it will lead to improved social flexibility, social communication, emotional stability and trainability.
At ten to sixteen weeks of age every attempt should be made to take your dog to a puppy class. The classes should be using training methods that are based on positive rewarded responses. Classes should include socialization and play periods with other puppies, children and adults. Puppies should learn to be handled and touched by adults and children. The whole family should participate in the puppy class. The class should be conducted in an atmosphere of fun and happiness. Rewards should be used extravagantly. Puppy class should be fun for puppy and family. Make sure that the person running the class is very experienced and will supervise the puppies closely when they are playing off lead, as you do not want your pup to be bullies, or even be the bully. If you puppy is a little scared, the instructor should be able to help him out of his shell. If all efforts are made from the time the puppies are born, the breeder does his part in socializing them and if the new owner does his part in socializing his puppy, the results will be a bond between you and your pet that will increase in strength and intensity.
You will have a relationship that you can be proud of and enjoy for the life of your chosen pet.
Critical periods in your puppies psychological growth:
0 to 7 Weeks
Neonatal, Transition, Awareness, and Canine Socialization. Puppy is with mother and litter mates. During this period, puppy learns about social interaction, play, and inhibiting aggression from mother and litter mates. Puppies must stay with their mother and litter mates during this critical period. Puppies learn the most important lesson in their lives--they learn to accept discipline.
7 to 12 Weeks
Human Socialization Period. The puppy now has the brain waves of an adult dog, but his attention span is short. This period is when the most rapid learning occurs. Learning at this age is permanent so this is a perfect time to start training. Also, this is the ideal time to introduce the puppy to things that will play an important part in his life. Introduce the puppy to different people, places, animals, and sounds in a positive, non-threatening way.
8 to 10 / 11 Weeks
Fear Imprint Period. Avoid frightening the puppy during this period. Any traumatic, frightening or painful experience will have a more lasting effect on the puppy than if it occurred at any other time in its life.
13 to 16 Weeks
Seniority Classification Period or The Age of Cutting. Puppy cuts teeth and apron strings! Puppy begins testing who is going to be pack leader. You must discourage any and all biting because such biting is a sign of dominance! It is important that you are a strong and consistent leader. Formal training must begin. Such training will help you establish your leadership.
4 to 8 Months
Play Instinct Period. Flight Instinct Period. Puppy may wander and ignore you. It is very important that you keep the puppy on a leash at this time! The way that you handle the puppy at this time determines if the puppy will come to you when called. At about 4-1/2 months, the puppy loses his milk teeth and gets his adult teeth. That's when puppy begins serious chewing! A dog's teeth don't set in his jaw until between 6 and 10 months. During this time, the puppy has a physical need to exercise his mouth by chewing.
6 to 14 Months
Second Fear Imprint Period or Fear of New Situations Period. Dog again shows fear of new situations and even familiar situations. Dog may be reluctant to approach someone or something new. It is important that you are patient and act very matter of fact in these situations. Never force the dog to face the situation. DO NOT pet the frightened puppy or talk in soothing tones. The puppy will interpret such responses as praise for being frightened. Training will help improve the dog's confidence.
1 to 4 Years
Maturity Period. You may encounter increased aggression and renewed testing for dominance, but because you have spent a lot of time with your Boxer, this will not present a problem at all - in fact you will probably hardly notice this, it is just something to keep in mind. Continue to train your dog during this period. Your dog may have another fear period between 12 - 16 months of age.
Regardless of your reason for acquiring a puppy, you'll have to win it over. You, not your dog, will have to be the leader of the pack if your pup is to develop into a well-mannered family member instead of a burden. Dominance and alpha behavior are important concepts that every dog owner should comprehend.
Dogs are animals, not human beings. They are pack animals by nature. Every pack has a leader, known as the alpha animal, which dominates and leads the other members of the pack. The alpha is the boss who makes decisions for the entire pack. Usually the pack will have an alpha male and an alpha female. All the other members of the pack form a hierarchy of dominance and submission where everyone has a place.
In your home, you and your family become your dog's pack, as do any other dogs you may have. It is your responsibility to establish yourself in the alpha position. If you fail to do this, your dog will do it as a natural behaviour. Many people assume that they are automatically in charge just because humans are superior to animals. But are you really the pack leader? Does your dog know it?
Being the pack leader does not mean you have to be big and aggressive. Nor does it mean that there has to be a battle of wills after which you are the victor. Anyone can be the pack leader. It is an attitude an air of authority. It is the basis for mutual respect, and provides the building blocks of communication between the two of you.