Animal shelters and kennel environments are less than ideal living situations for puppies. Because the puppies are not living with a family or in the comfort of a home, shelters are inherently stressful and generally are not good places for puppy socialization.
Puppy development stages
To help puppies grow up happy and healthy, it’s important to be aware of what they need at each phase in their development. Here is a quick summary of the stages of puppy development, starting at birth up to two years old.
Neonatal stage and dependence on mother dog: birth to 2 weeks
Transitional stage, development of senses,weaning: 2-4 weeks
Training, vaccinations and socialization: 3-16 weeks
Establishing hierarchy within the group: 4-6 months
Adolescent stage and socialization: 6-12 months
Potty training a puppy
When you get a new puppy or dog, you’ll need to show him or her what is acceptable in your home. Different people may have different rules: Some want to train their dogs to eliminate in litter trays or on paper, while others want all “bathroom” business to occur outdoors. For your dog to know what you want, you have to establish a predictable routine.
Potty training your dog or puppy
What do I need to know about potty training a puppy?
How long does house-training take?
How do I deal with “accidents”?
How to socialize a puppy
If a puppy is exhibiting behaviors like growling, snapping or biting, there’s a good chance those behaviors can be reversed by implementing a comprehensive positive socialization plan while the puppy is still young. An adult dog who remains fearful due to lack of socialization can be helped through systematic desensitization and counter-conditioning, but the process can be lengthy and could be a lifelong project. That’s why it’s so important to socialize dogs while they are young.
How to socialize a puppy
Introducing foster puppies to other dogs
Beginning at weeks three to seven, puppies learn to feel safe and happy around other dogs. Puppies between three and seven weeks of age should be kept with at least one other puppy and, ideally, with their mother. There are exceptions to this rule, though. For instance, a mother dog who is very aggressive toward humans is likely teaching her pups to behave fearfully toward humans, so she might not be the best role model in this regard.
Protecting puppies from disease
How much “street exposure” should you give your foster puppies? Because puppies are vulnerable to certain diseases (such as parvo, distemper and hepatitis), you’ll want to avoid public places like sidewalks and parks frequented by other dogs. It is a good idea, however, to take puppies on car rides and carry them around in public, so they can experience the world while having minimal exposure to pathogens. When the puppies are eight weeks old, new people and other animals who are healthy, vaccinated and friendly can come to your home, and you can work on socializing your puppies to them. Ask all new people to wash their hands before handling puppies under 12 weeks of age.
Socializing puppies to people
Lots of positive exposure to people is the most important part of puppy socialization. There are several aspects of human exposure that must be provided:
Preventing "resource guarding"
To help prevent your foster puppies from guarding food and other resources from humans, you’ll want to teach them that it’s not necessary to guard these things. To that end, practice each of these exercises several times per day with all puppies:
Good experiences for puppies
When puppies are between the ages of three and twenty weeks, they should be exposed to a variety of sounds, scents, surfaces and objects. The idea is to help the puppies become comfortable with typical experiences they will have in their lives as adult dogs. This is another reason that a foster home is preferable to a shelter for most puppies, since shelters don’t allow exposure to normal household stimuli.
Introduce the dog to a variety of:
People of various ages (newly walking toddlers, 2 year olds, teenagers, etc.)
Differences in people (loud people, quiet people, men/women, boys/girls, different ethnicities, people using oxygen machines / walkers / wheelchairs, groups of people, etc.
People doing different things (singing, dancing, clapping, jumping, hopping, whistling, jogging, cooking, etc.)
People wearing different things (hats, glasses, sunglasses, a helmet, coats with hood up, gloves, masks, etc.)
Household activity (vacuum, broom, mop, TV, radio, noise-making toys, umbrella, plastic bags, dog brush, etc.)
Experiences (riding in cars, walking on different flooring, using stairs, sitting at coffee shop with you, elevator, etc.)
We asked HSH Foster Mom, Lindsay Marimen for some advice:
Any advice for crate training your fosters?
Fostering when you already have dogs at home: