Improving Puppy Behavior Using a New Standardized Socialization Program

Scientific Journal Articles

Studies identifying the underlying determinants of adult dog behavior and highlighting successful methods of early intervention are essential to reduce and ultimately prevent problem behaviors developing. The aim of this research was to create and assess the impact of a new nest socialization program. The new program was designed to: 1) provide a highly effective socialization experience, 2) be quick and easy to complete and 3) utilize low cost materials. The program was created by combining existing nest stimulation theories with young puppy developmental stages. As such the introduction and intensity of each socialization stimulus was tailored to mirror puppy physiological and behavioral development from birth to six weeks of age. The new socialization program was evaluated using six litters raised under standardized conditions. The impact of the program was measured using a practical puppy behavioral assessment at six weeks of age and an eight-month dog handler behavioral questionnaire. Results showed a significant positive effect of the new socialization program on puppy behavioral development, which persisted throughout the first year of life. Puppies that received the program had more favorable scores in a six-week practical assessment (P ≪ 0.01) and an eight-month dog handler questionnaire for separation-related behavior (P ≪ 0.01), distraction (P ≪ 0.01), general anxiety (P = 0.02) and body sensitivity (P = 0.03). This is the first socialization program tailored to the developmental stage of puppies from birth to six weeks of age to demonstrate measurable, long-term effects on individual dog behavioral traits. Results will be of interest to working and assistance dog organizations, animal shelters and pet dog breeders.

Vaterlaws-Whiteside, H. and Hartmann, A. (2017). Improving puppy behavior using a new standardized socialization program. Animal Behaviour Science, 197, 55-61. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2017.08.003

Photo: iStock.com/K_Thalhofer

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Topic(s): Behavior, Breeder Resource, Socialization