The Socialization Period begins at approximately 3 weeks of age and lasts until about 12 weeks. This is the most important period in the puppies' lives, with the period from 3 weeks to about 7 or 8 weeks being especially critical. Puppies should be introduced to as many experiences as possible during this time. Livestock Guardian Dog puppies should be spending as much time with livestock as possible during this time, as well. A breeder that ignores the Socialization Period is effectively stunting the puppies' development. These puppies will never live up to their full potential. A breeder that works to give the puppies a rich, stimulating environment (including livestock exposure for LGD puppies) is setting the puppies up for maximum success in life. For more information about the Socialization Period in puppies see the links below:
Because our puppies live outside with livestock their toys don't last very long, therefore we usually need to buy new ones a lot. On my way into Petsmart I decided to check Marshalls first. Score! I hit the jackpot of toys and other enrichment items, for a lot less than I would have spent at Petsmart.
The puppies are introduced to at least one new item or experience each day. This includes toys but all kinds of other items can be used, too. Even live animals like kittens make great novel stimulus experiences. Creativity is the key!
Introductions to new people should begin during the Socialization Period.
A rubber welcome mat and a bathroom rug provide novel tactile stimulation for the puppies while a cat toy provides visual and tactile stimulation. Bringing the puppies out of the whelping box provides even more stimulation. And allows me to change the bedding!
Audio stimulus is also important during the Socialization Period. We use an Amazon Fire TV and an Apple Home Pod to provide a wide variety of sounds for the puppies. We play music such as lullabies, classical music, Disney Tunes, children's songs (sung by children so the puppies hear children's voices) and more. We also play all kinds of "habituation sounds" such as household sounds, traffic sounds, animal sounds, thunderstorms and more. We sometimes play movies which allows the puppies to hear a variety of voices and other sounds. And we have a baby monitor with the receiver in the barn and the parent unit in the puppy parlor, so that the puppies hear all the barn sounds going on outside. And of course they hear all the comings and goings of humans and the goats in and around the Puppy Parlor, as well.
Three weeks old is the perfect time to start integrating the puppies with livestock. Their eyes and ears are fully open, they are mobile, adventurous and curious about the world and have not yet entered their first fear period. We begin by putting the puppies outdoors for a period during the day in a puppy playpen where they can see and hear the goats and nearby dogs and other animals, as well as all the farm sounds and traffic going by. Waiting longer than this to socialize the puppies to livestock would be wasting valuable time. Every moment counts when you are breeding great (and not just good) dogs.
Usually close to this time the puppies start climbing out of the whelping box and can begin to navigate the dog doors, with help and modification. Usually before this week is over we set things up so they can start going inside and outside at will. (More on that later.) We start by giving them a small area (so they don't get lost) and expand it over time until they have the run of the Puppy Parlor Pasture with the goats.
This truly is what Jane Killion, the author of Puppy Culture, calls "The Race Against Nature."
Author Hi I'm Kim. I love all animals but goats and dogs are my favorites so I built a business around them, breeding miniature dairy goats and Maremma Sheepdogs. I love sharing my passion and knowelege of these amazing creatures with others.