Do you think there are any critical periods for learning development in dogs?

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#1
I have heard about certain critical periods for human children to learn things such as a second language and if it is not done by the age of 6? (Don't remember exactly the age) it becomes MUCH more difficult for them to become fluent. There are also other critical periods for learning other things, such as with certain motor skills.

This journal article explains a little about what I am talking about and the one of the most common case that is discussed in my psych classes about the girl Genie.
http://www.bcs.rochester.edu/people/newport/Newport-ECS-A0506.PDF

So, do you think there are any critical periods where it makes dogs easier to learn a certain thing? And much more difficult, or even impossible, to learn if outside of that critical period?

(I am sorry for my questions like these, I really enjoy psychological things.. If you guys don't like them I will stop asking thes type of questions and just ponder them in my own mind)
 

Elrohwen

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#2
Yes, like people, dogs learn much faster as puppies while their brains are developing. Not that they can't learn those things as adults, but they are in a n ideal learning state as pups. There is also a critical socialization period where they need to be introduced to people, other dogs, etc. A dog who is completely isolated or feral during this period is probably never going to integrate easily into life with people

All baby animals learn better than adults. It's a critical time for them to be curious about their environment and learn. Then as adults most wild animals become much more cautious to aid in their survival. Dogs (and humans) are more domesticated and seem to remain curious for longer, but all mammals are pretty similar.
 
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#3
Yes, I was wondering about socialization, I wonder what ages the critical period is for this? Do you know of any studies or articles that have discussed critical periods in dogs?
 

Elrohwen

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#4
There have definitely been studies done, but I don't have links to them unfortunately. There have also been interesting studies on the difference in socialization periods between wolves and dogs.

ETA: 16 weeks old is generally quoted as the end of the socialization window.
 
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samshine

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#6
socialization periods

Diamonds in the Ruff has a lot of info in their behavior FAQs section. Here is one on early socialization. http://www.diamondsintheruff.com/#!earlysocialization/c1e7

The optimum socialization time is up until 12 weeks. After that the window of socialization begins to close and is just about over at 16 weeks. That does not mean everything is set in stone at 16 weeks. Much training and behavior modification can happen after that age. But it would more properly be called desensitization.

The difference is that socialization that happens early becomes the dog's default. If they learn to accept cats and toddlers during that time then it will be second nature for them to accept them for the rest of their lives. If they learn it later through desensitization, it is a longer training process and if exposure/training don't happen for a period of time the dog is likely to regress.
 
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That is good to know. I always stress to people how important it is that a they look at not only what dogs are paired together but also the process that the breeder goes through to raise the puppies befor sending them home.

But was wondering about breeders who kept the puppies until 12 weeks or more and how that would play into socialization critical periods, and about vaccination scheduled for puppies vs. socializing.

My mom was always paranoid about a puppy being anywhere but inside our house until they had all their shots, but I know you could bring them to a few other places that could be reasonably safe and still able to socialize a puppy.
 

Elrohwen

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#8
I don't prefer to leave puppies with the breeder until 12 weeks, unless the breeder is doing a crazy amout of socializing. Its so hard to socialize an I tire litter individually, so I would rather take the puppy at 8 weeks and be able to dedicate the time to it myself.

I also don't isolate until vaccines are done. I had my puppy out and about when I got him at 9 weeks. However, my area has an almost non-existent risk of parvo and I took him out on my vet's recommendation. I'm all about safety, but I don't think it's a good idea to isolate puppies in the house until the socialization window has basically closed.
 

StillandSilent

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Gambit was a feral puppy born to a feral mother. The first time human hands touched him, he was already 18-20 weeks old, way past the critical period for socializing.

It shows. I've had him for 4 years now, and he will be five in May. Despite constant work, positive reinforcement, working with very good trainers and lots of remedial socialization, he is not a normal dog. He will never be a normal dog.

He has improved significantly with meeting new people, but that means he still spends the first three days glaring, barking, and running away, instead of the three weeks it took when I first got him. I actually cried when he accepted a new coworker after a few days. He can not go to Petsmart, or walking downtown, or to the park or river because he just can't handle it.

I was told to think of him like those babies that came out of orphanages in the 90's who had never been held, or spoken to, or kissed. They were just roughly changed once a day and a bottle was propped in their mouths. The babies brains actually atrophied, and the correct neural pathways failed to form due to lack of stimulation and care. Gambit is every bit as brain damaged, and it is hard, if not downright impossible, for the brain to heal itself.
 
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#10
Yes, I do not think I would go through a breeder that required the dog to be held until 12 weeks.

I also will definitely be socializing a future puppy way more, even before they are done with shots. But I will definitely be careful. What are some good places that are reasonably safe to bring a puppy to socialize them to a variety of people/dogs before they have finished all their shots?

I recently got very frustrated with someone at my apartment who got a 6 week old beagle puppy (and it was TINY) and he kept bringing it out to the dog park area... and I couldn't stop thinking about how that was such a bad idea... if one dog had prey drive and saw this small little bunny of a dog bouncing around, or you know.. its a college town, there are likely some people don't vaccinate or keep up on the vaccinations, and the puppy obviously hasn't finished his vaccines..
 

monkeys23

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#11
Absolutely. Scout was born out of a hoarding bust situation and her first owner adopted her when she was 12-13wks old. It definitely shows in major ways.
 

DJEtzel

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#12
Totally! This is the period when I introduce new surfaces, weird things, crazy sounds and training principles - how to learn, shaping, luring, etc. Riding in a car, walking on a leash, grooming, swimming, and being around TONS of other dogs and high energy environments in the safest way possible.

Socialization is most likely to work in this period up until 16 weeks usually, so if you have a dog who needs a lot of it, it's the best time usually.

Personally, I will always try to find breeds/lines and pick puppies that are very confident from the get-go. I want a genetically sound and stable dog right off the bat - I don't want to have to coax that out of another dog. Between a few of my dogs, fosters, working at kennels - I just hate having to do it, and get dogs over fears or uncertainties. I dealt with that with Recon and fear periods as well for well over a year, it just takes it out of you after a while. Having Patton and Pilot both be very stable and confident puppies was a huge relief to me.

Fwiw, I brought Patton home at 12 weeks and Recon home at 7 weeks. I think genetics makes a bigger difference 9 times out of 10.
 

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