7-12wks continued ...


It is during the fourth critical period that puppies can develop what is generally referred to as “hand shyness” as a result of owners who feel that striking a puppy is the only way to discipline it. A puppy’s environment should give him a sense of security. Being smacked around with rolled newspaper or human hands certainly will not achieve this.

Mild restrictions should be imposed – in such as not allowing the puppy to chew furniture, shoes, etc and these mild restrictions could have the additional value of raising tolerance levels. Failure to discipline and failure to impose mild restrictions could have a serious effect on the puppy’s upbringing and have a detrimental effect on the dog’s compatibility within the family later in life.

In human society we have what is known as pre-school for our children. The purpose of pre-school is to prepare a child emotionally for the learning that will take place later. Playschool and pre-school classes are, in effect, a training ground to teach children how to learn. The fourth critical period is the puppy’s pre-school. If a puppy is taught how to learn during the fourth critical period his actual formal schooling (which can take place during or after the fifth critical period) will be more successful. A puppy given pre-school training during the fourth critical period will be able to learn more than a puppy that does not have pre-school experience.

Although commands such as “come” “sit” “stay” “down” and “no” are invaluable when taught during the fourth critical period, perhaps the most important single response during that period is learning to fetch. Puppies who cannot – or will not – learn to fetch are dropped from guide dog programs. Moreover, dogs being trained to perform narcotic detection duties must first be proficient at retrieving. The significance of fetching cannot be over-emphasised. Explaining how such a game expands a puppy’s mind and what willingness to fetch reveals about a puppy would Require a book in itself. Learning to fetch in the fourth critical period can spell success or failure in your dog’s desire and ability to work for you. The term “work” refers to those duties which involve specialised training.

Failure to learn fetching does not mean that a dog will not be able to learn to respond to commands for everyday obedience but stop and think for a moment, if a dog is not smart enough to learn to fetch how then can he be expected to manage the more complex tasks of hunting, retrieving game, pulling a sled, working stock, guarding a house, or detecting bombs.