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Stages of Development and Socialisation

A dog is not a toy, a plaything, an ego trip, or a child substitute. The dog has been the companion of man for thousands of years but he retains all the instinctive behaviour of his wild ancestors. Today with our changing society and subsequent stress we tend to forget that dogs are not humans but a different species. A species that comes from a social structure similar to man and hence can adapt to living with man provided that certain needs are met.

It is vital, if you are to have a happy rewarding relationship with your dog that YOU are the pack leader. A dog sees a weak person as one who is not worthy of respect and he will take over the lead position. We all know dogs that run their various households - the dog wants a walk, the dog want his dinner, the dog does not like you to sit there, the dog does not like Auntie Jessie etc. These dogs have taken the leadership in their households, This may not be a problem. BUT allow a ROTTWEILER to call the tune and you are asking for trouble. If you are in the habit of allowing the dog to dictate to you, e.g., who sits where. You cannot blame the dog when, if he is pulled off his chair and dragged outside, he challenges your right to demand this action of him. You say "The dog growled at me". Of course he did; you have given him every reason to believe that he is in charge so why shouldn't he challenge a threat to his position.

The size of a Rottweiler coupled with his strength of character will cause problems right from the time you take your puppy home if you do not establish yourself as the pack leader in your household. The dog will be quite happy with what ever position he is allotted. For household harmony that position should be at the bottom of the human pack. Then the dog respects you and all the family. Current problems overseas are mainly caused by lack of understanding of the above concept. The Rottweiler is a wonderful companion / guard, providing he is in the hands of a responsible caring owner who has taken the trouble to investigate the Character of the Breed and to learn about the drives and instincts that all dogs are born with, i.e., inherited drives and behaviour. This is set and cannot be changed by man, only modified for man's use.

THE AIM OF SOCIALISATION

To teach the dog those things he would not learn unless instructed, i.e., not to wet in the house and all other social activities which are not inherent in the dog but necessary for him to fit into our society.

To inhibit and channel those natural activities that are instinctive to the dog. Again so he can become a useful member of society and contented to use his instinct in a positive way, i.e., to fetch articles on command and bring them to his owner, not to drag the washing off the line and bury them.

 Socialisation is continuous throughout the life of the dog, but the first 16 weeks is vital. Miss taking the time during this period to introduce your pup to various situations in a non stressful way and you will never have the dog you could have had.

CRITICAL PERIOD

Birth to 7 weeks. Puppies learn to accept discipline from their Dam and to interact with their litter mates. They learn to be functional animals within the pack. To give correct signals and responses to other dogs.

 SOCIALISATION PERIOD

7 to 12 weeks. At this age the dog is capable of learning anything as its brain has the capacity of an adult dog. This is a valuable period and should not be wasted. Spend as much time as you can introducing your dog to all the things he will encounter during his lifetime. Introduce him to other animals that are non-threatening. Things that are learned at this time are retained. Concentration is limited so teaching should be short and happy.

FEAR PERIOD

This period occurs sometime between 8 and 16 weeks. Things that a pup happily accepted before, may or a short time appear threatening and produce fear in the puppy. Recognise that this is just a stage and will pass. Do not force the puppy to confront the thing he fears. Just be calm and non fearful yourself, treat the thing that puppy fears with disdain and he will take his cue from you. Do not over protect or display too much concern.

FITTING INTO POSITION IN YOUR FAMILY GROUP

12 to 16 weeks This is the testing period when the puppy decides whether he is number two in your family or comes after all the other family members. The puppy will test you and the other family members to find his place. Things like biting at the lead or his owner should be discouraged and firmly corrected. All family members should be able to direct the puppy and expect him to comply. Puppy should now be sleeping all night quietly in his own bed and be walking well on a lead. He should know his name by now and be able to stay quietly by himself without howling or barking and should not destroy things.

At this stage you might believe that your puppy has all of a sudden become deaf. They attempt to ignore you, make sure that you are in a position to make the puppy listen. This period only lasts a short time but is always sometime around the 4th to 6th month.

SECOND FEAR PERIOD

6 to 14 months Your puppy may suddenly become terror stricken about something he has seen many times before. This is illogical behaviour and like a child having a nightmare. Just be calm and reassuring and avoid confrontation while the puppy is unable to cope. This will soon pass if you don't make an issue of the fear. Work on having the puppy learn to rely on you for guidance and support, while learning to be independent. Rottweilers are naturally aware of changes in their surrounding and may act as if they are wary of new things and people. Do not reassure the pup in these circumstances. Just act as if the object is of no consequence to you and the pup will take the cue from you. If you pat and cosset the puppy when it acts afraid the message the dog will get is that it is okay to act in this manner. Far from it, we want our pups to grow into self confident adults.

ADOLESCENCE

12 to 24 months Your puppy begins to assert himself and to regard all other dogs as potential rivals. This behaviour is not cute and is not socially acceptable. Do not applaud or condone it. Concentrate on reinforcing your earlier training and demand respect and attention from your dog. Be firm, fair and consistent with your discipline. Distract the dog and avoid confrontations with other dogs which will  only reinforce the behaviour. This behaviour will settle if not reinforced.