Socializing puppies has traditionally been considered the responsibility of the new owner. Breeders instruct their puppy buyers to take the puppies to classes and make sure they are exposed to a variety of people and situations.
But research shows that encouraging a stable temperament can start even before puppies are born. Breeders can do a lot to make sure their puppies have a great start on being adaptable to all the situations they will encounter in life.
In the first part of this series, we explore prenatal care that can make a difference in how puppies enter the world.
- Nervous, anxious mothers are more likely to have nervous, anxious puppies. Make sure your expectant mothers are not put under undue stress. Avoid anything that would make them anxious and particularly any major life changes, like adding new animals to the household or moving into a new home. Mammal mothers pass information to their offspring about what sort of world to expect —and they do so as early as possible, to provide maximum time for appropriate development.
- Expectant mothers need a safe, private area. It is strongly advised that expectant mothers have a private area they can call their own. It should be comfy, with plenty of blankets and/or cushy dog beds, and away from the hubbub of the rest of the household. A few mama dogs enjoy being in the midst of the action, but most will prefer a secure area to call their own. Let your female decide what she wants. This is not a time to get into a debate with her.
- Pet those puppies—even if they have not arrived yet. Caress and stroke your mother-to-be, especially where she is carrying her puppies. There is some evidence that puppies that receive this prenatal rubdown are more docile and enjoy human petting and handling better, starting from birth, says Jane Killion, breeder, trainer, and Puppy Culture author. And your female will really enjoy and appreciate the extra attention.
- Play classical music. Studies have shown that classical music is soothing to dogs. Put the radio on a classical music station as a calming measure for your mom-to-be.
- She’s the boss. Let your brood bitch have her way during this critical time. Avoid corrections, and let her win to create as stress-free an environment as possible. Spoiling is totally allowed!