Five Weeks Old
Keep up with:
new stimuli every day,
lots of handling
for a "fear period"
and tread carefully when you see it.
PHOTOS: Yes, the little girl in this photo did indeed choose darling Gingersnap! We like to take the pups outside in our yard starting at 5 weeks, but this time it was super cold so those first adventures were bundled in our arms. Our German Shepherd came to us as a nursing mama her self five years ago, and we're lucky to be able to use her to socialize our pups. She's happy to interact, and when she's done with puppy antics she lets us know.
FIVE WEEKS OLD
Puppies typically have two distinct “fear periods” where they are suddenly scared of things that previously didn’t bother them at all. One tends to happen around five weeks, and the other around eight weeks. As Jane Lindquist notes in Puppy Culture, "All at once, the thing that’s so wonderful about this age of socialization (that sponge-like, complete absorption of a new lesson) becomes tricky because it now cuts both ways."
Upside: If they meet one woman clicking around in high heels and have a positive interaction, they’re forever fine with high heels. Downside: If a woman in high heels accidentally steps on them at this age, they may forever be terrified of women in high heels. This week, observe the pups very closely to look for signs of the fear period. When you see that, tread very carefully and for the moment stop introducing new things.
Now that the pups are quite mobile and perhaps able to interact with other dogs who may be in your home, structure the puppies’ environment so that they can always opt out of the action. Set up a low table that they can scoot under but the big dogs can’t. NOTE: larger/older animals in the home should always have a way to escape from puppy shenanigans, too. Never trap your older dogs and your puppies with each other! Each should have a way to retreat from a feeling of discomfort, rather than having to resort to violence.
For pups who do not appear to be in a fear period, try these startle/recovery options:
Put a slightly crinkly soft-plastic baby wipes container on the ground, and see if the pups will touch that.
Put a crinkly-sounding tarp on top of a folded pen (i.e. an unstable surface) for pups to explore. Don’t force it, but ideally they’ll chose to check it out.
Other than adjusting for the fear period, keep up what you’ve been doing, described previously:
New toys, sounds, textures, visual stimulus every day
New people (tall, short, male, female, kids, beards, hats, etc.)
Startle/recovery noises occasionally
Formal challenges presented every day
Lots of handling and calm interaction