Fourth Critical Period: 50 – 84 days (7 to 12 weeks)
The trainability of a puppy is ripe and operating to capacity as the puppy enters the eight week of life. Thus, the puppy enters the fourth critical period of emotion; growth (50 to 84 days). What the puppy learns during the fourth critical period will be retained and become part of the dog’s personality. If a puppy is left with its mother during the fourth critical period, its emotional development Will be crippled. The puppy will remain dependent upon her, but in her will find very little – if any – security. When a puppy remains with the litter beyond this time – and without adequate human contact – its social adjustment to human society will be crippled, and what it learns will be learned from the litter mates. The optimum time for taking a puppy into a new household is at the conclusion of the puppy’s seventh week. Because a pup’s trainability and learning facilities are operating at full capacity during the fourth critical period, it is better that a puppy do his learning from his new owner. And learn he will! The fourth critical period marks a time when a new puppy will learn at a fast and furious pace. And much of what he learns will stay with him a long, long time. What the puppy learns during the fourth critical period will help to shape him into the kind of dog he will be forevermore!
That paragraph is so important that every dog owner (and those contemplating getting a puppy) should reread it – and then read it again! For the readers who acquired their dogs at six months or more, that paragraph may well explain some of the negative characteristics in the personality and behaviour of their dog.
During the first three critical periods, in significant brainwaves from a puppy can be recorder on electroencephalographs. The fourth critical period, however, is quite different. The first actual – and highly significant – waves can be recorded. It is during this fourth period that a bond will be established between dog and man that will have a lasting effect upon the puppy. During no other phase in its life will a canine have the ability to achieve a stronger bond that during the fourth critical period. A puppy’s contact with people during this phase is the whole key to his emotional and social success within human society. In the tests conducted at Bar Harbour, puppies were isolated at various intervals during the five critical periods, and it was determined that isolation from human society had its greatest effect on puppies during the fourth critical period. Without adequate human contact during the fourth critical period puppies became incapable of being trained and incapable of being companions to man. It is during this time that a puppy should be integrated into human society. At this time, a puppy should be taken for walks, meet people and be allowed to play with children and other animals (under supervision).
During the fourth critical period, simple commands can – and should – be taught. There should be gentle discipline. Forceful discipline during this period could adversely tip the scales on which the puppy’s emotional development now rests. A puppy (during the fourth critical period) is learning to live in a human’s world. He is learning to trust and have confidence in human beings. A puppy between the ages of 8 and 12 weeks does not deliberately get into mischief. A physical and forceful correction could result in complete confusion within the mind of the puppy. Faith and trust in his new human friends could be quickly shattered. When mistrust of humans develops during the fourth critical period, that mistrust will remain a permanent part of the puppy’s makeup.
During the fourth critical period discipline should be confined to scolding. Scolding does not include shouting. Commands such as “sit”, “stay”, and “come” can be taught during the fourth critical period – but must be done so in a playful atmosphere. Housebreaking should be instituted in a gentle manner, insuring that praise is used for correct behaviour rather than forceful correction for misbehaviour. Mild restrictions should be imposed – such as not allowed the puppy to chew on furniture, shoes, etc. And these wild 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 s deleterious effect on the dog’s compatibility within the family later in life. In human society, we have what is known as kindergarten in our public schools. The purpose of kindergarten is to prepare a child emotionally for the learning that will take place later. Kindergarten and pre-school classes are, in effect, a training ground to teach children how to learn. The fourth critical period is the puppy’s kindergarten. 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.