Puppy imprinting is a period of emotional and intellectual development that occurs during the first 16 weeks of your puppy’s life. During this phase your puppy is storing information, experiences and associations for retrieval later in life. Puppies that are exposed to a variety of environments, people, sounds and other (stable) dogs/puppies will store these positive or neutral experiences. These experiences serve as the life long foundation from which your puppy will base his/her opinions when presented with new experiences. A well imprinted puppy will later see a person in a wheelchair or a kid on a skateboard and think, ” I’ve seen something like that before and it was OK”.
Dogs that have had little experience in the great big world will often become fearful when something unusual appears. They do not have similar experiences to compare it to. While it is important to expose your puppy to the world, work to keep these exposures positive or neutral. Be at bit of a mother hen with your puppy. Do not let strangers overwhelm it. Don’t let badly behaved dogs interact with your puppy or expose your puppy to new things in a chaotic and possibly frightening environment. These bad experiences imprint too so you must be vigilant. The correct balance will give your puppy a leg up on a happy and confident adulthood.
Photo courtesy of Dirlei Dionisio via Flicker.