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Instincts awakened during the socialization period
Published 2010/12/20

Instincts are genetic reflexes which, if awakened during the socialization period, will have a major impact on your dog’s life. For example, the flight instinct will make a dogs flee when afraid; the protective instinct may trigger aggression, and the social instinct will make a dog want to be around others.

All dogs have instincts, which are genetically programmed to manifest at specific times. It’s sort of like a power switch that turns on at certain times and turns off at other times.

Take the predatory instinct. It will make a dog run after an object or prey, catch it and shake it from left to right while growling. In some dogs, this instinct manifests at an early age. From the age of six weeks, many puppies react when stimulated with a rope, for example. In others, this instinct only manifests around the age of six months. And because we know that behaviours awakened during the socialization period (i.e. up to the age of four months) will be part of a dog’s repertory of behaviours for life, it’s important to keep these instincts dormant during this time so they don’t manifest later on.

Concretely, this means that owners shouldn’t play tug-of-war with their puppies. If your puppy gets excited, never run from him; if he grabs something to chew on, barter with him, for example, by giving him a cookie in exchange for the object. Never encourage predatory behaviours. This instinct must be kept dormant during the first four months of life because the environment in which your dog is raised will determine the intensity of his instincts.

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