Friday Fun: Gayle Watkins: How to Bombproof your Puppy – the Sensitive Period


Dr. Gayle Watkins of Avidog returns for her 4th Episode – How to Bomb Proof your Puppies – the Sensitive Period.

Sensitive Period

The most important period sets the stage for health and temperament for the puppy’s lifetime.  Myelination continues through 5-6 weeks of age, and puppies are slow learners until then.

Startle, Wariness, and Fear

4 weeks – Startle response is not connected to the fear response yet.  It is a physical reaction like “Boo” and we jump.  Try not to be over startled at this time.

6 Weeks – Wariness begins and is a natural caution to anything that might hurt or injure, self-preservation.  An understanding such as “we don’t run into burning buildings”.  Wariness is still not an emotion, but a thought process.

8 Weeks – Fear begins and is a negative emotional response that ties to a belief, true or not.

8-10 Weeks – The Fear Imprint Period or “limited phase-sensitive learning” which reoccurs normally at 6 months, and again at 12 months.

During this time a negative experience can imprint for a long term or a lifetime.  Incidents such as being injured, stepped on or dropped by a person, rolled or corrected harshly by an adult dog may imprint if not cared for properly.  The fear imprint cry is a very specific vocalization.  If you hear it, pick up the puppy, cuddle it, hold it and reassure until the cry stops to avoid imprinting.

Socialization vs Protection from Parvo

If Nomograph has been done, we know during sensitive periods when they are at risk, and when we can have them out into the world.  During risk or vulnerable periods, bring the world into their environment, or take them to places with no dogs.

4 Weeks – Outdoors – Take mom and puppies outside to the yard or deck.

4-5 Weeks -Let them just hang out and sniff – they are done when they fall asleep. Let Mom nurse them outside.  Short periods.

5-5 1/2 Weeks – Puppies begin to explore

5 1/2 WeeksFollowing – The following instinct turns on that enables them to follow their mother, into following us.  Take mom on a leash and go for a walk, the puppies will follow.

13-16 Weeks – Following ends…

More on Nomographs

Nomographs allow for 1-2 timed vaccinations, followed by a positive titer 2-3 weeks after, and the lifetime possibility of no further vaccinations.

Very small experiences have lifetime benefits

Up until the 16-week period ends, expose the puppy to every activity and situation they might face in their lifetime –  dog show, car rides before 6 weeks (cover the crate), agility equipment, gun dog experience, elevators, birds, rabbits, sounds, quacking, handling class, ex-pens, blow dryer, bathing…

Passive Development

Bottle Pool – Child’s swimming pool or sandbox filled with plastic water bottles

Adventure Box – (see below for how to build) Sturdy PVC frame with safe but noisy hanging items that puppies play with such as plastic cups, paint cans, chains, hose, paint cans, and plastic funnels.

Obstacle Course – Toys, tunnels, children’s slides, stepstools, different surfaces – place rubber or child mats under any raised or climbing obstacle.


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