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  • Writer's pictureCaryl Wolff

History of Puppy Socialization

Updated: Dec 29, 2021

History of Puppy Socialization

John Paul Scott and John L. Fuller, in their 13-year study begin­ning in the 1950s at Bar Har­bor, Maine, sum­ma­rized in the clas­sic book Genet­ics and the Social Behav­ior of the Dog (1965), set out to answer the ques­tion of what influ­ence, if any, hered­ity had on behav­ior. Although they wanted to under­stand human behav­ior, they said, “Any­one who wishes to under­stand a human behav­ior trait or hered­i­tary dis­ease can usu­ally find the cor­re­spond­ing con­di­tion in dogs with very lit­tle effort.”

One of their dis­cov­er­ies was that there were cer­tain peri­ods in a puppy’s early life where cer­tain events must take place, for exam­ple, con­tact with humans or expo­sure to other dogs. If those events did not take place, then that oppor­tu­nity was lost, and the puppy would not develop to its fullest poten­tial. Those were called “crit­i­cal periods.”

Clarence Pfaf­fen­berger worked with the Guide Dogs for The Blind and later worked with Scott and Fuller. His book The New Knowl­edge of Dog Behav­ior (1963) chron­i­cles his research on how to find the ideal guide dog puppy. He applied their work to his own and came up with addi­tional findings.

In the 1960s, the US Army was try­ing to breed a dog that was genet­i­cally and behav­iorally sound for use in the mil­i­tary. It was called The Bio-Sensor Project” but was later changed to “Super­dog.”

Dr. Michael W. Fox was involved in this project. In Under­stand­ing Your Dog, Dr. Fox talks about “how envi­ron­men­tal influ­ences early in life can have pro­found and endur­ing effects on behavior.”

Dr. Car­men Battaglia, although not a par­tic­i­pant in the Bio-Sensor project, came up with a series of han­dling exer­cises based on Dr. Fox’s work which he now calls “Devel­op­ing High Achiev­ers,” for­merly known as “Early Neu­ro­log­i­cal Stimulation.”

He came up with a series of five exercises:

  • Tac­ti­cal stim­u­la­tion (between toes)

  • Head held erect

  • Head pointed down

  • Supine posi­tion

  • Ther­mal stimulation

If these exer­cises are done cor­rectly, pup­pies gen­er­ally are more behav­iorally sound than if they are not done and seem to have a ben­e­fi­cial effect on the puppy’s men­tal and emo­tional devel­op­ment although there have not been any sci­en­tific tests to prove this.

The next devel­op­ment in puppy social­iza­tion came from Dr. Ian Dun­bar who both researched pup­pies and popularized what are now com­mon­place – puppy classes. These classes help pup­pies learn about play­ing and dog body lan­guage, BUT they are not a free-for-all where pup­pies can run around and do what­ever they want.

This was an excerpt from my book Puppy Socialization – An Insider’s Guide to Dog Behavioral Fitness. There are hundreds of suggestions on puppy socialization both for the breeder and the pet parent.

Thanks for visiting History of Puppy Socialization. I make a small commission on any products or books I recommend.

Disclaimer: This article is for information only. It does not replace a consultation with a dog trainer, dog behavior consultant, or veterinarian and may not be used to diagnose or treat any conditions in your dog.

If you need help with puppy or dog training, we do both private in-person and virtual lessons via Zoom. Please contact us by calling or texting (310) 804-2392 or sending an email to . We look forward to working with you.


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