I have cut and pasted a bit about socialisation from the puppy pack that have been put together by the Kennel Club Assured Breeder Scheme. All puppy families will receive a comprehensive information pack - specific to the English Cocker Spanies. (The writing in italic and emboldened are my own words and thoughts.) Some breeds need far more socialisation and habituation than others – with more reactive breeds (such as those bred to guard, some terriers etc.) needing more – and earlier – socialisation than others. Therefore, it is important for breeders and new owners to know how reactive their chosen breed is so they can focus their socialisation accordingly.
On the breeders’ part, socialising their litter can start as early as when the puppies are a few days old. Gentle handling and checking the progress of the litter are all important steps in the first few days of a puppy’s life. (this is no chore! but something that puppies from a puppy farm would miss out on) Over the course of the following weeks the breeder (thats me) can introduce noises, different surfaces, different play items as well as different play and feeding locations around the house – all of this habituation and novelty contributes to the puppies’ early development. (The first couple of weeks they will have been in their cosy whelping box, then the next couple of weeks they will be in their puppy pen and whelping box, they will experience day to day household noises and be handled regularly. Then they will want a bit more space, from around four weeks they will be have access to the kitchen and what we call our dog room - they will be in safe environment where they will be able to run around and play with plenty of toys. However, when they have finished with their play, they will be put back into the safety of their puppy pen for more growing sleep. Hopefully later on if the whether is nice they will be able to have the puppy pen outside where they can experience new sounds and smells.) The early ground work that the breeder puts into their litters’ social and emotional wellbeing has a direct impact on their puppies’ ability to be fit for function as a family dog. (I agree with this the first few weeks are so important for their future socialisation and behaviour.)
It is imperative that the puppy’s new owner continues this when their new puppy comes home. From around 5 weeks and continuing at the time the puppy goes to his or her new home, an important transition takes place in the puppy’s ability to take in new situations as his natural fearfulness increases.
It is therefore so important that new owners don’t miss this valuable window of opportunity for their puppy to experience new things – which will close at around 14-16 weeks. This time also coincides with the puppy’s vaccinations, so a balance must be struck so not to miss out on this important learning opportunity. This can be achieved by taking your puppy out and about in your arms, while not allowing them to come into direct contact with other dogs until their vaccinations have taken place. Getting out and about with your puppy is key to them accepting everyday things, such as traffic and busy places, as part of normal life.
I thought I would cut and paste this information about early socialisation because I don't think I could have put it better myself!
In the meantime though, as you can see from the photo, they like to sleep a lot.