During the first few weeks after birth, the mother is the overwhelming influence and the way she mothers her young has long lasting effects, especially in dogs. Dogs that as adults are vocal, for example, learn to be vocal from vocal mothers. If you visit a litter and the mother grizzles and whines don’t be surprised if her pups grow up to do so too. Benign mothers ‘paw’ their pups while more intense mothers tend to nip them. Too much early physical discipline from a nippy mother produces less socially gregarious pups.
Contact with people during the first two weeks of life certainly stimulates a puppy’s or kitten’s development but the absence of people at this stage doesn’t create any irreparable harm. But from three weeks of age onwards, the involvement of the breeder and activity with the littermates both have a profound influence upon how a pet ultimately behaves. That’s why it is so important that dogs and cats that will live as pets are raised by their breeders in a home environment, not in a garden shed or in the garage where there’s little to stimulate their physical or mental development. Good breeders understand they should be involved in youthful play activity. A pup or kit learns to inhibit its bite during play when its littermate squeals and stops play or bites back. Good breeders don’t use excessive discipline when young behave this way with them but instead withdraw rewards – that means stopping play- when a pup or kit goes over the top.