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Hudson's Malamutes - Frequently Asked Questions

26. When can you tell the temperament of a puppy?

This page is for the people that ask about personality and temperament of a pup when very small. Here is a bit of information that some may or may not agree with. But here is my opinion based on observation and research:

Neonatal Period - 0-2 weeks of age
Transitional Period - 2-4 weeks of age
Socialization Period- 4-12 weeks of age

The Neonatal period - Pups are born with immature, still developing brains. Puppies sensory abilities, hearing and seeing are not developed at this time and sometimes touch, smell and feeling are not yet well developed. Virtually all social interaction is with their mother. The mother is responsible for warmth, food giving, grooming, and contact comfort. The pup's brain is jelly like and barely myelinated and there is almost no EEG activity. Once a puppy is born the mother licks and grooms her pups to stimulate them to urinate and defecate. Also to teach them her smells. Also puppies have a natural instinct to suck. Sucking is not done simply for nourishment. It is also a bonding mechanism that identifies the mother to its pup. The pups tread and kneed on her teats to stimulate milk letdown. This is also why most dogs like their bellies rubbed. Especially moms. Touching and handling puppies in this early stage is a very good thing. The policy of "leaving it to nature" and not bothering or stimulating the pups is not in the best interest of the pups. The pups mind will develop faster and further through sensitive early handling. Providing the best environment possible and more than anything a GOOD MOM. So part of what a puppy learns is from the experience and handling when young. Being put in a dark, damp room, with no noise or stimulation is not a good experience. Subjecting the pup to as much touch and safe noise as possible is best in the young stages of life.
At this time you can not tell personality or temperament of the pup because the pups sensory abilities are still developing.

The Transitional Period - This is when the pup's sensory abilities come to stream. The eyelids open, the ears open and teeth start to appear. There is more brain activity and sights and sounds now stimulate the pup. At this time is when his siblings become important to the pup. Wagging of tails, barking and growling are some of the signs you will see. There pain response is not similar to an adult by almost four weeks. The pups are now nursing on their own without mothers licking and stimulation. Standing and moving from place to place starts happening at the end of the transitional period even though they still do not wander to far from home. The transition period from two to four weeks is the beginning of the most important period of time in the pup's young life. Where a mom and her pups are kept during this time is very important. Moms fighting through fences, barking uncontrollably, in dirty conditions, pacing because of cramped cages. All of these things that may seem to only affect the mothers affect the pups as well. Pups learn to step in stool if that is what mom does, pups also learn to fight and aggressive, bad behaviors if that is what mom does. Carefully choosing a breeder that cares about how and where pups are kept and treated is very important. That could mean the difference in a pup being easily potty trained or obedience trained. As I would say "A dirty mom makes a dirty pup".
Temperament is very hard to determine at this time because mom has been the most important role at this point.

The Socialization Period - Socialization is a term long familiar to breeders. Good Breeders socialize there puppies. Poor Breeders don't socialize their pups or don't even know that puppies need socialization. Socialization in the Webster's Dictionary defines "socialize" as to make social, adjust or to make fit for cooperative group living. Meaning in my terms a good breeder, play, interact, talks to, and starts to teach the basics. The social life of a pup can only begin when the pup has developed all of his communication skills. Most communication skills are developed by four weeks old. The pup can process information more quickly and efficiently now. Social relationships that eventually develop begin with a problem and end with a habit. That is why during the next two months pups are most malleable. Until now all the pups have known is Care and dependency on his mom. Temperament is not really able to be determined at this time. This relationship of the pup will gradually evolve into one of dominance or submission. Many of these things are learned. Sometimes it is not that cut and dry thought- relationships are not as simple as dominant and submissive, but rather are "multilayered". Meaning there can be some of one or more of the other. This hypothesis somewhat explains how there can be a pecking order within a pack- and that could be dogs and people combined. (EX. Dog/pup being below adult head of house and being above the children in the pecking order). So when I am asked, "What is my puppy like" it is very hard for me to explain that some of these things are still being learned. And how I socialize at this time and how the pup is handled in his home environment when he goes to his new home will greatly affect how the pups personally will be. I have had many pups leave here with a very "submissive" temperament and then to get a call that the pup is now dominating some or all in the family. Or vice-versa. How a family handles there dog is a main part of the personality of a pup. So you and your family are a main part of what your pup will be like. Each family member is different to your pup and holds a different standing in the pecking order. And how each person handles the pup will be where he will be in the pecking order. If all persons in the family allow the pup to get away with (puppy biting, dominate behaviors) than the pup that was submissive in his previous puppy environment will change to dominating his new family. So each family member in the house needs to be part of the puppy and training. The pecking order can be very complicated and that is one of the things to learn about before purchasing a malamute puppy. Many call it a "hard headed" or stubborn breed. I call it a "Thinking" breed. If you have done all you can to research and ensure purchasing a good temperament puppy from a reputable breeder than IF the puppy is having behavior problems in most cases it is the owner not knowing how to handle their pup. That is why I so highly encourage Puppy Socialization Classes. Those classes teach OWNERS how to handle their pups.

Dogs make good companions because they are pack animals. They love togetherness and also have its formative development during the socialization period. This is up to twelve weeks of age. So sleeping, feeding, walking, lying, investigating, barking/howling, grooming, sniffing or licking each other together all play a part in socialization that you need to be aware of. Puppies don't come into our world with ready knowledge about car rides, vacuums, and other man made things. If they don't have a chance to learn about the people, animals and new things in their environment, they may grow up to be fearful and antisocial adults. This can be prevented with early socialization and exposure to as many people, animals (horses, small dogs), sights, sounds, and places as possible. Spending as much time as possible with your pup in the first few weeks that your new pup comes home is very important. It is important that your puppy meets and receives treats and attention from a wide variety of people of all ages and appearances. A puppy that grows up in a restricted social group may show fear and aggression when later exposed to people who appear or act different (Ex. Children, people with glasses, beards). Even if there are no children in your home, it is most likely your pup will see a child at one time. Therefore, you should take every effort that your pup can play and learn about children even if you do not have children yourself. Some pups seem to consider small children to be completely different (possibly because they walk, act and talk different than adults). Always provide adequate, positive interaction with children when small so they do not feel uncomfortable around children. Another thing I also encourage is crate-potty training but sleeping in the same room as new owners is also important. So the puppy crate located in your sleeping area will help with bonding and aware of how the pup doing. Human attachment is easiest at this stage and can be a facilitated if the pup suffers an emotional stress during the socialization period- a stress that would require a greater than normal dependence upon you. Loneliness, fear, or injuries that are healed with affection, contact and attention all facilitate a stronger bond between a pup/dog and owner. Pups that have neglected and abused with lack of attention and love can become very aggressive, skittish and shy to humans with lasting affects. Always be aware that when you bring a pup home in the first few weeks is when he needs you the most. Always remember that he is a baby and is still learning. And it is your job to teach them what they need to know. Don't just assume your pup "should know". Properly socializing and teaching with a soft, loving, nurturing hand will help you in more ways than one. This is something that will take an investment in your time most of all. You will find that your efforts are worthwhile when you become a proud parent of your social, friendly, lovable malamute. And in most cases will facilitate a stronger bond between the new pup and you for a lifetime.

In conclusion pups at four-five weeks of age demand lots of time and patience. All my time as a breeder is spent taking care of very needy pups. I understand in many instances that new owners enjoy updated pictures and info on their pups. This takes much time and takes away from the puppies' very critical social time. But for me to be the best and to try to help your pup in the best way I can, time is what I need with the new pups. So pictures and e-mails are very slow, although not forgotten or ignored. It is just that between the two- new owner or pup- the puppy always wins. Please know that everyone is important.

Psalm 115:1
Not to us, O Lord, but to you goes all the glory for your unfailing love and faithfulness.
© 2004-2013 Jolene Houghtaling
Hudsons Huskies and Malamutes
P.O. Box 241
Baxter, TN 38544
(931) 432-0955
Pups@HudsonsMalamutes.com