Crucial Socialization Periods in Bullmastiffs
Now we'll look at the psychology and behavior of bullmastiff when it lives in town. Unfortunately, many researches after analyzing and generalizing the results of behavioral reactions of some breeds of dogs extend the positive findings onto other breeds and disregard specific breed features let alone different conditions of keeping. One should remember that a dog is not only a "a social product" but also has individual traits of character. It is rather difficult to foster a dog in a town conditions than in a rural area. The dog fosterage should be constructed in such a manner that the multiple associative relations with the environment that define a dog's character and behavior develop in such a way as to guarantee the dog is not socially dangerous for people. It is also important to develop his self-preserving instinct: a life danger is much higher in the town than in the country. Each owner should know the general laws of biology, since this helps correctly and opportunitely develop the necessary behavioral reactions in dog, in order the dog could pass its way of socialization with confidence and occupy its place in the people's world.
Behavioral Reactions of Bullmastiff During Different Age Periods of Life
There are several crucial periods in dog's life. The beginning of each period depends on many reasons: hereditary factor, life conditions and feeding (the type of feeding - natural, artificial or mixed - during the first month of puppy life plays a great role), as well as learning and fostering factors, that influence every age period of dog's life.
Taking into account all said above we distinguish several crucial socialization periods of bullmastiffs:
1. The period of inborn reflexes display - until 1 month;
2. The period of development of an adequate reaction onto environmental influence - till 5-6 months;
3. The period of intensive initial socialization - till 10-11 months. During this period an animal comprehends the following ideas: "I am a dog", "they are a prey or an enemy or an inedible thing" (bullmastiffs most often grasp these ideas at the age of 6-8 months);
4. The period of secondary socialization - till 2-2.5 years. During this period dogs polish the following ideas: "we", "friend - stranger", "ours - theirs" (bullmastiffs begin to comprehend this between 1 year and a year and 2-3 months);
5. The period of a mature individual - elder than 2-2.5 years.
During the periods stated above an individual reveals its behavioral peculiarities in the outer world. More and more elements and forms of bullmastiff behavior appear with age. But new forms of behavioral reactions are not just the display of age-specific changes in morphology and physiology but they are the result of development of other behavioral reactions. At every next step of socialization the qualitative change of the whole complex of behavioral traits takes place. At this time the group behavior, that is, contacts, that initially include the activation of interest of a bullmastiff puppy to other living things and then the active exchange of accumulated information between a young dog and the environment, gains a high importance. But the received experience that is expressed as the response onto an actual situation consolidates gradually. During these periods of life a bullmastiff begins to comprehend who is he himself, in other words, the rank he possesses on the scale of the society. These are complicated and multistage periods. If the certain relationship hasn't developed, one cannot develop them later artificially.
The time of an adult stage is breed-specific. The peculiar feature of bullmastiffs is that the periods mentioned above come 2-4 months later in their life. But it takes more time for them to consolidate the vital skills they get. It should be noted that in the first 1.5 years of bullmastiff's life there're age-specific periods when the rate of mental sphere development is larger than the rate of physical perfection and vice versa.
Now we'll study these periods in details.
The Period of Development of An Adequate Reaction Onto Environment (from 1 to 5-6 months)
The first period (or periods) of adaptation to new life conditions comes right after a bullmastiff puppy leaves his mother bitch. The period may repeat for several times, in case if a pup changes several owners. One should remember that a frequent change of master may lead to irreversible changes in mentality of the individual - neuroses at best and consolidation of excessive aggressiveness towards others at worst.
In case if a pup stays with the breeder he passes the steps of socialization in a classical way and is fostered within the troop. Young animals get a definite rank in the hierarchy, low as usual. Other members begin to take them as adults with all the consequences that follow. This is the very age when adult dogs are especially aggressive towards young ones, and the latter answer in the way they only know. A human influence is minimal during this period. Pups and young dogs are totally under the influence of their mother. By this time a one serious problem conserning the formation of a dog's mental activity may arise: if the breeder will not manage to find a correct approach and create an auspicious conditions for a normal development of a dog's character, the dog will feel himself very uncomfortable in his own family. The similar situation may arise in a troop of homeless dogs. In this case, a young animal leaves the troop for a better place. If it is too weak or his temper tells him to stay he gets the lowest rank in the group. Most dogs that stay too long with the breeder are aggressive and cowardly, or feel themselves humbled. Therefore when the new owner takes such a dog, he must realize that his dog may possess these temporary behavioral features and apply appropriate fostering methods. They are very simple: love and patient waiting for the results of one's work. Since the period of secondary socialization is postponed and a young dog percepts surrounding people as his troop, severe punishment and rude shouts when the dog fawns on a stranger or just comes closer to him are absolutely impossible.
Too much punishment and attempts to train a dog, while its physiology is not ready yet for the establishment of associative relations with the complex environment, is one of a quite often mistakes made by an owner who doesn't penetrate into the ANIMAL biology while raising a bullmastiff.
The next problem is of special interest for those who keeps a dog for the first time. The pup's behavoir in first hours, or days, or even months after you've took him home depends on the degree of attachment to his own family. If the breeder has given the pup a lot of affection and helped him adopt to outward world the puppy for the first moments he is in a new house won't feel miserable without his mother and siblings, he played with. During first days after the move the puppy cautiously sniffs around and examines all nooks in a NEW house and gradually gets used to it. This period may last for several hours or several days (or be absent at all). But it may happen so that couple of months later the pup will display the reaction of groundless whimpering - he remembers the former placid time spent within the circle of his family. He can accidentally meet his mother bitch, which usually forgets her offspring, and may happily rush to her and get a serious lesson in the form of teeth clack or a blowup signifying that "now you go your way and I go mine". The sense of motherhood in bitches goes out gradually from the moment when the lactation reduces and puppies begin to be fed with extra foods and a mother bitch stops cleaning her puppies. From this moment the ties of blood that bind mother to her offspring vanish little by little. After the mother bitch is separated from her children she usually takes them as aliens.
For a quicker adaptation to new living conditions some breeders give the new owner some thing or a toy which smell is believed to help the cup to bear the grief for his relatives. I CAN'T explain the origin of this opinion but I suppose this is the way some breeders and new owners reassure themselves. Never people that took puppies born from my dogs have said their charges have paid attention to these accessories. Perhaps, breeders and owners unfamiliar with biology and behavior sciences have created in their minds the image of a miserable, crying and sad tot, who hides in the corner and buries himself under a dirty rag with a familiar scent that calms him and helps stand sufferings for his family.
From the first time the pup gets into your house you must take him in hands to check if his belly is full, if he is clear, on the whole, if he develops normally. But the main reason why a puppy SHOULD BE TAKEN into hands is to make him get used to man's scent, voice and touch. Try to do so that the puppy could hear voices of women, men and children. TO HAVE A TIGHT and permanent CONTACT with man, get his care and learn to respect him from birth is vital for a bullmastiff. Owners as well as breeders very often keep puppies indoors, so the latter have no opportunity to see humans and are not used to meet unfamiliar subjects and sounds until they are eight weeks old, that is, until the moment when puppies are suddenly put into a vast and fearful world. There's nothing strange that problems follow. These owners and breeders later get very surprised when such dogs are scared of thunder bursts and other sudden sounds. Judy and Larry Elseden, English authors of a famous book about Rottweiler (37) call upon paying a special attention to this fact: "The breeders who doesn't teach puppies to communicate do this because of their ignorance or laziness or they are so busy with the idea to sell pups as quick as possible that don't have time or desire to do their job properly".
Sometimes owners who isolate their pets from other people explain this by a striving to avoid infection. Of cause one should beware of it and take preventives. However the best immunity develops naturally in the environment with a low level of infection. A puppy grown in sterility would rather catch a disease. Anyway, it's no good to raise an individual whose physiology is healthy but the mind is invalid.
Two methods to raise a bullmastiff puppy at home exist. Followers of both versions have very reasoned opinions. One side expresses their opinion as follows: "What is convenient for a master is good for a dog". Others assure that if the owner from the first days the puppy gets into a new house restricts him to investigate every nook and flatly bans him to enter some rooms for example a drawing-room, he at once makes several mistakes that later will affect the development of the pup's character. Followers of the latter method think that the puppy should be a full MEMBER of the family like the other household. It happens so that if the owner prohibits the puppy to consider the whole house his own territory he must protect he automatically "interlocks" the consolidation of dog's mental activity and hampers the development of analytic thinking. Therefore the OWNER should take into account both opinions and choose the most appropriate variant and strictly follow it.
Two or three days after you took the pup into your house you may keep the doors to all rooms open so that the puppy could get used to common sounds - a clothes washer, a hair-dryer, a vacuum cleaner, human voices, including children and guests. Don't close the puppy in other room when other people visit you. Since the self-preservation instinct is quite pronounced in bullmastiff puppies they won't express as much joy as with you when contacting with strangers. His guard instincts are inborn. Therefore the fear that the dog won't do this duty in the future is groundless, because the development and consolidation of THIS FUNCTION will depend solely on your desire and a bullmastiff diligence during the further study.
The beginning of the period of adaptation to new environment is first of all characterized by an engaging of behavioral exploring function: the puppy carefully sniffs all the corners in the room. The territory the puppy examines at the day of arrival is very small. In the following couple of days he'll investigate all the nooks. New subjects attract puppies and they grab and taste slippers, rags, furniture and the master's hands and legs. During this period puppies of many breeds may express an evident passive defense reaction on loud sounds, flicks, falling subjects. Unlike other breeds, a bullmastiff will be rather astonished than frightened.
In the period of adaptation the reaction onto the owner's arrival appears very quickly: a puppy quickly learns to tell his people from aliens. If during this time a puppy changes the owner, then despite stress a bullmastiff nonetheless easily adapts to new environment and quite quickly becomes attached to a new family members.
Anxiety and jealousy grip the owner of the young dog when during walking outdoors the puppy runs after every first comer, in spite he is already able to distinguish his own people from others. Don't worry - this is just a process of learning of the outer world by a bullmastiff puppy. During this time the smell more than other senses has a dominant sifnificance. The puppy runs after the stranger and ultimately sets his nose into the stranger's leg. Curiosity predominates over prudence. It's a natural puppy behavior and one shouldn't punish him for this. Just attract his attention by squatting and then clapping hands so that sudden claps make the puppy look at you and run closer. Now you must praise the pup. Remember that when you run to the pup he thinks this is a game and runs away from you. Therefore to make the pup come closer you must run away from him.
An active defense reaction develops in games with the young and transforms into a behavioral traits of character. It becomes consolidated in the early age. Therefore one shouldn't all the time irritate and tease a bullmastiff during this age period. You will get nothing of him but an aggressive character. Motor functions and orientation system of a bullmastiff develop more slowly than of other breeds. A puppy is able to quickly learn master's commands but only in a familiar atmosphere and in a familiar situation. Any changes of outward conditions confuse or even frighten him. A puppy acts using a cut-and-try method on this stage of development. He's not able to focus his attention on one object. He fluently switches between one and the other and often digresses. Therefore you must use a playing method while teaching him commands. Processes of inhibition and differentiation are poorly developed during this period. So this is not the time when one should demand the performance of all the commands.
If the pup gnawed a chair leg and was punished for this, he just starts to gnaw the next one or changes it on to another similar thing. He won't take the thing he has gnawed before. Though after sometime he reveals the hidden attempts to test the master if there was a temporary prohibition or not. The given case describes the puppy's inability to generalizate in this age: associative relations barely start developing. Distraction and inability to concentrate on some moments or subjects are typical for all dogs of this age. Therefore fosterage should be in a form of regulation and consolidation of desired acts during this time.
In order to save furniture, shoes, etc. one should put large bones in all the rooms. In this case a puppy or a young dog will be busy and won't damage your property. A dog may gnaw everything he can get also when he stays alone for a long time. Therefore it is not recommended to leave the puppy or a young dog alone unsupervised.
There's one more urgent question concerning a dog: picking up garbage. Neither devices with a remotal control, that send painful electric signal, nor spread pieces of peppered meat can wean a bullmastiff upwards 6 months from this bad habit in case if his owners haven't paid attention to him when he picked up pieces of food on the street earlier. Once you've missed the moment when the dog ate the piece of food on the street would be enough to make this bad habit keep for all lifetime. Often at the age of 4-6 months puppies pick up bones during walking and begin to run with them in their mouth, keeping the distance with the owner. Puppies watch how their master behaves himself. In most cases this act may have a double character depending on the owner's reaction. If a puppy picks up a bone or a dirty rag for the first time and starts going round the owner, pulling this thing, this may signify that the dog has found a toy and invites the owner to join the play. The further acts of the owner will influence the development of the habit. If the owner is be able to DIVERT the puppy from this "toy" and give him a stick or a boll in change or say to him "Give", take the undesirable thing away and give some delicacy, the conditions for development of such a bad habit like picking up garbage outdoors won't appear.
If the owner's reaction in this situation would be the hysteric shouts of restricting commands, this will result in to a comic situation when a man runs after a running away puppy. But a rare man can catch a young bullmastiff. Virtually restrictions doesn't work at this moment. And it's easy to explain why: either the puppy is frightened and runs away from a master who lost control or tests the mater's abilities and limits of what is permitted. If a piece of delicacy with which the owner wanted to praise his dog falls on the floor and then is taken from the floor before the pup's eyes and is given to him, this will help consolidate the undesired habit too. Your pupil has a perfect memory and he quickly catches bad habits that only consolidate with the time.
The Period of Intensive Initial Socialization (from 6 to 10-11 months)
The "teenager" period is one of hardest among the age periods for a dog owner regardless of the breed attribute. At this time the complexity of physical development of a living creature goes together with the development of its mental abilities. This is the period when all potential adaptation abilities of an individual may realize. Therefore the more variable is the conditions of living for a young dog during this period the more adequate all his future reactions will be. During this time a bullmastiff teenager gets and accumulates life experience. He is active and curious and rather tends to try himself in a new situation than to avoid them. Some other dog barks nearby - the pupil doesn't try to hide behind the master's legs but he pricks his ears, looks intently in that direction and if sees something interesting, run there. Formerly he would run away from a dread bark of an alien dog. Now he would jump aside and continue watching the current events. However caution is highly expressed during this period. If occurs in a new place a bullmastiff would explore it totally, step by step. Life lessons already taken help him find an optimal decision of coexisting in surrounding conditions. Facing a new vital problem, he forms a new behavioral reaction on the basis of already polished and consolidated ones. A young bullmastiff frequently by himself evokes a new (often conflict) situation and tries to solve it, but nonetheless the caution prevails. Thus the character of dog forms.
The traits of self-affirmation and independence expressed in the form of stubbornness and offences inheres in the "teenager" stage of a bullmastiff life. Thus while training some commands a dog suddenly may refuse to fulfill them. For instance, while training the command "Side" a bullmastiff may suddenly stop and won't go further despite your attempts to pull him by the collar. Rough shouts may only insult him, and the dog will leave the room, lay down in another room and won't respond to your calls. He may just turn off you, demonstrating his offence, he wants to be in the center of your attention all the time and constantly feel your love. This is the age when jealousy appears, especially towards other animals: your pet tends to bar you from being too friendly with other dogs on a walk. He tries to drive other dogs from you, pounces barking, cuddles up to your legs, in other words, by all his behavior shows he is the only one who has the right to you.
Owners should make a very serious impact on to the development of puppy's independence and his status definition among the household. This is the age when a bullmastiff often raises again teaching of good manners. But this is a temporary event. Of cause, not that every dog when reaches this age becomes disobedient. If the owner and his household are communicative people and the dog is on good terms with them, there perhaps would be no evident signs of riot (stubbornness, offences) at all. Apropos bitches are less inclined to riots than males.
What to do if the problem appears? Perhaps you will shut your eyes to small points but you must be firm in the questions concerning something that is important for you. If you forbid your dog to lie on your bed, you must say this in a firm voice, otherwise he will just ignore your ban, and this may probably entail non-observance of the rest orders.
This is the period when a dog establishes the relationship with his congeners and this is his master duty to help the young dog to become communicative (one should organize longer educational walks in the town, trips in public traffic, meetings with other dogs and encourage their games). It is very important to visit crowded places during this period to develop a normal reaction on external irritators. Taking part in shows gives you an opportunity to form his adequate reaction on to extreme conditions.
The Period of Secondary Socialization (from 11 months to 2-2.5 years)
This is the phase of hormonal reconstruction of the organism and puberty establishment. The period from the beginning of puberty and the stage of total maturing is the time when the dog's body, his social behavior and character finally develop. This is the time when a young bullmastiff sorts his relationship with surrounding congeners and people and determines his place in the people's world.
Many factors and circumstances determine a dog's hierarchy status among the individuals of the same sex. A bitch in case if she is the only dog in the house never fights with other ones that come in her house to sort out relationship as a rule.
If there's more than one dog in the house, the relationship with guests is cleared up in the way as follows: the leader individual displays aggressiveness towards an alien dog and shows his power by means of various kinds of demonstration and threats and often stimulates fighting. His subordinate housemate always supports his leader in this situation.
Bullmastiff males are also non-aggressive to aliens, but only in case if none of the latter behaves aggressively and provokes fighting. If the alien individual somehow tries to display his power, there no doubt will be a quick response reaction and a fight will follow.
The statuses of several bullmastiffs in one house are not that simple. Despite it seems that a male has a status of leader, a bitch influences the male greatly and in most vital situations the final word is hers. Within the family a bullmastiff male treats a bitch with great respect.
The relationship between dogs that live in one district and directly and indirectly interact with each other in the outer world often depends on the tempers of their owners. But bullmastiffs have very good character and often much better control themselves in case of conflict situation than their owners.
Most often a leached bullmastiff never reacts on aggressive attacks of dogs that pass over. A bullmastiff possesses dignity and excellently realizes his might.
The Period of Mature Individual
This period is distinguished by stable and stereotype behavior of dog in the environment that is already familiar to him. All critical situations or drastic changes of live conditions are hard to him.
V.V. Piliugin "Bullmastiff. A practical Guide for Dog Breeders"