Big Rock Labradoodles crown logomark

Maximizing Your Puppy’s Critical Learning Period

Bringing a new puppy home is an exciting time for any family. It’s important to understand that the last three to four weeks your puppy spends with you falls within their “Critical Learning Period”, which is from 3 weeks to 12 weeks of age. This period is crucial for your puppy’s development, socialization, and future behavior.

Table of Contents

Preparing for the Transition

While I personally do all I can to prepare the puppies for this stage of their lives by raising them with lots of enrichment exercises and socialization, they may still go through a brief fear impact stage after leaving their Dam and siblings.  This why it is so important for our new families to understand the importance of protecting their new puppy from any long-term effects of being frightened during this brief window of time by avoiding any experiences or situations where the puppy could be “spooked” .  Should the puppy become afraid for any reason — perceived as dangerous or not, always remove the puppy from the situation immediately.

The Importance of Socialization and Enrichment

As soon as the puppy goes home, time is of the essence for the new family to provide a huge heaping of high quality socialization and continued enrichment. This is the key to creating a socially self-confident, well-behaved puppy that is strongly bonded to you. It is also the key to preventing yappy, shy, and/or aggressive behaviors from developing later in life!

Please do remember that puppies need lots of sleep/rest though and keep all meeting of family or dogs or experiences brief and then allow the puppy to nap as long as they want to afterwards.   I will get more into the importance of puppy getting lots of rest/naps, later.

Socializing Your Puppy

It is recommended that you get your puppy out to meet as many different dogs of as many different breeds as possible.  (CAUTION: this should be done in a safe, neutral place and only with supervision and other dogs you KNOW for a fact to enjoy and get along with puppies.)

Incorporating Your Puppy Into Your Lifestyle

Expose your puppy early to activities you enjoy. If you enjoy boating, take him or her boating (with his own safety vest). If you do a lot of road trips and traveling, take him with you on a few day trips at first and then try an overnight trip. If you own a store or work at an office where he/she will be allowed, take him to work with you.

Don’t wait until he/she is potty trained or has manners. Expose him/her right away, even if only for a few minutes at first. Take the puppies’ favorite treat or toy with you and “reward” him/her as you introduce them to friends, co-workers or experiences.

A lack of continued socialization can create a puppy that grows up to be a dog who is afraid of new places, people, or other dogs.


Always ask yourself if the experience will be safe and pleasant for the puppy.  If you have any doubts at all — do not allow the puppy to experience it. Just as your puppy is emotionally stable, curious and open to learning fun, new things, he/she is actually just as vulnerable to becoming fearful when placed in an experience that could cause him fear. For instance, if you have to wonder and think twice about the neighbor’s dog that you “THINK” would be so gentle and sweet to you puppy once introduced, then do NOT introduce them or do so very slowly and gradually with plenty of positive reinforcement for your puppy as you do so.

Training During the Critical Learning Period

The first and most important skills to learn during this critical puppy learning period are: 

  • Recall
  • Walking on a leash
  • Sitting to ask for things
  • Crate training

If just these three things are taught with positive rewards (food or safe, healthy treats work best), this basic training will serve to imprint the puppy better to look to you for what you are asking him/her to do. Training further will be so much easier because he/she will have learned that training is a good thing, and during the critical learning period, most puppies learn super fast!

The Significance of Rest

Puppies require a balance of play and sleep, with a ratio of about two or three hours of nap time to every hour of activity. Training sessions should be brief (1-3 minutes) and conducted just before nap times. This approach leverages the fact that learning before rest periods improves retention, making it an effective strategy for puppy training.

Enjoying the Journey

Welcoming a new puppy into your family is a rewarding experience. By understanding the critical learning period, providing ample socialization, and engaging in positive training practices, you’re setting the stage for a well-adjusted, happy dog. Remember, the joy of raising a puppy is not just in the milestones but in the journey itself. Enjoy every moment with your new furry family member!


Australian Labradoodle Breeder at
Since 2011, I've dedicated myself to breeding Standard Sized Australian Labradoodles, fueled by a passion for holistic practices and exceptional quality. My focus lies in fostering strong bonds between humans and dogs, crafting loyal companions for therapy, service, and family — spreading love, one precious puppy at a time.
Alana Holst

Alana Holst

Australian Labradoodle Breeder

We make a heartfelt promise to our cherished puppies and their new families, dedicating ourselves to the health, happiness, and lifelong well-being of every Labradoodle we raise and to fostering a supportive community among our adoptive families. Learn more about us.

Divider design element
Australian Labradoodle Momma at Big Rock Labradoodles

Where Care Meets Excellence!

At Big Rock Labradoodles, we champion a comprehensive, science-based, and holistic approach in breeding and nurturing exceptional standard-sized genuine Multigenerational Australian Labradoodles. Our commitment to atypical rearing strategies ensures that we never settle for the ordinary — we strive for extraordinary dogs destined for prolonged and fulfilling lives. Learn more about our code of ethics and our adoption process. When you feel ready to welcome a new family member, we invite you to fill out our adoption application — the first step towards finding your new furry family member.

Big Rock Labradoodles

Ready to Transform Your Dog's Life?

Subscribe to The Doodle Dispatch and receive our exclusive Raw Feeding Guide, delivered as a comprehensive 6-week mini-course.

Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.