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  • Chris Williams

What Does It Mean When a Dog Imprints?

Imprinting in a puppy is an integral part of his development. When you’re wondering why do dogs imprint, understand that it’s a pup’s process of learning about the world around him. It starts the moment he’s born and lasts throughout his whole life.



What Does Dog Imprinting Mean?


Imprinting is a puppy’s means of survival. As soon as he’s born, it’s the way he recognizes his mom and littermates. As he gets older it transforms into the ability to recognize his family so that he doesn’t get separated from the rest of his pack.


Imprinting is also why it’s so crucial for a pup to stay with his mom during the first eight to twelve weeks of his life. He needs to learn the important lessons that imprinting teaches him, such as how to read the body language of other dogs, how to behave around humans, and even what species he is!


Why Do Dogs Imprint?


If you’re wondering why do dogs imprint, understand that dogs are not unique in this process— most mammals imprint one way or another. What does dog imprinting mean can differ from pup to pup. For most, it’s the way that animals learn from their parents and siblings to help themselves stay safe and alive throughout the early stages of their lives.


Stages of Imprinting


There are several stages of imprinting that contribute to what dog imprinting does mean. The imprinting process happens gradually and helps the pup’s circle grow wider and wider throughout the first few weeks and months of his life.


Three weeks


What does dog imprinting mean at just three weeks old? At this stage, all a pup knows is that his mom has made sure his needs are met every step of the way. When opens his eyes, he’ll be able to actively seek out his mom for food and comfort.


Once a pup’s eyes are open, the speed at which he imprints will increase exponentially. With his eyes open, he’s able to obtain information for himself much faster than before.


Three to Seven Weeks


A puppy’s litter mates play the biggest role during this stage of imprinting. He learns how to recognize them, play with them, how to roughhouse without biting too hard. The lessons a pup learns at this stage help him learn how to live in a pack.


If there are other dogs in the house when a puppy is this age, he’ll start to imprint on them too. He’ll learn their scent and start to catch on to the pack order of the house.


Seven to Twelve Weeks


This is a very important developmental stage for puppies— they learn to imprint on humans! A whole new set of boundaries comes along with this new stage as pups start to understand how to interact with humans.


During this stage, it’s important to introduce a pup to as many new places, people, and things as possible. Getting your puppy used to new experiences helps to ensure he becomes a well-socialized adult dog.


Final Thoughts on What Does Dog Imprinting Mean?


Understanding the answer to the question of why do dogs imprint is an important step in the process of learning all about your new pup.


Imprinting in puppies is how they learn to keep themselves safe. As with many mammals, it’s an important development stage and allows a pup to live a happy, healthy adult life.