Puppyhood: Nature vs. Nuture


“Whatcha in for, little man?”
“Being a puppy,” says Beau.

It’s a familiar story: people purchase a puppy expecting the adult characteristics of a dog in the canine version of a human toddler – only with super sharp teeth and without diapers!


Too many dogs are relinquished to shelters because someone took home an adorable furball that grew and grew into a holy terror. Beau is lucky. His humans recognized early on that this was too much for them. And while it is no doubt a very difficult decision to surrender him to us, they did him a great service my doing it sooner rather than later. At only three months of age, Beau is still impressionable, but the timing of our work with him is critical.


In a garden, two identical plants – even side by side – can grow at dissimilar rates and bloom differently. Is it nature? Or nurture? Maybe a little of both.


The soil may be slightly different; surrounding plants may throw just a touch more shade or shelter creating a tiny micro-climate. Or an unruly tree root may be creating competition for one’s growth.


Why do some puppies thrive, and others turn “terrible?” Between three and seven weeks, puppies learn the difference between canine and human ways. The critical human socialization period is between seven and 12 weeks of age. It overlaps with a “fear impact age” somewhere between eight and 12 weeks where negative interactions can lead to permanent associations. Positive human socialization and avoidance of fear-inducing experiences can shape an adult dog’s temperament and behaviors for life.

So there are certain facts about a dog’s nature and development, but they can be very much influenced by proper nurturing.

Beau is quick with his teeth. He jumps up. He has all the traits of a Lab: energetic, busy, chewing, and expressive when he does not get his way.



It can be off-putting to someone who is not used to the ways of puppies whose energy has to be expended before the cuddle bug can come out.


We found the perfect way to expend Beau’s energy: her name is Daphne. She is hanging out with us until she is old enough to have cataract surgery to restore her sight.


And lest you think that Beau has one up on our sightless little girl…


think again!


Daphne is schooling Beau in dog manners –


While we work on his people ones.


There is a cuddle bug in there.


Just as the bloom is in that plant.
You just have to put in a little extra effort and wait for it.


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I am a nascent gardener, rescuer, and photographer, chronicling the journey of the dogs at Homeward Bound Golden Retriever Rescue and Sanctuary near Sacramento, CA - and the Memorial Garden we have devoted to them.

16 thoughts on “Puppyhood: Nature vs. Nuture”

  1. Oh my, what a wonderful post! Such glorious photographs, Ogee! And how happy I am for Beau that things are going to turn out okay, with the help of Homeward Bound and sweet Daphne.

  2. Wow! What a match here between Daphne and Beau. Daphne’s mentoring skills and all the HB love and understanding will help Beau become his best self, and ensure that he receives lots of love in his soon-to-be self! Bravo

  3. Beau is definitely in the right place, and so glad he got there young enough to make his life a whole lot better.

  4. He’s adorable, People really need to do research and look at their own lives before they make the commitment of getting a dog. Luckily he is still young enough to recover, and will probably grow up to be a great dog with the right owners.

    1. Absolutely! But how they express those personalities can be shaped. A three-month-old monster I can handle. A 90-pound three-year-old monster…well, that’s a whole lot of black and blue!

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