There is an article written by Pat Schaap regarding puppy socialization in which she advises that by the time a puppy is seven weeks old, he/she should have had certain experiences of 7 varieties. As an example, she says that a pup should have been on seven different types of surfaces and played with seven different types of toys. I am not sure where the number 7 was plucked from, or whether it truly has any significance (is 6 not enough? 8 too much?) I think the purpose was simply to make certain that the pups had variety in their young environment, so that they are as well-rounded as possible when they go to their new homes.
7 different surfaces
The pups started out in their whelping box where the surfaces included wood, newspaper, throw rugs and carpeting. Once they were "released to the wild" they have traveled on the concrete and gravel of the driveway, grass, ceramic tile and the many surfaces in their Challenge Course that they have climbed on. They tend to make anything interactive, and climb up on the lawnmower, through the wire bird pens and over wood pallets. In the house, they are on hard wood floor, rugs and carpeting.
Played with 7 different types of objects
It's rather funny to define what they have played with because, in addition to actual toys, they pretty much make anything a toy! We have a container filled with puppy appropriate toys that they have explored which includes balls of various sizes, rubber balls, knotted rope balls, cloth frisbee, "squirrel", tug ropes, stuff toys. The toys changed in their puppy paddock so that they are constantly investigating new things, and sometimes that means baby kong toys or balls, and sometimes tug toys. We have a special toy we called "sneaky snake" which is a soft, two headed tug toy with a snake head on each end and squeakers in the heads. This toy only comes out with human interaction.
One important thing is to keep the MOST FUN TOY for yourself. This toy only comes out when you play with your puppy. He/she does not have free access to the best toys so that he looks forward to you playing with him. I also do not overwhelm the puppy with toys at home. Give the pup one or two toys suitable for chewing on, not an entire toy box. Change up the toys, so new toys are presented every so often. And remember to keep the most special toys for your times together, and then they go away until the next time.
Don't leave toys with puppies that can either be torn apart and consumed or have dangerous stuffings, squeakers fall out. Likewise, toys that have become too small and can obstruct the airway. I do not like tennis balls because the abrasive surface can erode the enamel on the teeth.
Been in 7 different locations
Of course, the pups started out in their whelping box. Their next temporary confinement location was the exercise pen, and now the puppy paddock. The list of 7 includes front yard, back yard, etc...well, the pups have been in all the yards around the house and off exploring in the tall grass fields. They have been in the garage, in the house and ridden in the van.
met and played with 7 different people
We have enjoyed visitors, and the schutzhund club members come up after training every Saturday to play with the gang. Chuck, Sue, Sam, Lisa, Eric...and others. Mike Kriegl, who has selected Danica as his own monster pup...I mean MUNSTER... has visited with a friend several times. People bringing their dogs here for boarding have been commanded to play with pups, as well, but that doesn't take much of an arm twisting! Our friends Joel & Linda and their teenage daughter, Faith, recently spent several hours entertaining and being entertained. There have been adults and children but I haven't had any handicapped people visit. We will probably haul the crutches down from the training building that we use for the CGC test, and expose the pups to that.
It is more important that the socialization is positive and supervised, rather than throwing pups into any crazy situation. I want my own dogs to ignore children, because they know the best things in life come through me, and children have never been a source of reward for them. They don't dislike children, and can be fed and petted in our demos, but they really don't care about playing with them. Children can scare puppies and hurt them, if they are not instructed and supervised.
Been exposed to 7 challenges
Oh, there have been so many challenges, it is hard to keep track. The author of the article listed such things as climbing or being in a tunnel. Well, their existence is a series of challenges! They climb up steps, across rubble, through tunnels, through wire bird pens, into the swimming pool. There doesn't seem to be such a thing as a "challenge" in their world yet; there are no roadblocks, only speed bumps.
Eaten from 7 different containers
Does mom count? <grin> The pups have eaten from pie plates, ceramic dishes, stainless steel dog dishes, my hand, muffin tins, bowls and cookie sheets. And tried to steel treats from my plastic bag....
Eaten in 7 different locations
The pups eat whereever the food is! They have eaten in their whelping box, the Xpen, puppy paddock, back patio, on a wood pallet, in the side yards, at the gas station on the car ride...and any place that the food dish goes down! We have made it a point to feed them in many different places so that they don't think eating can only occur in one location, or from a particular container.
So there is a basic explanation of the Rule of 7's by 7(weeks). The reason why a breeder should try and make these exposures by week 7 is because puppies have no fear until about the 5th week of life with fear increasing gradually through the 6th week, and escalating toward the end of the 7th week. The onset of the fear period can be very sudden, but the duration and experience can vary between individuals and breeds. It is for this reason that many breeders do not release a pup to a new home between weeks 8-9 when the pup will begin a time of much more caution.