In today's societ with easy lawsuits an increasing anti-dog legislationk raising a litter of purppies wiht stable temperaments is more important than ever. Many areas have so-called "dangerous dog" laws which may designate a dog as "vicious" for doing nothing more than barking to warn an intrude off its property. Other areas ban entire breeds of dogs, labeling them dangerous based on nothing more than their appearance. In light of this growing trend, it is essential for breeders to give their puppies the best possible start by ensuring neurological stimulation, sensitization to sights, sounds, and smells, and socialization to a variety of people and places. There are some steps a breeder can take before birth to improve puppy temperaments and stability. Ensuring both parents have proper temperaments is vital, and the temperaments of other relatives should be considered, too, as temperament traits can be passed on from generation to generation. Be sure to give the bitch lots of attention and petting while she's in whelp - research has shown that puppies from a bitch who received physical contact while pregnant are more emotionally stable and tolerant of touch. The bitch should receive a high-quality diet while pregnant, with adequate amounts of the Omega-3 fatty acids DHA. Studies have shows that puppies had increased cognitive fuction and problem-solving ability when they recieve a high amount of DHA in the womb and when weaned. After the puppies are whelped, the real work begins. Immediately after the cord is cut and the puppy is breathing, many breeders perform a "Biotinus Test", which evaluates a newborn's vigor for life. "The puppy is placed in the whelping box, about two puppy lengths from the bitch, facing away from her. The breeder observes how both the puppy and the bitch react, and how long it takes for the puppy to find the nipple. It is important that the breeder not interfere with this test; the bitch may help the puppy, but the breeder should not. Some breeders use this test as a factor in determining which puppies may be bred as adults, reasoning that a puppy who cannot find the nipple would not have surbied in the wild, and may not have the optimal genes to pass on the to next generation.
Starting at three day of age, Early Neurological Stimulation (ENS) is performed on each puppy, once per day through sixteen days of age. ENS consists of five exercises, done in sequence, for 3-5 seconds each: tickle the puppy between two toes; hold the puppy with its head up; hold the puppy with its head down; hold the puppy on its bac; and place the puppy belly down on a cold wascloth or towel. The puppy should be safely and securely held, and should not be afraid of falling during these exercises. The ENS protocol, also called the "Bio-Sensor" or "Superdog" programs, was originally used by the US military for their canine corps. The exercises have been shown to improve heart rate and stregth, stregthen the funcioning of the adrenal gland, and increase tolerance to stress and resistance to disease. Another ongoing protocol is the "Rule of Sevens" developed by Pat Schaap. With this program, by the ime a puppy is seven weeks old it should have: waled on seven different surfaces (grass, carpet, tile, etc.); played with seven different locations(bedroom, kitchen, front yard, back yard); been exposed to seen challenges (up stairs, down stairs, teeter); met and interacted with seven new people; eaten from seven different containers (glass, plastic, stainless steel); and eaten in seven different locations (kitchen, back yard, living room). The number seven is arbitrary; it could as easily have been the "Rule of Eights" or the "Rule of Twelves". The point is that puppies are like sponges, and what they learn in the litter will have long-reaching effects on their behavior and temperament as adults. They should be exposed to a wide variety of people, places, sights, sounds, smells, textures, and tastes while they are developing. The "Rule of Sevens" can be expanded to include other necessary exposure for the puppies. It can help to organize these exposures along the five senses, to ensure that puppies are receiving adequate stimulation in all of them, as well as mental stimulation in the form of obstacles and challenges. For each category, a new stimulus should be introduced every four to seven days. Taking a few minutes before the puppies are born to plan the socialization program will ensure that all of the necessary stimuli are presented while avoiding over-stimulation; too much can be just as problematic as too little. On days when a more intense or difficult stimulus is presented, the preceding and following days can be "easy" days when not much new information is added. Producing dogs with stable temperaments is more important than ever in this day and age. Ensuring that puppies are introduced to new sensations and adquately socialized to sights, sounds and people is one of the most important, and often overlooked, aspects of raising a litter of puppies. By spending time planning and executing the best chance to develop into temperamentally sound adults. A proper stimulation program is vital for producing temperamentally sound adults. Dog owners are often frustrated by thier dogs' fear of sounds, objects, or strange people. Thunderstorm and fireworks phobias are common, and many dogs are afraid of strange sights such as banners flapping in the breeze, helium balloons floating about, or men in hats or hoods. Breeders can take some steps while the puppies are in the litter to introduce a wide variety of sights and sounds, which can help to prevent fears in the adult dogs. From birth to two weeks, puppies cannot see or hear; touch, taste and smell are the most important senses during this period. The eyes and ears open at aroun 10-14 days of age, but sight and hearing are not sharply defined for another week or so. Initial stimuli should be mild so as not to overwhelm the developing senses.
Puppies can be exposed to visual stimuli while still in the whelping box. Vivid colors and patterns can be used for bedding; fabric stores often have fleece on sale, which is durable, warm, and comes in a variety of styles. Brightly-colored toys (which are used in the whelping box for tactile stimulation) can also have a visual effect. As the puppies get older, toys that roll, shake, and bounce can develop tracking and acuity. Once the puppies move into a puppy pen, toys can be hung from the ceiling or top of the pen, to teach the puppies to look up as well as around. Puppies should also be encouraged to spend time outside when they're old enough, to chase bugs, falling leaves, dandelion seeds, and each other.
Exposure to normal household sounds should be done early and often. During the first week or so that hearing is developing, sounds should be low or at a distance. Puppies hould be accustomed to noises from the washing machine, dishwasher, vacuum cleaner, televisoin, radio, dogs barking, birds singing, lawnmowers, telephones, and the rattling of pots and pans CD's are available with thunderstorm and fireworks noise (and dog show noises, for show litters); these can be played at a low level when the puppies are eating, nursing, and sleeping. The volume can be gradually increased at the puppies' comfort level. Background music in the puppy are can be provided by a radio, at a low volume and set to a different station every day. This provides gentle exposure to a variety of instrument sounds, rhythms, and ranges. A soft wind-chime can be hung from the puppy pen walls. Noisy toys provide stimulation in many areas; there are toys that squeak, squak, rattle, grunt, giggle, and make realistic animal noises. Every so often puppies should be startled by a sharp, sudden, loud noise, such as a metal food bowl or baking pan or a heavy book dropped from about waist height. Observing the puppies' reactions and recovery times can help breeders evaluate stability of temperament. Properly socializing and sensitizing a litter of puppies to sights and sounds takes some planning. It also requires a time commitment from the breeder, but pays off in the long run. Exposure to a wide variety of visual and oral sitmuli as puppies can prevent fears in adult dogs. Early training and socialization can literally save a puppy's life. Canine behaviorists today agree that early socialization and training are essential. They propose that a puppy begin classes, for both the socializing and training they provide, at ten weeks of age. However, many people, including veterinarians and breeders, are still in the dark ages about the appropriate age at which to begin trainning and socializing a dog.
No need to Wait Until the Puppy is Completely Inoculated or a Bit Older
Some breeders and beterinarians caution against putting a puppy into a training class or social situations with other dogs too soon for fear that they might contract a disease before they are completely inoculated. Theyy are stress waiting until the dog is six months to one year old before beginning. However, many canine behaviorists argue that the disease risks to a puppy that is exposed to other healthy puppies in a well-run puppy class are minimal compared to the problems that often arise baecause that puppy was not socialized or trained early on. Given that the window of opportunity for socializing a puppy with other dogs is anywhere from four weeks to four months, it doesn't make sense to wait. Yet so many dogs find their way to a trainer only after the undesireable behavior and aggression are well established. In the past, heavy handed, choke-chain and other harsh methos precluded having a puppy training too early. Thankfullly, these methos are slowly dying out in favor of positive reinforcement and canine-friendly training techniques.
Puppies, as well as Mature Dogs, Need Year-Round Socilization with Other Dogs
Many dog owners, as well meaning and caring as they may be, are not aware of the consequences of under-socialization. They are not aware of the negative effects on a dog that is, for the most part, isolated from other dogs. Fear aggression and its by-product leash aggression are two of the most common problems among dogs that have not been socialized with other dogs. Puppies need to be exposed to the full range of dogs---all sizes, ages, and breeds---as early as and as much as possible Year-round interaction with other dogs is necessary. Pulling a dog out of the canine social milieu for any reason--bad winter weather or busy schedules, for example--can seriously affect his social habits. Remember, a month in a puppy's life is equivalent to a year in a human's life. Limited social access for long stretches of time can have radically negative effects on a puppy's social health. Dr. Ian Dunbar, a veterinarian and internationally recognized animal behaviorist, has cautioned that "the nuymber one cause of death among dogs is bad behavior (from lack of training and socilization)." A dog's life is literally in the hands of his/her owner.