The personality and temperament of your dog is dependent on several factors. It starts with breeding, you want to make sure puppy parents are even tempered, gentle towards people, kids, dogs and various social situations. But it’s not just breeding it’s environmental. It’s how well the breeders took early puppy training.
Early Puppy Neurological Stimulation
It has been proven in both human infants and newborn puppies that early stimulation of the neurological system (the brain and nerves) can influence intelligence and future ability to learn and process information. The military and service dog organizations have various puppy training programs to develop highly intelligent working dogs and responsible dog breeders take this phase of life very seriously.
I majored in Animal Science and the same philosophy is true in raising horses. Handle newborn animals often and all over their bodies. The military developed a Bio-Sensor program which consists of exercises performed on each puppy every day through the first three weeks of life. Each exercise is performed for only 3 to 5 seconds. They are as follows:
- Tactile stimulation: Hold the puppy in one hand and tickle it between the toes on any one foot (a cotton swab can be used)
- Head up position: Using both hands, hold the puppy perpendicular to the ground so its head is directly over its tail.
- Head down position: Holding the puppy in the same position as in exercise 2, gently bend the head down so the nose is pointing toward the ground.
- Supine position: Place the puppy on its back in both your hands, so it’s parallel to the ground.
- Thermal stimulation: Cool a damp towel in the refrigerator for five minutes, then place the pup on it, feet down.
Studies showed that not only could puppies cope with stressful situations better but they could also problem solve better than other puppies. In addition they were also physically healthier with higher cardiovascular performance, stronger immune systems, adrenal glands and heart beats. Assistance dogs are well mannered and good manners don’t magically appear.
We encouraged our puppy families to visit and to hold all the puppies. At least twice a day each pup was handled, cradled, and their little feet, ears and bodies stroked and manipulated until they were comfortable, relaxed, and yielded to the touch. Each pup learned to fall asleep on their backs with either their belly, head, or chest stroked. Puppy paws are cute and irresistible to play with and each one of the pups were spoiled with attention.
Create a Complex Stimulated Puppy Environment
Our puppies had a 8×12 foot room in the basement connected to the back door, it really is a back entry “mud room” area which we converted to the puppy room. They had access to assorted blankets of different textures in the nursery and as they grew a kennel crate was then provided for Mom and puppies to sleep and nurse. As soon as they opened their eyes, and became mobile, I added balls and toys. I made tiny fleece tug toys and would encourage them to follow the toy in my hand and grab for the end to play tugging games.
The puppies were more interested in playing with each other than the toys the first few weeks. They had plenty of room to learn to jump, climb, and ample space to sleep together in a giant puppy pile or apart.
You can see the pups here inside their kennel crate. As soon as they started climbing out of their nursery pool the kennel crate was placed in the area. I really like using bath mats and large quilted pillow shams as bedding. It’s soft, easily washed and fit perfectly inside the crate. At the front of the crate was a thick layer of newspaper to give them a distinctive place to pee and poop.
I’m not going to say they learned house training this quick, the newspaper was there as a suggestion. We did place newspapers outside the crate, all around it at first, and gradually newspaper was only by the door. By the time they were 6 weeks old most of them would pee immediately after letting them outside in the morning. At 9 wks of age the pups did their business on the newspapers 95% of the time.
Importance of Crate Training
I’m a firm believer in crate training and getting pups comfortable with going inside a kennel. A crate is a place to call their own, it’s a safe place, it’s their den. Dogs don’t like to soil where they sleep so it becomes a housebreaking tool when they go to their new homes. Puppies can also be very mischievous and get into trouble. If you work you during the day there is no way you can be supervise all the time, and coming home to the kitchen trash all over the house is NOT enjoyable.
A crate serves as a short-term “time out” training tool. If dogs learn at a young age that a crate is not scary or dangerous it makes transporting your dog less stressful. Even after your puppy is house trained it’s a good idea to keep the crate door open with a comfortable bed inside. Many dogs love the security a den provides and will go in voluntarily to take a doggy break from the ruckus of an active household.
Puppies at 3-4 Weeks of Age
At this age the pups were not only learning balance and starting to bounce around but were also starting to eat solid food. They followed Mom to the food bowl and started nibbling and soon they were eating like pros. I softened their puppy food at first but it didn’t take long for their teeth to come in and they soon were eating more food and nursing less.
I love puppies. I love taking photographs of puppies. I’m not going to say how many pictures of the puppies I took, but it was hundreds. There seems to be a “magic” age to take photos of both puppies and babies and that is 4-5 weeks for pups and about 4-5 months of human babies. At that age they are alert, curious, but still don’t move around very much.
Educating the Infant Puppy
We didn’t set out to “educate” our puppies, but in using common sense we were assuring our pups to had the best start before going to their forever families.
A well raised puppy makes not only a wonderful companion dog, but if you are looking to train a service dog ask the breeder about their puppy raising program. Assistance dogs aren’t born, they are raised and specially bred for a job first, then a companion next. It is our hope that our puppy families would have a good foundation to continue training and have
Learn More About Puppy Training for Service and Assistance Dogs
Some parents read all the child rearing books and do everything by the book. This was not our philosophy in puppy rearing. But, we did expose our pups to a myriad of environments, people, stimulus, and I was very proud of them when they went to their new families. If you want to read more on newborn puppy training or training a pup for a future as a service dog these organizations below are a wealth of information.
- The Infant Puppy (not just for service dogs)
- Canine Companions for Independence
- Hero Dog Puppy Program
- Guide Dogs of America Puppy Raising
- Guide Dogs of America Raise a Puppy Program
- Early Scent Introduction
Books on Training Your Puppy
The Art of Raising a Puppy (Revised Edition)Training the Best Dog Ever: A 5-Week Program Using the Power of Positive ReinforcementThe Happy Puppy Handbook: Your Definitive Guide to Puppy Care and Early TrainingK9 Behavior Basics: A Manual for Proven Success in Operational Service Dog Training (K9 Professional Training Series)