Early Puppy Training
As puppies open their eyes to the world and their nervous systems begin to process information beyond how to stay warm and fill their tummies by finding Mom, a rich array of possibilities open up.
Tests have determined that dogs with 'mild' stresses in their early puppyhood
seem to adapt more easily as adults to life's changes. These tests were
originally done to see why some dogs seemed to handle gunfire and warfare better
The mechanics apply to life, though. Dogs that cringe at fireworks or thunder may have a noise sensitivity, but early puppy training can overcome, or drastically reduce, the reaction.
As early as 10 days, mild stress, such as a Q-tip between the toes, or being
picked up and weighed, reinforces that although things happen, everything is
Although curtains are closed as sensitive eyes open to the world for the first time, stress takes many forms. One day it's Mozart as little ears open. Later on we have a day of hard rock for an hour. Next day, jazz.
A few weeks later, puppies are learning about their world at an astonishing
pace. I vacuum near the whelping box. It may seem startling at first, but then
it's fine. Life is safe. Things happen and the puppy learns that it's all OK.
I had someone with a Hawkwind puppy call me and actually complain that they can't vacuum with the dog in the room as he thinks it's a TOY! Better that than a dog who cringes at new experiences.
A big day is the first time outside on a windy day. There is always safety in the group. The wind is an unknown. At first it's disconcerting, then they cuddle in a group and sleep. Another lesson in 'life is basically OK.'
I deliberately feed my puppies in different areas, and under different conditions, and from different dishes such as glass, plastic, and stainless steel. If it's snowing, they eat outside. They eat outside in the wind, and on a sunny day.
One negative they learn is that teeth on skin is a no-no. They hear a yelp, and sometimes a pinch on the sensitive nose. For older puppies I might put my fist in their mouths until they spit it out. No biting.
After the first few weeks, they leave the security of my bedroom and the whelping box life. There's a room in the basement with more room to play, and lots of toys.
The puppy room is close to the doorway out to the backyard. Puppy life is basically eat, play and sleep. Oh, and potty! So I awaken them from naps, at which time I can guarantee they will potty SOON! So I cluck and say, "puppy, puppy, puppy," and herd them out the back door in a rush before they stop and realize they have to pee. It becomes a ritual. Puppies awaken and run for the door. It's only a few feet, so they all fan out and potty in either snow or grass, depending upon the season.
The basics for house training are set. They are babies, and not reliable yet. But they do realize by repetition that potty and outside go together.
All this is basically called socialization. At 8 weeks I take them on the road to be evaluated by other breeders whose opinions I trust. This is a 4 hour drive. They get out, they run around and have a grand time. It's all fun. They are confident and secure in new experiences by now. On the way to this day they have had several short car rides. I make sure that by 8 weeks they have spent a night in the van, and visited a hotel room under watchful supervision.
Lots of new places and new things and fun and games are the components of babyhood.
The Leap Year litter was 4 months old on July 4th. Before sundown I took them to a fenced area near me. We played, had treats, and as the sun went down the fireworks started. They looked up with wide eyes. To see them looking at the beauty and just watching was so precious! They didn't understand what it was, but they were interested. Later on, tired, they cuddled up in a cluster and slept.
There are things in life to be afraid of, such as a moose. It's our job to make sure our babies are safe from these things.
Early puppyhood is a time of fun, games, and overcoming life's small issues. Mild stress has it's place, and properly and watchfully applied, creates a confident and secure puppy.