Too often I meet dogs whose behavioral problems are the direct cause of the lack of proper knowledge of the breeder or owner.
In my work, the topic of puppy behavior development is particularly important to me.
This study is presented in two main aspects. The aspect of a new dog owner who wants to raise his pooch as a mentally balanced companion. And the aspect of a novice breeder who wants to create a solid foundation for further work with the puppy.
Every year, the awareness of both owners and breeders about the huge influence they have on shaping the behavior of their dogs is growing.
Every year there are more and more publications supporting breeders and owners in the field of proper socialization of puppies.
I took the following three items as the basis for my considerations. Based on them, I would like to see how important the role of the breeder and the owner is from the point of view of the puppy's development and individual critical periods of its development. Will the literature presented below provide me with a sufficient dose of knowledge in a "pill"? Let's find out.
1. "Secrets of the Dog Mind" by Stanley Coren
2. Outsmart the Dog, Terry Ryan, Kirsten Mortensen
3. Through the eyes of a dog, John Fisher
In this paper, I will pay special attention to two critical phases. The neonatal phase and the socialization phase, because, in my opinion, they have the greatest impact on both the physical and mental development of newborn and infant dogs.
At the beginning of Chapter IX, Stanley Coren made a very important thesis: "Research has shown that the offspring of mothers who have been subjected to various stresses during pregnancy will be nervous and fearful." Thanks to this, I realized that my role (as a breeder) begins much earlier, namely in the prenatal phase. This information is very important to me because my female Maja is in her third trimester of pregnancy. Since stress is a negative factor, the "happiness hormones" will certainly benefit the developing fetuses. Now, with full awareness, I am able to manipulate the well-being of my bitch.
S. Coren in his study attributes the main importance to periods which he defines as "periods of increased sensitivity". That is
a) neonatal period (from birth to about 12 days),
b) a transitional period (up to about the 20th day),
c) socialization period (up to about 14-16 weeks)
There are two main aspects to the neonatal phase. Namely:
a) puppies are completely dependent on the bitch
b) apart from sight and hearing, all the senses are already developed
A very important fact is how undeniably important the sense of smell is for these puppies. Thanks to it, they get to know the world around them and the smell of the bitch's saliva helps them in this.
My female dog got postpartum tetany a few days after giving birth, she was not interested in feeding puppies. Puppies, on the other hand, did not want to eat from the bottle. I come up with an idea to soak the pacifier in Majka's saliva. Success! Puppy won't stop suckling!
Further on, I come across the concept of procedures stimulating the development of newborns: "These touching sessions in the neonatal period have an impact not only on the psyche, but also on the physical development of puppies." I start flipping through more books focusing on early neurological stimulation. I decide to continue the sessions for the next nine days.
"A period of rapid change". It seems to me that this term was not used by the author accidentally. Our puppies change rapidly over the next few days. They open their eyes, then their ears, unsure yet but trying to stand on their own. They're starting to play and it looks pretty fun! Of course, I continue my touch sessions and slowly provide new auditory and visual stimuli.
The period of socialization “…is perhaps the most fateful period in a dog's life…- all events, both those that have happened and those that have not, will shape the dog's behavior forever.” Several observations follow from this. The first is how important this period is for puppies, and how important it is that puppies are properly introduced and familiarized with both the homo sapiens species and representatives of their own species. We must also not forget about other species - if this is the purpose of the puppy (this applies, for example, to shepherd dogs). I also paid attention to the time frame (3-14/16 weeks of age) in which the animal benefits the most from proper socialization. The right balance is also important so that the puppy knows that he is a dog but also can live in a human community.
Puppies absorb knowledge from various sources - they learn from themselves and from their mother. They learn to communicate, use calming signals, and interpret signals sent by other animals. They learn to respond correctly to these signals. I find the "jaw grip strength" lessons very important. I realize that many breeders separate puppies that play too "aggressively", not knowing what mistake they are making. All these lessons, however, are an essential element of shaping the psyche of puppies.
The authors of the book "Outsmart the Dog" do not focus their attention on identifying the names of individual stages of puppy development.
He gets acquainted with the description of the first weeks of the puppy's life and, just as before, two main observations come to the fore - the puppy is dependent on the mother, the senses of smell, taste and touch are the senses with which the puppy is born. However, I do not agree with the authors' claim that the breeders did not have too much work with the puppies during this period. The authors reject the theory of early neurological stimulation, claiming that no research has been conducted in this direction. So I follow this lead and find the article "Early Neurological Stimulation" written by CL Battalgie, in which the author refers to the experience of the US Army Veterinary Corps. These results clearly demonstrate the benefits of neurological stimulation performed on puppies of a certain age.
The following weeks, the third and fourth, are also described by the authors as a period of turbulent changes.
Puppies open their eyes, ears, take their first steps, cut their teeth, play. They begin to defecate on their own (without the help of a bitch carefully licking her tummies). They try to settle away from their resting place. We're learning cleanliness. I lay out the hygienic pads near the bed.
The authors in an interesting way describe the next phase - socialization. It seems to be a set of tips for new owners and breeders. The authors emphasize the various stimuli to which the puppy should be exposed during this period.
So it's time to start work, which I hope will result in shaping the future temperaments of my charges. I play lullabies and cartoons for the puppies. I introduce an environment enriched with all kinds of objects. I show the puppies different rooms, let them sniff around a lot. Sometimes I turn on the vacuum cleaner, dryer, sounds of thunder or fireworks (usually when they are calmly sucking and feel safe). I don't set them up for experiences that may turn out to be traumatic for them.
I introduce the little ones to neighbors who differ from each other in appearance, gender, age. I organize short car trips.
The authors attribute the main attention to "biting inhibition" (jaw grip control). I allow puppies to play freely and I believe that if the need arises, the female dog will be ready to intervene. I am not in favor of separating puppies that are currently receiving very valuable lessons. I also play alone with the puppies and I end up squealing when I get bitten too hard.
The authors in their book give various interesting advice, present exercise scenarios. At the same time, they pay attention to not forcing the puppy to do anything so that the experience is not associated with something unwanted and unpleasant.
"Knowing the different stages of a dog's development can help us better understand their behavior," writes J. Fisher
Fisher outlines the following stages of puppy development:
a) neonatal (up to the thirteenth day)
b) socialization with dogs (from the 14th to the 49th day)
c) socialization with a human (from the 7th to the 12th week)
d) determining the hierarchy (from the 12th to the 16th week)
e) escapes (four to eight months)
g) mature age (from one to four years)
The author briefly describes the first phase in which he focuses mainly on the senses thanks to which newborn dogs learn about the world.
In the next phase - "socialization", the author focuses on learning to control the strength of the grip of the jaws. He claims that at the end of this stage, puppies stop suckling their mother's milk. The mother begins to discipline them. The author claims that puppies should not be separated from the litter and mother at this point. The puppy must learn the rules of the herd. Fisher also writes that in this phase, a man should set the puppies to various stimuli, introduce care treatments. In this item, I also find no mention of early neurological stimulation of puppies.
In the next phase - socialization with a human, the author presents a system of assessing puppy temperaments. Of course, these tests only allow you to determine certain predispositions, not the future character of the dog. The same puppy in different environments will develop different systems of action and can be a completely different dog. These tests, however, help conscious breeders to fit a particular puppy into a particular family. Not every family is characterized by the same dynamics and not every puppy will feel good in, for example, a family with children. The "producers" of puppies, of course, do not attach any importance to this. Majka's puppy oscillated mainly around the B grade, we decided on owners experienced in training. After several years, we are able to say that it was indeed a good choice. A point for the author for separating the period of increased anxiety (the first of the anxiety periods - between 8-11 weeks). During this period, traumatic situations should be avoided, and if such situations arise, do not calm the puppy down and let it recover on its own.
All presented items, somewhat different, yet complementary to each other. Certainly, thanks to them, topics for further research and exploration open up. Certainly these items will help me to be a more conscious owner and breeder. However, I have learned the following - do not stop searching and acquiring knowledge, because there is no one complete source that would be a kind of bible of knowledge about animal development and behavior.
Stanely Coren refers to many examples, experiences and experiments, thanks to which his book seems to be a professional work. From the breeder's point of view, it is this book that I would choose among the three compared items. Here, for the first time, I learned the secrets of early neurological stimulation, thanks to which I further explored my knowledge in this direction and then I was able to carry out appropriate exercises myself. I can see their results to this day. However, this position did not meet my expectations in terms of the secrets of puppy socialization and the necessity and manner of exposing them to various stimuli.
J. Fisher as well as T. Ryan and K. Mortensen describe the neonatal period very poorly, moreover, the authors of "Outsmart the Dog" question the effectiveness of methods of early stimulation of puppies.
"Outsmart the dog" is quite a practical set of advice - especially for dog owners. Uncomplicated language makes the book more accessible to the average reader. As a dog owner, I would focus mainly on this position, which I value mainly for the practical side.
J. Fisher, thank you for the knowledge about Temperament Testing, which is a natural practice for me today
It is also positive that John Fisher emphasizes not selling puppies too early and not separating them during play. I realize that many breeders feel uncomfortable during such games, many separate puppies, thus causing them a lot of harm. However, if I were the owner after reading this item, I would never in my life buy a puppy from a pseudo-breeder who sells even 5-week-old puppies out of the desire to make a quick buck!
I am convinced that the breeder and the owner play extremely important roles, especially in the first stages of a puppy's life. They have the main responsibility (not taking into account genetics at the moment) for shaping the future characters of the little ones. It is thanks to them that a young puppy has a chance to become a well-balanced adult dog, or unfortunately, which happens all too often - the opposite - a fearful, aggressive creature that is not adapted to life in human society.
Author: Edyta Gajewska