Our Schedule of Puppy Curriculum
Day 3 to Day 16 The Neonatal Period
Once we are sure the puppies are thriving, we begin Early Neurological Stimulation (ENS) exercises created by Dr Carmen Battaglia. This includes brief exposures daily to thermal and tactile stimulation, motion and locomotion which is thought to make the puppies more resilient to challenges later in life.
Early Scent Introduction ( ESI) is also started at this age. Other than the sense of touch, the only other sense the puppies have at this age is the sense of smell. We expose our puppies to a different scent daily and note their response. We follow our puppies after they go home and have found puppies who have the most positive responses to the scents have gone on to be exceptional hunting and diabetic alert dogs.
Day 16 to Day 21 The Transitional Period
The puppies eyes and ears are open and they are able to toddle around their whelping bed. At this age, we arrange their whelping bed into three sections: the sleeping area, the play area, and the potty area. By managing their environment at an early age, the puppies are able to use their innate desire to keep their sleep and play areas clean and will begin to toddle over to their potty area to relieve themselves.
The puppies are also beginning to realize that there is more to the world than their mother and littermates. We provide safe whelping box exposures in the form of soft stuffed animals ( that do not make sounds to startle the puppies) in the play area of their whelping bed for the puppies to explore.
Week 3 The Critical Socialization Period
The puppies are moved to from their whelping bed to their weaning pen which allows them to see more of the world( passive enrichment ). We arrange their weaning pen into the same three areas : the sleep area, the play area, and the potty area. We use rabbit pans with pine shavings for the potty area.
While the puppies are still dependent on their mother for nourishment at this age, we begin introducing puppy mush once teeth have erupted.
We introduce the puppies to new experiences, new toys, and new surfaces at this age. Our motto is that the amount of new exposures is not as important as making each new experience positive for each puppy.
Weather permitting, the puppies are introduced to experiences outside of the weaning pen: on the puppy patio and in the puppy play yard. The puppies learn to potty outside.
In inclimate weather, the puppies are introduced to new exposures in the big dog room. We have wonderful retired moms who make great puppy socializers so our puppies can be exposed to neutral dogs before they go home.
The puppies are introduced to open crate conditioning . We start with one open door crate with a Snuggle Buddy( stuffed animal with a heart beat and a blanket scented with mom’s scent). During this week, we increase the number of open crates to one per puppy. The puppies see these open door crates as a fun game as they are able to go in and out of the crates using their free will. This creates a positive association with the crates. We send the Snuggle Buddies and scented blankets home with each puppy for an easier transition to their new homes.
We let our moms set the pace for weaning and follow her lead. But, by this age, the puppies primarily are on puppy food and are drinking water. Although the puppies don’t need their mother as much for nutrition at this age, she still plays a big part in their everyday life, teaching them valuable manners.
The puppies are introduced to closed door crate conditioning at this age during the night. They usually need a potty break a couple of times during the night.
On day 53 of life, the puppies undergo their Puppy Aptitude Testing. We assess for level of assertiveness, confidence, motivation, resilience, touch tolerance, energy level, sight and sound sensitivity, prey drive, signs of resource guarding, signs of separation anxiety, and focus ( human, dog, or environment). We video tape these evaluations and share the videos and written reports with those who have a puppy reserved from the litter. We then collaborate with our puppy families to determine which puppies will be the best fit for them.
Definitions of Puppy Evaluation Terms
Assertiveness: This term is often confused with level of aggressiveness but that is not the case. During our evaluations, a puppy with a highly assertive Puppy Aptitude Testing will jump up when they want human attention. They are more likely to do so with familiar humans but they may also do this with strangers as well. While this is thought to be an intrinsic trait, it can be tempered with early and consistent training. A puppy with a low level of assertiveness may have to be coaxed into approaching new people/new situations with an additional amount of guidance from their owners.
Confidence: A confident puppy will approach new situations as an adventure. A puppy with low confidence will need reassurance when approaching new situations until they gain the belief in their own abilities when introduced to new situations. While this trait is similar to assertiveness in description, it is easier to modify with slow introductions to new situations.
Motivation Level/Workability: We look for a puppy with a high level in these areas for service dog prospects because they are easy to train. They may even get bored with no training. They have the intrinsic desire to work for and with a human. If a puppy scores low in this area, they can still be trained but it just takes more work to determine what motivates them.
Nerve Strength/Resiliency: This is the ability to handle stress in reaction to different situations. Puppies who score low in this area can gain nerve strength/resiliency by having ongoing positive experiences in their critical socialization periods.
Touch Tolerance: This is the puppy’s compliance to being touched. We are primarily looking for a strong negative reaction to an accidental ear pull, tail tug, or a foot being stepped on in a public setting or in a home with young children.
Activity Level: This trait is intrinsic and can’t be adjusted. An active puppy isn’t going to suddenly become a lethargic adult. They are going to remain active until they are a geriatric dog. A high activity puppy is going to need extra physical exercise and mental stimulation each day. A puppy who scores a low activity level may not enjoy long hikes or games of fetch.
Sound Sensitivity: This evaluates the level of sensitivity to loud or sudden sounds. A puppy who is sensitive to sounds should go to a quiet home and a puppy who has a high tolerance for sounds would do well in a busy household.
Sight Sensitivity: This evaluates the level to which a puppy is sensitive to sudden movements. As with sound sensitivity, a puppy who is sensitive to sudden/unpredictable sights should go to a quiet/ predictable home. A puppy who isn’t bothered by sudden movements can go to a busy household without concern.
Prey Drive: This is also referred to as chasing instinct. It is the puppy’s natural propensity towards interest in moving objects. This trait is thought to be inheritable ( not necessarily from the parents but from generations past). It isn’t adjustable but it can be managed. When we do the puppy evaluations, puppies with high prey drive will be interested in chasing balls and playing tug of war. However, these puppies may not do well in homes with small/fast moving animals as that may trigger their high level of prey drive. Puppies with low prey drive generally will not enjoy hunting or retrieving.
Human Focus: Natural awareness and desire to interact with people. This trait is intrinsic but can be adjusted by consistent positive interactions with people.
Pack Focus: Desire to interact with others dogs. These are puppies who do well going to a home with an established dog who can act as their mentor.
Tender heartedness: This is often confused with the ability of the puppy to love their humans. It is actually the measure of the puppy’s empathy and awareness of human emotion. A puppy with a high level of emotional sensitivity will feel responsible when surrounded by intense human emotion and constant exposure could drain the puppy. A puppy with a low level of emotional sensitivity will be unaware of intense emotion but will still love and bond with their family. We recommend that puppies with a medium to low level of tender heartedness be ESA prospects.
The puppies go to our vet for a head to toe exam, health certificates, vaccinations, and microchipping. The puppies are able to experience a car ride and get to meet the vet and the staff.
We schedule puppy visits, puppy selections, and go home day all on the same day after the puppies have been cleared to go home by our vet.
Even though the puppies are less dependent on her as they grow, the puppies mother is still a daily part of her life until they go to their new homes.
Our puppy curriculum is just the beginning of your puppy’s socialization and training. We send the link to your complimentary Baxter&Bella online dog training as soon as the puppies are born and we enter into contract so you can start getting ready for your puppy while we are getting your puppy ready for you. Many puppy families find Baxter&Bella very helpful when their puppies first come home until they are fully vaccinated at 16 weeks. Most puppy families usually switch over to brick and mortar training facilities at this age so their puppies can continue their training with distractions ( new people and new dogs).
Even though your puppy has left us, we are here for the lifetime of your puppy for questions and we love updates.