Puppy School…

My kids will be more than willing to tell you that I don’t like them to have a lot of screen time. I believe unstructured time, using their imaginations and moving around in and outdoors is the ideal way for them to grow and learn. I did not buy into digital games and toys that supposedly helped my kids learn… we simply shut off the TV and went outside to play and explore. So, imagine their reactions to me when I tell them I’ve just finished TV time with the puppies- teaching them to learn how to sit, lay down and stand up. In fact, my youngest’s response was actually something to the tune of ” No fair, the puppies get to watch TV & learn stuff and you’re ok with that but you sure don’t let me do that.” Well… this is partly true. One of the ways that puppies learn is by imitation and repetition. So, I could repeatedly ask one of our older pups to sit, lay down or stand up, all the while holding one puppy at a time while keeping its attention on the dog… but I likely don’t have to explain how difficult and tiresome this would be. The founder of the Empowered Puppy Program actually developed the idea to record puppies in a series of short videos acting out these different positions, and she found that by watching the videos of them for several days in a row, the puppies learned the commands much quicker than puppies who were taught only verbal commands and hand signals. Many puppies have the “sit” command figured out by day 5 of watching the video! These little pups will have a head start on their training long before they go to their new homes J In defense of my own rule about less TV and more unstructured, imaginative play… Puppy School is only a short amount of time each day for the puppies. They’re getting the majority of each day to be dogs and explore, play, sniff, and chew!  It’s all about balance J

We will build on all of this and the videos will become more complex as the puppies get older. This is just the beginning of imitation training with the puppies. 

Now to figure out a way to make a video for my 12 year olds math homework …

Nature Vs. Nurture…

We’ve all used and heard the term “nature vs nurture”… describing where it’s more apt someone gets their personality and behaviours from. Research on the brain is showing us definite genetic markers that are passed from parent to off spring… but more recent scientific research is also proving that we can shape destined behaviour into a more balanced temperament by modifying the environment. We are aiming to do this with early conditioning and training.

We’ve already started this process with the Early Neurological Stimulation we begun when the puppies were only 3 days old. We added tiny bits of stress to the puppies and helped them recover from it and understand that it’s ok and normal to feel this way, and it passes quickly, life goes on. Approximately a week after that we started putting them in the water.  When the pups are in the water, we are using words like “calm” and “relaxed” when the puppies are showing us that behaviour. This way, they can connect a word to the way they’re actually feeling. And as they get older, when we ask them to relax or calm down, they will actually understand what it means. While they’re in the water, we are using simple massage techniques which promote relaxation and this gets continued when they come out of the water and are being dried off. With so many puppies in the litter, I find myself looking forward to the puppy massage sessions, because it’s a chance to give them each undivided attention. By their reactions, the puppies enjoy it just as much!

This week we’ve added Sights & Sounds play into our training regime. The aquatic conditioning and massage are continuing and with this new play experience, our days keep getting fuller and fuller! It’s been really interesting to make note of the different reactions the puppies have to the noise and light stimulation. The best was Miss Pink who sat next to a piano which was on continuous play mode and she put her little head up and started howling along with the music. Of course, no phone in my hand and the moment was over by the time I got the record button pushed. Some of the puppies crawl all over the toys making the sound or lighting up, others just sit and watch and there’s even a few who don’t seem to care one way or another that anything extra is happening. All of it is being recorded and noted and is giving us more clues into who each of them is. We will have our personality scent testing report cards back any time now too, and then we can start really shaping individual temperament. Our calm pups will learn how to become more alert and our excited puppies will learn strategies on calming down. 

Water Babies….

This crew turned 2 weeks old on the weekend.  They have their eyes fully opened now and their ears are beginning to open; they’ll be able to hear by the time they’re 3 weeks old. They have all figured out how to walk and it’s quite entertaining watching them manoeuvring around the whelping box. Now that they are associating our smell with our faces, they are eager to make their way over to say hi when we walk in the room.  

Yesterday was the very first time they were introduced to water. Using only a baby bath tub and a small amount of water, puppies were placed in the warm water, one at a time.  Aqua conditioning is a fantastic method of teaching calmness and confidence to puppies. It’s also a great way to introduce them to massage and help them work through tiny bursts of stress & teach them to overcome it with a positive outcome. Some of the puppies fell asleep! They only stay in for a short amount of time and then it’s cuddle time while they’re cozied up in a towel. This also helps to establish a bond with the pups.  

We’ll continue using the baby tub for phase 1 of this, but as puppies grow, we’ll be using a larger pool so we can use the aids of flutter boards, life jackets, and even stairs in the water to continue to condition them in the water. Research has shown that the puppies exposed to this conditioning have zero issues with motion sickness in vehicles as they get older. Also, as puppies grow, water provides low impact exercise which helps to strengthen muscles and help proper growth plate formation.   

We’re nearing the end of the first scent introduction for the puppies. In just a few more days we’ll have this completed and will compile the results for our assessors. Each puppy will receive a little report card about their individual results, which will ultimately be the blue print for each puppy. We will then be able to teach according to their unique personalities and shape their temperament accordingly. Each of the puppies will be sent home with their report card and a training package so their families can continue the work we’ve set a foundation for.  

Learning Who We Are…

Day 8 brought our first day of scent training with the pups. Over the course of the next 2 weeks the pups will each be introduced to a new scent every day. The first several scents are calming and will help relieve any anxiety the pups have over just entering the world. All of the scents are grouped into different categories: calming, environmental and stimulating. Each category is going to give us insight to every puppy’s different personality traits, allowing us to help shape their personalities before their little ears even open! There’s no pass or fail reaction, as it’s all going to add up to tell us who each individual puppy is, and will give us insight into their stronger areas and which areas we need to pay close attention to. By the time these pups are 22 days old, we’ll know their personalities and this will ultimately help us tone and shape them. Each pup will be sent home with their individual assessment so their new families and/or service trainers have all the information needed for continuing work with the puppy. Of course, we will be using the information on the assessment in conjunction with our training program. Using scent training early in life also gives pups a head start in stimulating their sense of smell, which is essential in areas of service work, such as Diabetic and Seizure Alert Dogs, since they need to quickly notice the perspiration changes of their handler.  

We’ve removed the puppy’s collars for the time being, and are marking a hind foot on each puppy with a corresponding colour of nail polish. It’s very important that we keep good records on each pup, so we can monitor their weight, ENS reactions, and now scent training.  There’s a lot going on over the course of a day for these little ones, considering their only priorities right now are eating, pooping, and sleeping!

Guardian Angels…

Guardian Angels …

It was an exciting weekend here at Glenannon Station Retrievers! Gracie’s puppies arrived in the early hours of Sunday morning according to their own agenda, not by the scheduled c-section that was supposed to take place a few hours later. We had opted for c-section since she was carrying such a large litter.  We now have 7 adorable little boys and 3 very cute little girls. These little ones came into the world with the help of Dr. Emily Seager, her veterinary technician- Bonnie & some very special Guardian Angels, who gave up a restful night’s sleep to help bring these little pups into the world.  The pups re-paid them with some snuggles while their mama was recuperating. 

Bringing puppies into the world is very similar to birthing human babies. Just like human babies, puppies’ immune systems aren’t fully developed which makes them susceptible to infectious diseases. Their mom passes her own immunities to the pups through colostrum to help defend against diseases.  When the pups arrive, they need to be assessed and made sure they’re all able to suckle well. It’s vital that the puppies ingest colostrum (A.K.A liquid gold). It’s also imperative the puppies are licked by mom, as this is the only way their urinary & intestinal tracts are stimulated. If puppies aren’t licked they fail to thrive or survive. Licking also grooms the puppies and helps with bonding which therefore speeds the maturation of the nervous system. Bonding with mom and puppy is just as important in dogs as it is with humans. 

Mama also needs to be well looked after and ensured she is recovering well, drinking, and eating. In the days following the puppy’s birth, I consider it a team effort- mama feeds & licks her puppies and I feed & look after mama to make sure she remains strong and healthy for herself and babies.  It’s often crossed my mind that I should have been more like a mama dog with her puppies when I brought my babies home; focussing on just us instead of all the ‘to-dos’ new moms feel we need to stay on top of. 

Today is Day 3!

Pups are eating well and are very healthy, so we began their very first lesson today.  Early Neurological Stimulation was initially developed by the US Military in their canine program. These simple stimulation exercises have lasting, important effects on the puppy’s brains. We will be doing these exercises once a day for the next 2 weeks and recording the puppy’s reactions each time. We will already begin to have insight into their personalities, even at this young age. Plus, these exercises help to strengthen & regulate their heart rates, give them more tolerance to stress & resistance to disease, and help them develop stronger adrenal gland.