written for the
SSDCA Learning Center, June 2004
People are often drawn to "breeder" ads that
claim to have "Home Raised Puppies" available because they want to avoid
purchasing their future companion from a horrific "puppy mill." but they may
be being misled down a very sad bunny trail!
There is an art to
RAISING PUPPIES THE RIGHT WAY, and all honest REB's know this fact very
well! They have been around long enough to know that if they don't take
the proper steps to properly socialize their pups prior to placing them into
their new homes--they won't be able to produce enough replacements!
Some breeders even go to
very lengthy extremes such as placing 4-5 day old pups in the refrigerator
for a few minutes in order to shock them to environmental changes.
You may find some of these
articles quite interesting!
"Imprinting (species identification, integration)
Birth to 10-14 days - Sensitive to warmth, softness, smell, tactile
Imprints on mother, littermates, and any human handling them by odor
14-21 days - eyes and ears open, adds visual and auditory aspects to
A New Look at Socialization (by Jean D. Petersen, Canine
"Through species identification a puppy is able to recognize its
parents (filial imprinting), and develop preferential
intraspecific social relations (fraternal imprinting) and the
relations (sexual imprinting) which means the survival of the
species (filial and sexual imprinting). An animal that is badly
imprinted is lost for the species."
one year my practice treated 773 dogs - 79 of them, that’s 10
percent, had problems of fearfulness towards people or the
environment due to a lack of early socialisation or habituation and
a further 4.5. percent were inept at relating to other dogs, again
due to a lack of early socialisation. The problem is immeasurably
greater than these figures suggest. Many dogs show a weakness of
temperament or inability to cope when faced with a particular
situation, without their behaviour becoming problematical enough for
the owners to seek help."
(1975) experimented with puppies placed in contact with increasingly
complex stimuli (enrichment) at 5, 8, 12 and 16 weeks: as they grow
the puppies tended to seek out complex environments. Puppies
raised in surroundings poor in stimuli ("stimulus-poor puppies") and
placed for the first time in a highly stimulating environment at 12
or 16 weeks are inhibited (fear) and search less complex
environments. Enriched puppies are systematically dominant in the
presence of stimulus-poor dogs."
Sensory, Emotional and Social Development of the Young Dog (by Dr.
Joel DeHasse, behaviorist veterinarian)
Please Note: Even if the puppies are receiving a great amount of attention
from their human owners the KEYWORD is STIMULI, i.e. a variety of
experiences, sufficient exposure to a large number of people
(including children) other animals, etc., etc. All puppies
go through various psychological stages of development during these critical
first eight weeks. In the past I have often compared each week of a puppy's
development to that of a human infant using a week-month ratio.
For example: Since a puppy
is in utero for 9 weeks versus a infant's 9 months. If we compare an
infant's first 8-10 months of development to that of a puppy's first 8-10
weeks, we may also note many similarities.
Let's imagine an infant
that has never been allowed to leave his sterile nursery environment and the
only human contact he has ever known is that of his over- possessive mother.
This child was not allowed to play with toys or even attempt to crawl or
walk due to his mother's fear of potential accidents/ injury. Instead of
allowing him to experience failure, his mother spends of all her time
holding and rocking him!
Infant #2, on the other
hand, is being raised by the Waltons! He has parents, grandparents, and a
dozen siblings to contend with. By the time he is a few months old, he has
learned to roll around the floor, pull the dog's tail, and get "kisses" from
When these children turn
8-10 months of age--both are adopted into totally strange homes--which one
will have an easier time adapting to his new situation, and which one may
end up being traumatized for the rest of his life?
A good breeder
understands the difference between (mentally) unhealthy "nurture" and proper
"To reduce the possibility of fearful responses
as a puppy grows and matures, it is essential to expose young
puppies to many stimuli (people, places and things) when they can
most effectively socialize, localize, and habituate to these
stimuli. Early handling and events that occur during the first 2
to 4 months of life, are critical factors in the social development
of the dog. Dogs that receive insufficient exposure to people, other
animals and new environments during this time may develop
irreversible fears, leading to timidity or aggression."
Full Study on the interplay
between behavioral genetics and development:
Early Canid Domestication: The Farm-Fox Experiment by Lyudmila N. Trut
Puppies need to be
exposed to as much variety during their early stage of development as
fox terrier puppy (male) raised in complete isolation and introduced
to other dogs at 16 weeks displayed inhibited behavior and was
attacked by the other puppies that were normally socialized. He was
placed with other dogs also raised in isolation; the dogs lived
alongside each other, without aggression but also without
interaction (Fisher, 1955 in Scott and Fuller, 1965). Dogs raised in
isolation and placed in contact with others of their species at 16
weeks are attacked and rejected."
"In conclusion, puppies demonstrate an
investigation-attraction behavior towards the unfamiliar as soon
as they are able to express this attraction (almost adult motor
capacity), in other words at 3±˝ weeks. This attraction subsides
in an almost linear manner after the fifth week until at least
9 weeks. The attraction recedes under the influence of
fear of the unknown behavior which grows after 5 weeks;
the puppy "recovers" from its initial fearful reaction
instantaneously from 3 to 5 weeks (investigation behavior effect),
and then it remains wary for longer periods as it grows older. At
12 weeks socialization requires active manipulation (mimicking
play-fights), at 14 weeks socialization seems to be impossible."
Sirius Dog: Sensory, Emotional and Social Development of the Young Dog
some of the guidelines that we encourage ISSR breeders to follow:
1. During the first week of
the puppy's life, try to hold each individual pup as often as possible.
Place each one, individually, on a variety of surfaces such as a carpet,
blanket, towel, glossy magazine, etc.
2. During the second week
each pup needs to leave it's dam for short periods of time and be exposed to
a variety of sounds and smells! Sometimes two pups will be removed together
(in a small laundry basket) and taken to various rooms in the house. At
other times responsible family members will carry* (or just hold) a pup
while watching TV or working on the computer, etc., etc. (Each pup needs to
feel secure while listening to a human heart beating. The imprinting is
critical toward a proper future bonding with his new family! It is also
important for the puppy to hear a variety of human voices! )
3. During the third week
the puppy needs to be presented with small challenges that will help him to
develop self esteem--confidence! Placing the puppy on grass (or on a shag
carpet) for the first time and asking him to maneuver several feet for a
treat works great! This is also a great time to encourage a lot of people to
talk to, pet and play with the puppies--as a group as well as individually.
4. During the fourth week
each puppy should be introduced to at least a dozen strangers that will hold
him and play with him for short periods of time! Puppies should also
experience many new surfaces and temperatures, such as walking inside of a
DRY bathtub, on a wooden deck, over rocks, up a small step, etc., etc.
They should also be exposed to distant loud noises, like a vacuum cleaner,
dishwasher, hair dryer, etc.
By the end of the fourth
week they should only see their dam for short visits twice daily, during the
weaning-- all other contact should be with their human family, visitors and
5. During the fifth week
each pup should spend individual time with a variety of strangers playing in
as many new environments as the creative breeder can locate! This is a great
time for walks in the woods (even in winter) or on the beach! Trips to the
local school during recess or even a trip to an abandoned parking lot where
the pup can experience new surfaces, smells and sounds!
Since the puppies have
not attained full immunity yet, it is imperative that they are not exposed
to places that are frequented by adult (especially stray) dogs! Doggie parks
should be big No No's!
6. During the sixth week
each pup should be exposed to more challenges! Encouraging him to play with
a balloon (that will pop) is an excellent way to help him build confidence,
by encouraging the puppy to overcome such obstacles! Motorized toys can also
provide outstanding stimulus. The more challenging situations you can
provide for each puppy the more confident he will become.
At Shiloh farms, I had a
favorite obstacle path I would take pups on! It had an old large fallen tree
that I would step on to cross over, but my pups had to figure out how to
overcome this monster! If they detoured to the right, they would face a
small ditch (often filled with about 2-3 inches of water), if they went to
the left they could easily catch up with me, but if they did not go far
enough to see the opening they might panic and try to climb over the log
that was twice their height!
I would take note of
those that outsmarted this "natural maze" versus those that would "bulldoze"
their way through the water filled ditch, or attempt to climb it! If a pup
panicked, I would return and then walk to the left to show him the escape
path and praise him for his courage! A few days later we would walk this
path again and compare reactions!
7. The seventh week is the
most critical! Each puppy needs to experience strange visitation on a daily
basis! Make sure that you ask your children to invite their friends over
after school for puppy parties! Invite your neighbors for a barbeque, pool
party, sledding, leaf raking--whatever works! Call in the local Boy Scout
troop and offer to supply them with food if they agree to camp out in your
yard! Be creative. Your puppy needs to receive proper imprinting NOW--in a
safe controlled environment before you release him to his new family!
Turning on a small
sprinkler while the pups are playing helps them to face and overcome such
shocking experiences with ease! It also helps the breeder to better
understand each of her puppies thresholds!
"In conclusion: behavioral patterns develop over successive phases,
according to internal and external factors that interact in a
complex and continuous manner. As Cyrulnik wrote, "the World of each
animal is built around the double constraint of genetics and
Sensory, Emotional and Social Development of the
Be sure that your next companion comes from a
breeder that has received plenty of instructions and support (from top
REBs!) regarding genetics, whelping and proper rearing and evaluating
temperaments of the puppies being sold!
This article, written by Tina M. Barber in
June 2004 for the Shiloh Shepherd Learning Center, was first published in
ISSR, Inc. Reports:
Health Survey (2000) and Ongoing Genetic Task Force Database:
Litter Evaluation Program Manual
other articles of interest:
The ISSR at work, for the betterment of the
Shiloh Shepherd™ Breed, since 1991.