Early enrichment and stimulation program for Stonegrace puppies!
We utilize neurologic stimulation based on the U.S. Military's "Bio-Sensor" program. Incorporating exercises from this source, our puppies are gently handled using a series of exercises to produce brain wave activity that would not naturally occur otherwise. Early brain development is enhanced by creating more neuron synapses. This early stimulation has significant and lasting effects which include improved future performance as well as the ability to withstand stress better than pups that are not-stimulated
Imprinting is a form of learning which occurs from birth to 16 weeks of age and includes behaviour patterns which are developing, attachments to people, and preferences for stimuli they've been exposed to. We facilitate this process with various stimuli and activities so the puppies will have a low fear, low anxiety association during this critical window of opportunity
HUMAN SOCIAL ATTACHMENT & BONDING
To facilitate the human/animal bond in our puppies, we begin human social attachment and bonding exercises from the moment the puppies are born, and continue till they go to their new homes. We want puppies very closely bonded to humans, but not so dependent that they suffer from separation anxiety in the future. We strive for a balance of dependence and independence.
HANDLING & TOUCH CONDITIONING/DESENSITIZATION
We provide gentle daily handling from the day the puppies are born which has been shown to improve their ability to thrive. In addition, touch conditioning and desensitization is provided by manipulating their bodies so puppies are accustomed to being touched in various ways, resulting in low body sensitivity. This conditioning allows for their positive associations and interaction with people, which in turn produces puppies that prefer human interaction opposed to other dogs or the environment. The desensitization also prepares the puppy for potential day-to-day body bumps, tail grabs by children passing by, or environmental stimuli such as wheelchairs, crutches, etc while working.
STRESS REDUCTION & CALM CONDITIONING
In an effort to help the puppy develop into a calm and confident dog, we provide the puppy with stimuli and exercises, including touch to reduce stress, and facilitate them in learning how to relax in stressful situations. This conditioning begins the moment the puppies are born, and continues until they leave, but we strongly encourage new owners to continue this process.
TACTILE STIMULATION & CONDITIONING
Since a puppy's tactile sense is functioning at birth, we begin slowly acclimatising the puppies to surfaces and textures they are likely to encounter as an adult. Through short, structured exercises, the puppies are introduced to various stimuli in an effort to condition them, but not over-stress them.
OLFACTORY STIMULATION & CONDITIONING
Not all senses are functioning in a puppy when born, but the olfactory sense is, so we begin acclimatising the puppies to smells they are likely to encounter as an adult. These exercises are performed on a daily basis.
A puppy is born with his eyes closed and is isolated from visual stimuli. As the puppies eyes begin to open, we utilize exercises to stimulate and enhance their vision. These exercises continue in a careful and systematic fashion to ensure an optimal, stress free experience.
Research has shown that animals raised in a sensory rich environment develop thicker cerebral cortexes, have more synaptic contacts between neurons and have higher levels of neuro-endocrine transmitters in their brains than do those that have been raised in a non-stimulating environment. When measured later in life, the results show that the animals raised in an enriched environment tend to be more inquisitive, more adept at performing difficult tasks, and are more intelligent because they have experienced a great deal while they were young. Based on this research, we provide an enriched environment for our puppies in a systematic fashion to ensure they have the best chance of developing a sound temperament and the capacity to cope with life situations in the future. The puppies get to exercise their curiosity while having fun exploring the novelties they encounter. This results in a puppy that is comfortable in a changing, new environment.
The developmental period from three to 12 weeks is the most influential nine weeks of a puppy’s life. This period is associated with the development of many social behaviour patterns and a great deal of learning about the environment. Much of what is learned during this early period is permanent and provides a foundation for adult behaviour patterns. To decrease the possibility of fearful responses as a puppy develops, it is essential to expose them to many people, places and things during the socialization period when they can most effectively socialize, localize and habituate to these stimuli. We are systematic in our socialization program based on the things the puppy is expected to co-exist with in his future role including people, places and other animals. All socialisation is performed in a progressive, step-by-step process to ensure the puppy is having an enjoyable interaction, is safe, and is forming positive associations. We also introduce friendly, rock solid adult dogs for the puppies to interact with, so they can learn appropriate "doggie language" from others in addition to their mum.
FIELD TRIPS AND EXPLORATION
We want to expose our puppies to new stimuli without creating a stressful experience, so they are slowly and methodically introduced to new situations and environments, including a vehicle. We continuously watch body language, and monitor heart rate for signs of stress. By introducing the puppies to new environments in a structured fashion, they are able to habituate to the stimuli and have positive interactions, thus reducing future issues in unfamiliar situations. Please note that the puppies are not taken off our property as they will not have had their full vaccination course as yet.
HABITUATION TO NOVEL & ENVIRONMENTAL STIMULI
Habituation is a form of learning in which an animal become acclimatised to novel and environmental stimuli through exposure and stops responding, ultimately ignoring the stimuli. We provide non-threatening, structured exercises to our puppies through various mediums in an effort to facilitate habituation of day-to-day and novel stimuli in their environment such as vacuum cleaners, blenders, bikes, wheelie bins, moving objects, etc. As soon as the puppies eyes/ears open, novel stimuli is put into their whelping box, and continues in the puppy pen, and then the puppy play yard.
SOUND CONDITIONING & DESENSITISATION
A puppy is born with his ears closed and is isolated from sound during the first couple weeks. Once his ears open he can respond to sound indiscriminately. His new capacity for learning quickly enables him to discriminate between situations that pose a threat and those which are insignificant. If a puppy is not exposed to sudden noises followed by a low level startle response, and a quick return to normal, he will most likely over react to noises followed by prolonged fearfulness when he enters the fear stage.
We provide sound conditioning and desensitization in a gradual fashion, slowly introducing various sounds in different locations. For instance, we have a thunder storm CD that is played at a low level at various times. This is done during the critical period when the puppy's central nervous system is developing. This activity conditions the puppy to have appropriate startle responses followed by quick recovery. In addition, because the puppies are conditioned from an early age, they often develop more confidence and lower noise sensitivity. So, although they will hear an unexpected sound, they may ignore it and continue their assistance work un-phased.
MENTAL & PHYSICAL CHALLENGES
We provide tiered mind challenging problems that will exercise the brain and enhance its development. This stimulation helps them develop problem solving abilities, confidence, resiliency and mental coordination. Puppies raised in environments lacking challenges are more likely to develop into fearful, less successful adults. We also challenge the puppies physically in an effort to improve muscle coordination, balance, motor skills, confidence, and agile movement, body self awareness, and development. We provide a “playground” of challenges which helps to develop strength, agility and coordination skills in a fun environment. We begin in the whelping box, and continue in our puppy play yard which is filled with equipment including ramps, tunnels, wobble boards, various obstacles, stairs, planks, high reaching toys, and many, many novel items that help build confidence.
We begin touching all parts of the puppy's anatomy from the time they're born in an effort to desensitize to touch. Because many puppies/dogs have an aversion to grooming, we begin by making it a very positive experience. By the time our puppies leave at 8 weeks, they are comfortable with bathing, brushing, ear cleaning, teeth brushing, nail clipping, body checks and more.
In addition to the activities that our puppies do as a litter, and the time they spend with their mum learning important life lessons, we also work with each puppy separately to develop their individual personalities. Puppies act differently as a group, in sub-groups, and in pairs than they do individually, so it's also important for us to observe the changes in personality in various situations. Helping the puppy build their confidence outside the litter is a very important aspect to the program.
Because separation anxiety in older dogs can be a problem later in life, we begin separation conditioning to gradually acclimatise a puppy to short periods of being alone so they can form positive associations. Since most dogs experience times of being alone at some point during the day, we condition the puppy to be emotionally prepared for this.
We begin house training our puppies at approximately three weeks of age when they develop the instinctual desire to eliminate outside their nest. We provide many different types of surfaces so the puppy is accustomed to eliminating in any environment. They are news paper trained and encouraged to toilet on the grass or sand outside. They will also be used to using a doggy door to go outside.
CORE BEHAVIORS/MANNERS TRAINING
By the time the puppies leave us at 8 weeks, they have been taught core behaviors which are geared to avoid typical behavior problems seen in young puppies, such as nipping, difficulty riding in the car, jumping up on people, leash training, hard mouth, separation anxiety, housetraining, crate training, etc. We work on all these behaviors so the puppy has a foundation of good manners, making it much easier for the transition to their new environment and follow-up training. My husband, children and myself are involved in supervised training so puppies are used to learning from a variety of individuals. Our puppies have also learned that if they want to be patted, picked up, or taken out of the puppy pen, they must sit first (learning self control). This results in a default si
We get puppies used to crate training at an early age because it's a great help in house training. It also gives the puppy a safe place of its own so it gets accustomed to being confined for short periods of time and associates it with positive events. When the puppies go to their new homes at 8 weeks of age, they do not have difficulty adjusting to their new home, and the feedback we receive is how well the puppy did the first night.