Why do so many dogs end up in shelters?
The greatest cause of death in dogs under the age of three is because of the dogs behavior. Early socialization is a MUST.
Litter Socialization begins immediately.
Socializing puppies must include pleasant experiences with unknown dogs, surfaces, places, and anything that your puppy is going to experience as an adult. As Breeders, we are committed to the early socialization of our puppies to provide a solid building block for you to continue the process after you take your puppy home. We commit to provide positive experiences for our litters; experiences that include car rides, veterinary visits, cats, children, and other dogs. Our goal is to maximize the potential of every puppy in each litter through stimulating it's learning ability, interests and natural instincts.
Neonatal or Newborn Period (Birth to 14 Days)
Whelping litters takes place in a room dedicated to the whelping process (see photos above). Although we interfere in the whelping process as little as possible, puppies are weighed and handled from birth. Puppies that are handled early exhibit a more rapid development in organ systems and motor coordination. At least once each day beginning on day three, each puppy will be cuddled in various positions helping to build trust.
Early Neural Stimulation:
Puppies receive ENS training from day six to sixteen. The ENS program was developed by the US Military as part of their “bio-sensor” or “super puppy” program.
We incorporate this training into the daily weighing of each puppy. The handling of each pup once per day involves the following exercises:
- Tactical stimulation (between toes)
- Head held erect
- Head pointed down
- Supine position
- Thermal stimulation
The Immediate and lifelong physiological results of using this program are:
1. Improved cardiovascular performance (heart rate)
2. Stronger heartbeats
3. Stronger adrenal glands
4. More tolerance to stress
5. Greater resistance to disease
Nails are clipped at 7 days of age and every Saturday thereafter until the puppies go to their homes.
Transitional Period (14-21 Days)
Eyes begin to open during this period. Once all eyes are open, the puppies begin to be aware of each other as more than just a source of comfort and warmth and play begins. Over the next few days, they become aware of the world outside their whelping box and begin to look around the room. Toys are introduced at this stage and a wee pad is placed in a corner of the box to begin the process of training them to have a "potty spot". A TV is on in the background to begin to de-sensitize them to loud and sudden sounds; i.e. thunder, gun fire, traffic noise and so on.
By day 21, all of the puppy's senses are intact. Puppies will leave the whelping box approximately 21 days after birth. The setting up of the ex-pen/kennel is determined by the needs of each litter; smaller litters need less room while larger litters need more room, the ex-pen is always set up on an indoor-outdoor carpet (laid upon a plastic floor covering) to protect their hips and elbows by allowing them a non-slippery foundation to continue to learn to walk, run and play.
The process begins with a "nesting area" that consists of a bed and their whelping box pad surrounded by wee pads to encourage them to do their "business" out of the nesting area. This begins the process of training them to use a litter box while here at Aisling. Within a week, the puppies will be trained to the litter box.
Also on day 21, the puppies are introduced first to a shallow dish of water to ensure that all have developed their lapping instinct. Next, they are given a shallow dish of formula and finally, they are introduced to "mush" which is ground puppy food and formula for the first few days, then the formula is replaced by water. Over time, less liquid is added and the consistency of the mush becomes simply softened puppy food.
Our Dams lead the way in the total weaning process; some of them will no longer allow the puppies to nurse by six weeks of age, while others will continue allowing "comfort suckling" until the day they leave. We believe that "natural" is the best way for every puppy and that the Dam's know best when each puppy is ready to be fully weaned from nursing.
Since weaning is about more than just the Dam ending her nursing, and is also about the puppy's digestive tract transitioning from a milk diet to a dry food diet, we wean to food slowly by introducing one meal per week beginning when the Dam regurgitates her dinner for them. THIS is the sign that the puppies have developed enough to begin that transition. Our Dams are not separated from their pups unless they request it. Most will spend part of each day with their "pack" and the other part with their litter; again, we allow the Dam to lead the way.
Continuing the one on one handling of each puppy gets them used to having their ears, feet and mouth examined/touched. This prepares them for the nail trimming, ear cleaning, and teeth brushing they will experience in their new homes. They also get their first bath during this week.
Socialization Period (21 to 70 days)
The introduction of different textures and sounds begins by providing "toys" with variations of sounds, touch and smells.
Between 4 and 5 weeks, the litter begins to spend some portion of each day outside. The litter exits from our kitchen down a ramp into our Puppy Paddock. Foreverlawn K9 Grass provides a safe and healthy foundation for their play while concrete and kennel decking get them used to different surfaces. The paddock contains a sink, and grooming table, a shower head and "pool" for water play.
The Dams and the Sire spend time socializing the litter outside and when it is permitted by the Dam, the older females and male will also help to socialize. During this time, the puppies learn important socialization skills like how to read the body language of another dog, bite inhibition and so on. This exposure to each dog in our pack translates to puppies that are not afraid of other dogs and who have begun the process of learning appropriate behavior by learning to read the body language of others.
As they grow and as weather permits, they are contained outside for longer periods of time. Here they are exposed to the sounds of airplanes, traffic, farm tractors, strangers working in the fields that surround them and so on. On rainy days, without thunder or lightning, the puppies are allowed to play in the rain. This means that hopefully, your companion will not stop at the door when they see the rain coming down and refuse to go out to do their business!
Photo above was a few years ago now; the paddock is now connected to our kitchen via a ramp.
Juvenile Period (70 days and older) - FOREVER HOMES!
Socializing is a life long process. This is where you take over. This is also when the puppy learns "fear". From 8 - 11 weeks, it is very important that you continue to introduce your puppy to new things.
Many new owners are confused by just how they can socialize the puppy while keeping it healthy until vaccinations are completed. Parvo is the most serious disease from which your puppy needs to be protected but there are ways to socialize and still keep your puppy safe.
Once vacinnations are complete, continue to introduce your puppy to all sorts of people; people with beards, hats, wheelchairs, and uniforms and of different races. You can do this inviting friends over to your home or by visiting an outdoor mall that provides benches along the sidewalks. Simply sit with your puppy on your lap or close at your feet and ask that people speak to but not touch your puppy. Have hand sanitizor with you to offer to those who really, really want to touch him! (Most will respect your wishes if you just smile and say "we're not fully vaccinated but are working on socialization".
Be consistent with any "commands" you give during the introductions. Discourage barking during the introduction and encourage the correct behaviors - a visit to your pet store and a ride in the shopping cart exposes your puppy to sights, sounds, and people while keeping it safe until it receives all its shots. After the second set of shots, consider taking your puppy to a mall entrance or flea market; its "manners" can be learned when other people say hello.
Biting and Teething:
At 13 weeks, your puppy begins cutting teeth; discourage play biting from the first day home but expect the puppy to be experimenting with just how far he/she can push you testing dominance and leadership. Provide the puppy with wet tea/dish towels tied in a knot, frozen Kongs filled with their regular moistened puppy food, ice cubes, old boxes that they can destroy, Nylabones and even pieces of wood (unless your puppy eats what he/she chews, sticks are safe for them to chew on). Labradors are "mouthy" - they are going to chew and bite so give them things that they are allowed to chew and bite on - this is a stage that will pass quickly and it can be managed with a bit of planning. For more information on training, which begins the day you bring that little puppy into your home, see our Training page.
Socialization should never end.
The more your Labrador experiences of life at your side, the better companion you will have!