I do several things with my puppies during their first couple of months. These are activities designed to enhance their confidence, improve their cardiovascular condition, strengthen their adrenal glands, build their stress tolerance, and provide greater disease resistance. Although time-consuming for me, these efforts are worth every second. The result is robust, healthy puppies with strong self-confidence.
Rules of 7
I always follow the Rules of 7 with my pups.
- Meet seven different people
- Eat out of seven different bowls
- Be in seven different places
- Walk or crawl on seven different surfaces
- Go seven miles in a car
- Sleep in 7 different crates
We do all these things by the time the pups are seven weeks old. These tasks are easily integrated into the routine of raising puppies. For example, seven miles in a vehicle might be the pup’s first visit to the vet. The puppies’ immune systems are still developing, and not yet fully vaccinated. So, I always carry them into the clinic to see the vet or get their first eye exam.
Meeting seven new people is easy, and it is best if you mix different ages and use different locations. I do my best to make sure that these new places and new people result in positive experiences for the pups. Children should always be sitting on the floor or ground when meeting puppies because it is far too easy to drop a wiggly, active puppy.
These early experiences make a huge difference in the self-confidence of the pups.
Neurological stimulation program
I do this program with every puppy. It is important not to do it more than once a day or for longer than the recommended 3-5 seconds.
1. Tactical stimulation (between toes). Holding the pup in one hand, I gently stimulate (tickle) the pup between his toes on any one foot using a Q-tip. It is not necessary to see that the pup is feeling the tickle.
2. Head held erect. Using both hands, I hold the pup perpendicular to the ground (straight up) so that its head is directly above its tail in an upwards position.
3. Head pointed down. I hold the pup firmly with both hands reversing his head and pointing it down toward the ground.
4. Supine position. With the pup’s back resting in the palms of my hands, I hold the pup so his muzzle is facing the ceiling. The pup in this position is allowed to sleep or struggle.
5. Thermal stimulation. Using a damp towel that I have cooled in a refrigerator for at least five minutes, I place the pup on the towel, feet down. The pup may move freely. It does not matter if the pup stays on the towel or moves off.
My pups have access to various toys and challenges for physical and mental stimulation. I use wobble boards, a toddler slide, tunnels, and resting benches to climb on and jump off. The ‘jump’ in this case is only four inches because babies shouldn’t jump far. The pups also have opportunities to play with toys that make a noise, like squeaky and crackling toys.
Before now, I doubt I’ve ever listed all I do to prepare my pups for life ahead of them. It takes my dedication. But judging by what people say about my puppies, it is worth every last effort.