Puppy Training and Handling
for a Successful Life-long Companionship
Consider this scenario...
A dog is surrendered to the animal
shelter because he has multiple
behavioral issues that include
digging, destructive chewing,
barking, and escaping.
A dog is being euthanized (put down) for biting and
hospitalizing a child.
Is there anything that a breeder
could have done to prevent these
two scenarios?
What is a breeder to do?

Breeders cannot guard against every scenario.

• Dog trainers cannot train out every bad habit.

•Owners cannot prevent every bad situation.
•We can’t expect all children to understand how to behave appropriately around

•We can work together to help produce dogs that THINK rather than REACT to situations and that better understand people.

•It takes education and understanding on our parts.

•There are exercises that a breeder CAN do at various critical periods to reduce the chances of these instances happening.

Characteristics of Surrendered
A study collected data on the pets being relinquished. According to the study:

1. Most dogs (47.7%) were between 5 months and 3 years of age.
      2. Nearly half (42.8%) dogs; surrendered were not neutered.
     3. 33% of dogs had not been to a veterinarian.
     4. Dogs acquired from “friends” and family were relinquished in
higher numbers than from any other source 31.4%.
    5. Most dogs(96%) had not received any obedience training.

A study performed surveyed 56 surrendering dog owners
found that 30% of dog owners who surrender their pets to
an animal shelter do so because of the dogs'
perceived behavior problems.
of dogs surrendered were less than a year old.

Behavioral “Problems” or just
The most commonly reported behavior problem was
Hyperactivity, followed by...
Housetraining problems
Biting / rough play
Destructive chewing when the owner was away
These reported “problems” are
normal behaviors for dogs, especially
for puppies, adolescent, and young dogs.
ALL of these behaviors occur in every
puppy for a very specific reason at a very specifictime.
of these behaviors will grow and increase in frequency, intensity, and duration with the puppy if
not trained to use the behaviors appropriately.
The problem
is not the dogs, it’s the dog owners perceptions and
expectations for puppies, and a
lack of action on their part to correct “problem behaviors.”
What’s A Breeder to Do?
There are practices that you can do before the
puppy goes to his new home that will;
Better prepare your puppies for life with people.
Better prepare your new owners for life with new puppies

Breeders Have a Big Influence on
The Good News
• These condition puppies to situations that he will be expected to tolerate throughout life.
• They introduce puppies to early training concepts so they are
better accepted from new owners.
• Ensures that puppies have a solid foundation necessary to function
in human and dog society.
• There is only a small window of time to perform these for maximum effectiveness.

The Not-So-Good News

Puppies are in your care for only 8 weeks;–The timeframe that certain events
must occur are very specific and limited.

POSITIVE associations MUST occur in these time frames.
NEVER force puppies into anything. Why is it beneficial for you, the
breeder, to perform these exercises?
Can you count on every new puppy owner to do these themselves?

Quick History of Dogs
• Science has proven that dogs were domesticated from
ancestors of the Gray Wolf.
•In fact, they’re 99.98 % genetically similar, which is
why they can produce viable offspring.
• Most of a dog’s behavior isn’t just zany “dog behavior.”
• Much are remnants of ancestral behavior
• Jumping up to lick you
• Mounting

• Sniffing butts
• Communal barking/howling
• Ritualized aggression
• Fear of the unfamiliar

Prenatal Period
Proper health, maintenance, and an excellent diet prior to breeding is essential
• “A stable is only as good as its mares.”
–  Choose excellent breeding stock...ESPECIALLY dams!
       –  Dams have more impact on puppies that sires.
          –   Dogs learn to mother from their mother.
        –  Genes are hypothetically 50/50, but most early learning comes from the dams.
• Fearful, skittish, aggressive, or shy dams=
  Fearful, skittish, aggressive, or shy
• Dams also influence puppies while they are in the womb via hormones.
–  Pamper your dams to keep them happy and calm.
–Environment during the entire pregnancy should be Low  stress
•  Stimulating to the mind and senses
•  Multiple opportunities for mild exercise and socialization with favorite people and animals throughout the day
•  Petting and massaging stimulates calming hormones such as serotonin and oxytocin.
•  A high - stress environment or stressful pregnancy has a detrimental effect on Puppies.
– Stress hormones, such as cortisol, crosses into the placenta to the developing brains of puppies.
– These hormones essentially wire puppies to react to a world of stress.
•  Puppies born to stressed or sick dams
–  Exhibit more white spotting on chest, toes, and chin due to disruption of migration of melanocytes
–  Are more emotionally “reactive,” showing emotional extremes, which can include aggression, fear, or phobias.
– Have reduced learning ability
– Have lower breeding success. 

Neonatal Phase
Birth to Eye Opening (0-15 days of age)

• Wild dog and wolf pups are born into a completely dark den. Both wild pups and domesticated Puppies;
Eyes and ear canals are sealed shut and non-functioning.
Brain is poorly connected and poorly myelinated at birth, but these develop rapidly
Brain developed
enough to control heartbeat, breathing, balance, and equilibrium.
Senses of smell, taste, balance, and touch are present
Some associated learning can occur (scent of mother)
Very little difference in brain waves between sleep and waking cycles.
Vocalizes (yelps) only in response to cold or hunger.
•Mom is the most important figure in the pups world.
Mom and pups bond through mom licking and nursing pups and through pups suckling
and pup grunting.
They are completely dependent on mom for nourishment, warmth, as well as being
stimulated to urinate and defecate.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Although not much seems to be going on at this stage,pups’ brains are just gearing up for the next stages.

Transitional Period
13-20 days (2-3 weeks) of age

• Starts with the opening of eyes and ends with the openingof ears(auditorystartle reflex)
•Den emergence
• Rapid transformation of senses and a marked increase in brain activity.
• Pups begin to react to light, movement, and toward the end of the stage, sound.
• Pain response is on par with that of an adult at this stage.
• Mos tof the brain is well-myelinated and ready for complex learning.
–Learning by association and cause-and-effect (classical and operant conditioning) steadily improve,
but will not reach adult levels until 4-5 weeks of age.
Transitional Period
13-20 days (2-3 weeks) of age
•No longer need maternal stimulation for nursing, urinating, or defecating
•Begin to notice siblings and us
–Littermates and ourselves become
equally important at this stage.
•Mother will begin leaving the pups more often
•Teeth begin to erupt
•Mother may start introducing pups to solid food by regurgitating it
•Pups start to show respect/ affection and beg
for food from mother by pawing and biting at her mouth and lips upon arrival
–Something that carries over to adulthood in dogs with people.
Transition Period Milestones
• Begin to stand and walk (clumsily)
• Ability to crawl backwards as well as forwards
• Temperature regulation is improved, so they can move away from mother,
littermates, and nest.
• The ywill begin to defecate and urinate outside the nest site.
• Begin showing an interest in solid food
• Begin play fighting with littermates and social signaling such as growling and tail
- wagging.
• Puppies will now yelp when separated from mother or littermates,
outside of the nest, or when in an unfamiliar environment (even if warm and well-fed).
• Puppies will show interest in visual stimulus (rolling a ball), or sound

(startle reflex appears toward the end)


A Note on Puppy Teeth and Biting
• Puppy teeth serve only one function at this stage
– And it’s not eating!
– Mom is still their primary source of nourishment
The function of the sharp, needle-like teeth is to cause pain.
• Aggressive nursing becomes increasingly uncomfortable for mom, and rough play biting painful for the littermates.
• Aggressive pups are corrected by mom
– She will walk away or discipline him
– A valuable lesson is learned about how hard is too hard to bite.
This is called bite inhibition learning, and no body teaches this better than mom and siblings.
• It takes a few weeks of repetition for the learning to solidify
• This is the one of the most important reasons for leaving pups with the mother and littermates until 8 weeks of age.
To Bite, or Not To Bite
• Many people try to stamp out biting all together in their dogs as puppies
–This is a bad idea.
• All dogs have (or should have) 42 teeth and can, and will use them in the right situation
–Surprise / startled
–Angry / frustrated
• When provoked to the point of biting, it’s going to be where bite inhibition training last left off
• Dogs that were allowed to develop soft
- mouths will use minimal force to get their point across.
– Yes, they will bite, but they will cause little damage.
• Dogs that were prevented from biting as puppies are going to pick up right where they left off
– This is often a hard, full
- contact bite
• Instead of coming from a puppy and being painful, it’s be coming from an adult, and will be damaging (and potentially fatal).
• Instead, breeders and new owners need to continue the bite training that mom started.
– Play with puppies, allow them to use their mouths, but when he mouths too hard, yelp and end the game for a few seconds.
Give him time to calm down, then resume.
– You will see puppies quickly adjust their bite to the point that they are just mouthing you because they WANT to continue
interacting with you.
– They will remember this lesson for the rest of their lives.
– Overly mouthy puppies should be desensitized by frequent and continual muzzle rubbing. It desensitizes the nip reaction.
– This training should continue for the rest of the dog’s life.

Socialization Periods
Primary: 3-7 Weeks , Secondary: 7-14 Weeks
• This marks the beginning of the most
7-8 weeks of a pups life.
• Time during which wild canids form
bonds with mom , littermates, and pack mates.
• In domestic dogs, pups bond with us,
– As well as other animals that they will need to
tolerate in life
– Cats , sheep, chickens, cows, etc.
• This begins once the pup’s body, senses, and
brain are fully functional.
Primary Socialization Period 3
-7 weeks
• Puppies learn critical species
- specific behaviors
– They learn how to be a dog
– How to get along with and communicate with other dogs
– Or horses, cattle, goats, sheep, kittens, chickens, etc.
• Pups will positively approach anything or anybody
between 3- 5 weeks of age.
– This makes this timeframe optimal for introduction of
strangers and novel things.
• After five weeks, a fear response will develop.
• Just 20 minutes of positive socialization once a week
is sufficient to ensure attachments and acceptance of
other dogs and animals.

Primary Socialization Period
3-7 weeks
• Mother begins weaning
• Bite inhibition training is in full swing
• Mom’s role now includes teacher and disciplinarian
– Mom starts to teach pups boundaries and discipline by
controlling nursing and correcting pups.
– Maternal correction peaks at 7 weeks old, a critical period for discipline training from the mom and another reason why pups should be left with mom during the 7th week.
•Mothers will use various maternal behaviors to discipline the pups and teach them compromise;
– Nursing or withholding of nursing
– Inhibited bites (air snaps)
– Growls
– Mouth threats (snarls)
– Nibbling
– Licking
– Puppies learn how to warn and correct from mom. This is essential for interacting with other dogs later in life.
• Puppies form strong attachments to places (including their “nest site”).
Primary Socialization Period
• During this stage pups learn to signal play, predation, dominance,
friendliness, passivity, submission, tolerance, and cooperation.
• At this stage, puppies learn the
(pack / family) behaviors that make them
wonderful companions.
– Sleeping together
– Feeding / eating together (dogs are competitive eaters, but must eat together)
– Walking, running, sitting, or lying together
– Investigating together
– Barking and howling together
– Grooming each other
– Sniffing, nosing, pawing, or licking each other
– Responding and yielding to one another's social cues.
•Learning by association and cause
-and-effect is possible during this stage.

Secondary Socialization Period
• Pups are completely weaned from mother
• Most rapid learning occurs
• Pups begin to make lasting negative associations
– Consequences have the most lasting impact and will
dictate all future reactions
• The window of optimal socialization is closing!
• Pups are learning  through play
– Take special precautions with singleton pups is essential!
The importance of play
Through play, the puppy is learning important lessons for life.
• Play is essential.
– Stimulates communal behavior, teaches cooperation, and
pack behavior.  It creates and strengthens
social bonds with the other dogs  animals, and people.
– Is practice for life. It molds appropriate social
– Is the trial and error that puppies learn to speak “dog” in order to function and communicate with other dogs.
– Promotes physical health, dexterity,
coordination, mental stimulation
– Permits experimentation and exploration of behavior under
safe conditions
– Teaches precision, timing , interception, intervention, maintaining balance
– Stimulates inventiveness and teaches problem solving
– Allows dogs an outlet to exercises dominant, submissive, sexual, predatory, and aggressive behaviors that can become problematic if “bottled up
– It can be used to advance the social status of a
dog, tests dogs’ “mettle” can be done in a ritualized manner.
– It is necessary for the development of normal sexual and social behavior.
– Play deflects natural aggression.
What can breeders do throughout
these stages to build pup’s coping
skills for later in life?
Prenatal Period Checklist
Move the dam to a quiet, low stress environment (preferably in the house)
 Feed a high - quality dog or puppy food
 Allow for multiple low
- impact daily exercise sessions
 Allow for multiple daily outings and visits for mental
Promote oxytocin production by spending time petting or
massaging the dam
 Keep current on veterinary care.

Handling Neonates
Birth to 15 days
Small amounts of daily handling coupled with mild neurologic stimulating exercises from birth to
five weeks have a marked, long
term effects and benefits, including;
Accelerated maturation of the nervous system
More rapid hair growth and weight gain
Enhanced development of motor and problem
solving skills
Earlier opening of eyes
More confident, exploratory, and socially dominant (not aggressive)
This was in comparison to non
stimulated control group pups
Experts believe
that by introducing the neonates to minute amounts of that is easily coped with
and rebounded from, the brain and nervous system undergoes an adaptive change in the dog’s
wiring (pituitary-adrenocortical system). This
prepares pups to cope with stress later in life.
According researched published by James Serpell
BSc, PhD.Dr. J. AJagoe
, Steven R. Lindsay, Bruce Fogle,
DVM, MRCVS, Dr. Michael Fox, and Karen Overall, M.A., V.M.D., Ph.D.
Dr. Michael W. Fox reported that implementing of early handling routines by dog breeders and the
US Army Veterinary Corps achieved
extraordinary in subject dogs
–Emotional stability
–Learning capacity
Neonatal Period Checklist

 Provide a safe, comfortable, clean nesting or den site.

 Provide auditory and visual stimulation

 Allow TV to play in a distant room

 Allow dam and pups access to daily sounds

 Begin introducing scents and stimulating the

functioning olfactory with scented cotton- balls

 (Great for trailing, hunting, and detection dogs, etc.

 Start a daily neonatal handling and gentling routine.



Handling Neonates

 •Less is more!

– Apply minimal amounts, not maximum.

– Too much stress during neonate phase can have a harmful affect.

•You’re setting puppies up to succeed

–You want to apply such a tiny amount of stress, that it’s easy for puppies to recover

• Exercises should be performed on each puppy

ONCE a day from birth to 15 days.

– Start at 3 days of age, if tails and dewclaws are docked on day  1

• Each exercise should be no more than 3- 5 seconds.


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