Sierra Working Dogs – Puppy Raising

Puppy Raising

“One cannot begin too early with the training; it must be commenced….with the nestlings, in order to develop in them a love and a trust, first of all in man and then for their master and keeper. The breeder who can occupy himself with his pups at this time lays a good foundation. The pups must find with their master what they seek, i.e. reciprocated love, food, and when required, protection.”

Max v, Stephanitz, 1925

The German Shepherd Dog in Word and Picture

“One cannot begin too early with the training; it must be commenced….with the nestlings, in order to develop in them a love and a trust, first of all in man and then for their master and keeper. The breeder who can occupy himself with his pups at this time lays a good foundation. The pups must find with their master what they seek, i.e. reciprocated love, food, and when required, protection.”

Max v, Stephanitz, 1925

The German Shepherd Dog in Word and Picture

Dogs are natural pack animals and have social needs. For that reason, our puppies are raised within our homes. The humans they live with become a part of that pack and social interaction is essential to sound development. Studies show that the first 12 weeks of a dog’s life are the most valuable time for that socialization to occur and the best time to mold their desire for human attention and approval.

A puppy’s behavior develops in a definite pattern and has needs that should be met throughout those first months. Over many years of raising dogs we firmly believe that those puppies who receive favorable attention and age appropriate stimulation are more likely to grow into sound adults. A breeder must be able to give the time and energy needed to raise puppies to grow to their full potential as working dogs or well rounded companions. It’s one of the main differences between a good breeder and puppy mills who sell to pet stores.

The first three months are known as the development period because most of the dog’s basic adult behavior patterns are established during that time. The first seven weeks are the breeder’s responsibility. In our opinion we must provide three basics: Environmental Stimulation, Minor Stresses and Human Attention.

We begin at 3 days of age with exercises that were developed by the U.S. Military in their canine program and are known to the public as the "Super Dog" Program. The exercises are discussed by Dr. Battaglia, in the book Early Neurological Stimulation, (http://www.breedingbetterdogs.com/achiever.html). After years of research their studies confirmed that there are specific periods early in the puppy’s life when neurological stimulation has optimum results. The stimulation program involves handling puppies once each day while performing a series of five exercises. The exercises, involving minor stresses, take into account that during the first weeks the pups are aware of only heat, cold, and pain.

At about three weeks teeth emerge, eyes have been opened, ears open, hearing begins and the breeder’s job changes and starts in earnest. Good people relationships now will last a lifetime. The pups change into lively little beings and need, sometimes demand, individual attention! As soon as they hear and react to a loud noise their behavior/development fast forwards and we get creative to find many different ways to provide stimulation and fulfill their need for human companionship. Because many dog behaviorists and researchers believe this need peaks at seven weeks (49 days), lack of socialization during this period may never be able to be made up, it is that important, it must be done!

We alter the footing/flooring by giving them exposure to slippery floors, prickly floors. At some point we give them a new whelping box such as a plastic pool in a new room. We give them time on our patio or deck to expose them to safe, outside places. We encourage people to come handle the puppies, particularly children.

We provide new objects: boxes to climb on or walk through, steps to climb, new playthings out of various materials, new toys, new noises/textures, things that push/roll (oatmeal boxes, cans, cardboard or plastic tubes, etc.). We also provide mini obstacle course such as 4-6 inch high plank walks, duct work or barrels to walk through, 4x4’s to crawl over, grates to walk on either inside or outside. These need to be replenished almost daily because once they learn them they want more of a challenge!

We provide crates to sleep in and explore. We expose them to a variety of noises, such as the TV, radio, pans with spoons to bang, plastic bottle with marbles, whistles, anything loud. Anything to let them learn that loud noises happen but nothing bad comes of it.

It is the breeders job to challenge the puppies to think and figure things out. If that is properly done, the puppies become accustomed to learning to accomplish feats and their sense of confidence grows.

Environmental Stimulation

It is important to change the environment of the puppies. We alter the footing/flooring by giving them exposure to slippery floors, prickly floors. At some point we give them a new whelping box such as a plastic pool in a new room. We give them time on our patio or deck to expose them to safe, outside places. We encourage people to come handle the puppies, particularly children.

We provide new objects: boxes to climb on or walk through, steps to climb, new playthings out of various materials, new toys, new noises/textures, things that push/roll (oatmeal boxes, cans, cardboard or plastic tubes, etc.). We also provide mini obstacle course such as 4-6 inch high plank walks, duct work or barrels to walk through, 4x4’s to crawl over, grates to walk on either inside or outside. These need to be replenished almost daily because once they learn them they want more of a challenge!

We provide crates to sleep in and explore. We expose them to a variety of noises, such as the TV, radio, pans with spoons to bang, plastic bottle with marbles, whistles, anything loud. Anything to let them learn that loud noises happen but nothing bad comes of it.

It is the breeders job to challenge the puppies to think and figure things out. If that is properly done, the puppies become accustomed to learning to accomplish feats and their sense of confidence grows.

Human Attention

There is nothing more important than building the puppies bond with people in order to prepare them for their new home. That bond with their “Master” is the staple of the German Shepherd Dog. To that end, we cannot encourage enough that the good breeder must provide new people to stimulate the puppies. We encourage neighbors, friends, potential puppy owners and anyone else we know to come and help in the puppies development by giving individual attention, talking to them, playing with them, even hand feeding them. Children who are “dog savvy” are great; they have a great imagination and will lay down on the floor while pups crawl over them. They’ll rock them in rocking chairs; wrap them in blankets, sing to them, etc.

When the puppies go to their new homes we like to feel we’ve done all we can to make that transition easier and that the best foundation has been laid for future growth and stability.

Stress

It is important to create small stressors on the puppies so that they learn to handle the stress that inevitably will happen as they grow up. While we would like to think that our dogs will live in a “stress free” zone, none of us could accomplish that. Stress is a normal part of life. Not all stress is bad. With stress come accomplishment. Puppies need to learn from the earliest time how to handle stress and figure out that they can handle it. This goes to building the puppies self-confidence.

We do a variety of things to create the minor stresses. For example, on one day we may hold them in different positions (i.e. upside down). On another day we set them down briefly on ice packs. Still another day brings their introduction to a bathtub either, with or without a small amount of water. We gently pinch toes/ears. Not only do we do these exercises, we ask friends and neighbors to assist us with them. All these exercises are ended on a positive note, so that once again we are building the puppies confidence.

As the puppies mature we will give them individual time away from litter, put them down in strange places, on different floors/surfaces. Eventually we will close crate door for a few minutes, gradually extending time alone. We give them exposure to other animals. While taking a shower we may put a puppy in the bathroom and shut the door or take to the laundry room while doing that chore. We will take them on car rides (to safe places for their young age); expose them to as many people as possible; carry them through local businesses. We expose them to as much as possible and let them problem solve. It is the ability to think and problem solve that we begin to try to develop in the dogs to build their confidence so that they can handle anything that is thrown at them as adults

Puppy Testing

Puppy Testing

The purpose of our puppy aptitude test is not to determine if a puppy is good or bad, but rather it is a measurement tool. The test examines certain characteristics that the puppy exhibits. These characteristics profile a puppy’s adult potential and hopefully project how they will develop into adult dog traits. Of course, the environment in which the puppy is raised and the manner of training and nurturing will greatly impact the characteristics that are being measured. The tests are conducted three times, at 4, 5 & 6 weeks of age. Each test is in a different location, unknown to the puppies. The location and the noise source are the only factors that change.

There are four basic components to these tests. These components are Exploration, Social Traits, Approach by 2nd Tester and Sound Sensitivity. Each component allows the puppy to display certain traits. The combination of these traits, during a certain component, is scored and notes taken. We look for a blend of traits as the optimum. For example: a puppy might receive an 8 (out of 10) on Exploration, based on the puppy’s lack of desire to explore. Then that same puppy might receive another 8 on Social Traits, because the puppy opted to remain as close as possible to the evaluator instead of continuing to investigate its surroundings. The aptitude test would develop a profile of this puppy that may characterize him as being Dependent and best suited to a single pet home with mild individuals, who are home much of the time and will take their puppy many places. Contrast the dependent puppy with an independent puppy who commences exploring everywhere immediately – who does not come when the evaluator makes his/her presence known – and then simply continues exploring – oblivious to the new human friend. This puppy will probably also be scored at 8 in Social Traits and characterized as Independent. Thus two puppies may have identical scores in an individual component for different reasons.

The basic premise of the Test Components is to remove the puppies from their littermates, their mother, and from all familiar surroundings. They then are observed to see how they deal with several types of stress, the first obviously being alone in a strange place. For example:

1) Exploration: Do they become curious about their new surroundings and start exploring or do they stay put?

2) Social Traits: How does the puppy react to the evaluator? Is the puppy happy or concerned?

3) Approach of 2nd Evaluator: How does the puppy react? If startled, how does the puppy recover?

4) Sound Sensitivity: What is puppy’s reaction to sudden noise? Is it curious or startled?

Retrieve response and prey drive are also measured after the above components. Puppies at this age may show little retrieve/prey response but may still develop it later at the age of 8+ weeks.

It is important to look at all tests in conjunction with one another. This testing measures the aptitude/temperament only of the puppy. Based on years of experience and a true understanding of the temperament needs of various disciplines (i.e. Police work, search and rescue, disaster, etc..) it is possible to make the best matches for each home and puppy.

Additional testing may be done near seven weeks at the discretion of the breeder and potential puppy owner. These tests may include specific discipline tests, such as tracking or scent work. These tests are not a guarantee that the puppy will do a particular job as there are a tremendous amount of training variables. Rather it gives a good indication of the inherited natural drives of the individual puppy.

Puppies will be selected for their homes based on their aptitude/temperament, not their appearance. No homes will be guaranteed a puppy out of any litter. Their will be a waiting list, with the specific needs of the home determined. If there is a puppy in the litter whose temperament matches the needs of the home, then and only then will the puppy be placed there