Early Neurological Stimulation for Puppies

Once our dog delivers her puppies, we can breathe a sigh of relief. All that’s left to do is tag the pups with different-colored collars. Then we can let mom do the rest of the work, right?

Not for us. We’ll be monitoring everyone’s health, checking temperatures, weighing puppies and continually adjusting the environment to ensure optimal canine health. We’re needed now more than ever since we want that those litter mates to turn out healthy and resilient, but there’s more. Breeding Australian Labradoodles and preparing the puppies for adoption is not only a labor of love. It’s an exercise in behavioral and neurological science.

Our work is just beginning.

Considerable research has been conducted regarding the socialization of neonatal puppies. Long thought to determine capability in individuals and animals, genetic makeup isn’t the only factor in success. In fact, it accounts for only slightly more than one-third of an individual’s capabilities.

At no time are these influences more critical for puppies than during their first weeks of life.

Three developmental stages of stimulation

Like many other dog breeds and even children, Labradoodle puppies will transition through three developmental stages of stimulation. Some breeds may go through each stage more quickly, but the steps are similar for all dogs.

  • Early neurological stimulation

Days three through sixteen are the most critical in a puppy’s life. The neonatal pup experiences phenomenal neurological growth during this time period, more than at other time in its life. This is the best time to introduce neurological stimulation.

  • Socialization

Puppies still need plenty of socialization. Breeders should still handle and pet their pups to aid in socialization and improve psychological resiliency.

  • Enrichment

Puppies need exposure to a variety of novel experiences, including sight, sounds, and smells.

Stress activation during this time period produces the most rapid neurological growth and development. By paying careful attention to our puppies’ needs, we help him or her grow into a well-adjusted adult dog.

Stimulation techniques

We conduct Early Neurological Stimulation (ENS) during the first three weeks of your pup’s  life. According to AKC breeder, board member and judge Dr. Carmen Battaglia, five simple exercises initiate the biosensor development of your Australian Labradoodle.

  • Tactical toe-area stimulation: Holding the pup in one hand and using a Q-tip, we lightly tickle the area between the toes on any one foot using a Q-tip. Visual confirmation of the stimulus is unnecessary.
  • Head held erect: Holding the puppy perpendicular to the ground with the head up. The head should be directly above the tail. Be sure to use two hands.
  • Head pointed down:  We reverse the puppy’s direction and hold it with the head facing downward.  The head will be below the tail. we take care to hold the puppy with two hands.
  • Supine position: Resting the puppy in the palms of both of our hands. The pup’s back, and the muzzle pointed at the ceiling. The puppy does not have to be awake for this exercise.
  • Thermal stimulation: We place the puppy on a cool, damp towel.  Allow the pup to move away from the coolness if it desires to do so.

We perform each exercise in succession, one after another, before continuing on to the next pup.  These exercises will “impact the neurological system by kicking it into action earlier than would be normally expected, the result being an increased capacity that later will help to make the difference in its performance.”

These exercises do not replace the normal socialization activities and contact that puppies need, so they're sure to be socialized with the other pups and their mother.

Benefits of stimulation techniques

Natural ability in mammals and primates is two-thirds the result of environmental influences. Individuals that have been introduced to appropriate levels of stress are healthier, mature more quickly, and make better use of their skills.

The United States Military has been an early adopter of neurological stimulation in canines. Their Bio Sensor stimulation program resulted in five distinctly beneficial outcomes for the military pups:

  • Increased heart rate and cardiovascular performance, which promotes endurance
  • Improved stress tolerances, which assists with adapting to uncertainty
  • Increased immunity to disease, suggesting better health
  • Stronger heart beats, indicating a more powerful heart muscle
  • Stronger adrenal glands, which produce hormones and regulate stress

Done correctly, neurological stimulation results in physically and emotionally healthier dogs.

The exercises, when done in moderation during the early neonatal phase, will improve canine physical and mental health.

Our extensive care and involvement with our puppies ensures Providence Hill Australian Labradoodles will be producing Australian Labradoodles that demonstrate the keen intelligence and even temperament for which they are so valued.