Understanding Dr. Carmen Battaglia's Neurological Stimulation and Early Socialization
Dr. Carmen Battaglia is a very well known in the dog world as on the board of the AKC and a writer and lecturer on puppy development and breeding better dogs.
Dr. Battaglia believes in careful breeding but it is most interesting to us that his research has shown that it is the ability to make use of the capacity you have that is more important that having a huge capacity in itself. We humans apparently use a very small segment of the brain power we are given and so it seems it is with dogs. To Dr. Battaglia it is giving puppy the stimulation to help him use the cleverness he is born with that is crucial.
Certainly we know that newborn human babies react to the early stimuli they are given. Babies who are well looked after but not cuddled, cooed to and touched do not perform as well in later life as babies who perhaps lacked the some aspects of physical care but were adored and fussed over as infants. Puppies respond very well to stimulation both by their dog mum and their human family right from birth.
A newborn puppy is only able to smell, suck and crawl on his belly. He knows when the temperature of his world is good for him. If he is cold he will snuggle up to his litter-mates or his mother. Temperature is very important to maintain his immature digestive system.
Early Stress Produces Puppies Who Can Cope With Change
Dr. Battaglia writes in his article on Early Neurological Stimulation that research has shown that during the first weeks of a puppy’s life he is sensitive to thermal, tactile and motion stimuli. The effects of early stimulation on mice and rats has also been studied. When a rat was removed from the comfort of the nest for three minutes each day during its first week of life the body temperature falls and this stimulates the hormonal, adrenal and pituitary system. When these mammals were stressed as adults they responded in a ‘graded’ way while their litter-mates who were not stressed as newborns responded in an ‘all or nothing’ fashion.
Tests on the effect of early stimulation in puppies and kittens showed they were better able to problem solve than their non-stressed litter mates. Studies done on monkeys and the findings were that mild stress and stimulation early in life produced animals who could cope and adapt to new situations later in life. One must take care not to stress a young animal unduly.
Stress Must Be Carefully Administered
Dr. Battaglia recommends caution and care as too much stress in the life of a young animal can be extremely harmful to development. The US Military has done extensive research into early stimulation of puppies in order to produce good working dogs. They developed the ‘Bio Sensor’ Program. Once and only once a day each puppy has s series of 5 exersises:
These Exercises Are To Be Done For Between 3 And 5 Seconds
- Rub the puppy between her toes. This is tactile stimulation.
- Hold the puppy carefully in a vertical position with her head erect.
- Hold the puppy and support her neck. Hold her with her head pointed down (she is upside down).
- Hold the puppy on her back.
- Place the puppy on a cold surface. We place a cloth on an icepack, put the puppy on her tummy on the cloth and let her wiggle off herself.
The Next Step Is Social Interaction
This early stimulation must be followed by socialization as the puppy is older. At two weeks the puppies are developing other senses. They can see and hear.
By four weeks they are noticing the world around them.
Dr. Battaglia and others have found that there is a critical period in both the life of a human as well as other animals in which socialization must take place. An important study of human socialization was done by Scott and Fuller. Their findings and the findings of others concur that humans must have a great deal of social contact between three weeks and twelve months. With puppies the period is shorter but no less critical. This initial social period must come between four and sixteen weeks. This means that a breeder must be diligent in having a puppy of four weeks meet and be handled by as many different people as possible.
It also is beneficial when the puppy’s mother is allowed to wean freely and teach the puppy her many lessons as the puppy grows. If a puppy is left in a detached kennel with the same person cleaning and feeding two or three times a day the puppy will not develop socially.
Puppy Families Carry On This Important Process
As puppies go home to their owners well before 16 weeks much of the burden of early socialization is on them. Puppies benefit from going out to a dog class, meeting new people, and having a safe but busy environment. This all takes time and planning but is essential to a dog who is at ease and can cope with his changing surroundings.
For more and more detailed information on early puppy development go to Dr. Battaglia’s website Breeding Better Dogs
Head Start Training
In addition to the Super Dog Program puppies at Over The Moon Labradoodles also receive Head Start Training before being adopted by their forever families.