I mentioned yesterday that we are doing a series of exercises with these very neonatal puppies. Certified canine behaviorist Janece Rollet explained that about 20 years ago a study was published that showed that these exercises seems to result in dogs with superior problem solving skills and more able to cope with stress. "Of course no one wanted to listen back then, so they aren't well known.", she said.
The whole process is very simple and requires only about 30 seconds per puppy, once per day, for the first 13 days of life. Here is what Ms. Rollet wrote when she first described them to me.
There are five exercises, these are done once a day with each puppy in the litter. In the order shown
1) The pup should be picked up in one hand and be tickled between the toes of one foot for 3-5 seconds (you can use different toes on different days)
2) Use both hands to hold the pup, again for just 3-5 seconds, so that her head is directly above her tail. Like sitting in mid-air.
3) Then carefully cup the puppy in both hands, reverse direction so that her head is pointing straight down. Hold for 3-5 seconds. BTW, dropping the puppy is not good for optimum brain development, do do this carefully :')
4) Hold the pup in both hands, parallel to the floor, belly up for 3-5 seconds
5) Last, but not least, put the pup on a cold, damp towel for 3-5 seconds, then return to the litter
All of these exercises should be done in a fluid motion, not jostling the puppy. They should only be done once a day, no more. and each one should only be done for the 3-5 seconds. More than once a day, or longer for each exercise could be potentially harmful. The reason you only do them once a day, and exactly as described is that too much stress, too early can backfire on you.
Of course, the normal, touching, cuddling etc that you would do with a litter is something every puppy needs, and you should continue to do those things. These specific exercises are something the puppy would never get and probably acts to kick-start some aspects of neurological development.
With our litter only three days old, here are major developments I have seen. Yesterday, all puppies in the litter were using their legs well enough to keep their bellies off the floor of the whelping house to get around, as opposed to "swimming" or doing the neonatal belly crawl. My training partner also observed this, and was astounded. She claims she has never seen puppies this young able to do this.
Today as we did the exercises the puppies did not yelp or cry out while they were being handled. One or two grunted a little bit, but it was nothing like the tiny squeals of protest we got on Thursday and yesterday.
For me, this 13 day regimen is very experimental, but so far I'd have to say that I'm seeing things that are apt to make me a believer. After all, as Scott Chesney said when I first told him about our planned breeding between Torus and Lucky - we really are hoping to have big, dark colored, SMART dogs.