Early Socialization - Week 6 - 35-42 Days

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Quick Reference Guide:

Goal:
Carefully monitor the puppies for any fear responses. Build up positive experience around any environmental enrichment activities as well as during any interactive activities.

Environments:
Puppies’ normal play area that they are already familiar with. Make sure to consider any Biosecurity risks.

Volunteer Type:
Active, with an active understanding of puppy body language and reinforcing positive behaviours

Introduction

Massive brain development continues this week.  Milestones include near adult vision and an innate inquisitive about their environment. The motor skills are more advanced so the environment can include larger objects for pups to climb over, go through or stand on. 

Enhanced proprioception ability enables pups to enjoy more advanced motion equipment. This is the time to offer a more enriched environment full of different visual, sound, movement, surfaces as well as a large variety of people of all ages. During this age group there is a huge potential to influence just how sound and confident the puppy will become as an adult.

This week we continue to look for signs that the puppy is going through a fear period where they start to development a fearfulness of their environment. Even a familiar environment can produce a reaction at this time.

German Shepherds are a more reactive breed and can enter this critical fear period as early as 5 weeks whereas Labrador Retrievers are a less reactive breed and may not enter this stage until 10 weeks of age. It is a gradual process so be mindful about this development stage and treat each litter as an individual group and not according to a set standard.

PUP IS IN THE ENGAGED (GREEN) ZONE most of the time OR PUP IS IN THE CONFLICTED (YELLOW ZONE) briefly then moves back into the green zone once it has resolved the internal conflict:

  • Pups will happily explore the new environment 
  • Pups will play with littermates then fall asleep 
  • Pups will display no stress signals  or  if 1 or 2 stress signs (yawning, whinging) but pup quickly resolves inner conflict without escalating to additional stress signals. 
  • Second exposure pups are accepting of longer durations 
  • Addition of familiar surfaces, massage and textures accepted without issue.
  • Puppies are more susceptible to fear reactions beginning this week. Extra caution should be taken to focus on building positive experiences and exposures to build confidence.

  • Pups still need large amounts of sleep. Do not over stimulate the pup. It cannot learn in this mode 

  • Observe pup and adjust procedure appropriately so it is a positive learning experience. Each pup is worked as an individual and techniques are for this pup not the whole litter.

  • Early repeat exposure in different environments will add to pup’s confidence and ways to resolve inner conflict.

  • Keep it brief: Remember pups have short attention spans. A successful exposure may be only seconds long and an entire education session should be no more than 5 minutes.

  • Keep your objective in mind: Since puppies have short attention spans, it is important to focus on the task at hand. While it is very tempting to snuggle a puppy before working with them, this can take away from the puppy’s purposeful learning for the day as they are able to work for noticeably short periods of time

  • Give the puppy an “escape route”:  When an activity has gone on too long, is too overwhelming, or too challenging, a puppy needs a means to avoid it. If a puppy uses the escape route frequently, stop and seek assistance. Large objects, tunnels, gap behind crate can offer a pup a safe area to resolve their inner conflict.

During interactive activities, we continue to promote the puppy handler bond. Any time the pup choses to return its focus onto the handler reward this choice immediately with a smile, praise, petting or a food reward. 

Mix up the rewards so puppy has variety and keeps interested and wanting to bond and work with us. Remember to use a reward that the puppy sees as reinforcing for it. Some Golden Retrievers are not as food oriented as say a Labrador Retriever. Should food not be a strong motivator try a soft fluffy toy or hard rubber toy. The pups focus should be on the handler so lots of rewards for good choices. The frequency of food rewards can become intermittent then phased out when the pup is older. 

This week pups will learn that working with humans is fun and challenging.

Interactive activities are a way for us to expose puppies to new objects, sounds, surfaces and movement in the environments and to enable us to get feedback about how the pup responds. The information we collect helps give us to continue to build up a better picture of the puppy’s personality and how they cope with changes in environment, how inquisitive and confident they are and overall whether the puppy would be a good candidate as a guide or service dog.

Continue to promote remaining calm relaxed during body handling and massage as the building up of positive human relationships continues this week.

Items needed for Den this week – Variety is important to keep pups inquisitive and accepting of change

Toilet Box (To be used if needed by pups in between toilet breaks)
Ramp to concrete
Sound
Visuals
Surfaces
Movement 
Random Object 
Hanging Toys 
Activity Box
Hard Chew Toys

Problem Solving

  • If the pup is struggling with body handling you may have progressed too fast, tried to do it for too long or the pup has had a negative experience previous to this session.
  • After the pup has released any emotional energy and relaxed, reestablish a positive connection then briefly position the pup between your knees for the first step of body handling, Stroke the pup calmly for a few seconds, praise and release the pup.
  • Repeat once more as above
    • After giving the pup some time to play or explore, do another brief body handling exercise at the level of an earlier step where the pup is comfortable. Release the pup as soon as you feel the pup relaxing or accepting.
  • Consider adding the marker word YES when the pup relaxes, release the pup and follow-up with a food reward and praise.
  • Over the day do no more than 1 minute of body handling 2 or 3 times. Progress only as the pup is relaxed.
  • For pups that are very wiggly or stressed, proceed more slowly but do more successful very brief sessions in a day

If a puppy has a significant change in energy and/or needs a longer time to recover, give the puppy time to resolve the conflict on their own. The handler can give the puppy support and encouragement with voice and soft petting. If the puppy has a severe change in energy and is no longer able to be engaged with the handler and activity, end the session on a positive note and return the puppy to their litter.

  • Allow pup time to resolve inner conflict themselves: Signs of a pup trying to resolve inner conflict can include yawning, scratching, shake off, change in ear/tail position.
  • Offer emotional support via voice and touch
  • Shorten duration of visit. If one pup displays distress signs (whining) the others will usually follow. Be prepared to move when all pups are quiet so as not to reinforce a negative behaviour (whining gets what I want) 
  • Engage with pup using favourite toy
  • Have handler stand or sit near the area pups are concerned. Don’t coax but do stroke and interact happily with pups when they choose to come
  • If an item is making noise, decrease the intensity
  • Be certain pups have the freedom to move around in the area and choose to explore when comfortable
  • Pair a less confident pup with a more confident sibling. If mom is available it is helpful to have her in the area as wel.
  • If the pups are overwhelmed and not acclimating, return them to their den with Mom and try a shorter amount of time or less intense situation next time.

Stop and place hands around pup’s chest area. Do some gentle circular motion with your hands. Once pup is calm again you can resume the body handling.

It can help to go back to an area on the body that pup is comfortable being handled and try again.

Should pup still not be comfortable reduce the session times then build up again.

Try luring with slower, more deliberate movements. Make sure you have pup’s interest in the lure and maintain that connection. Practice moving your arm with a “mixing bowl” movement – wide, sweeping and steady.

Should pup show concern around crating remember it is helpful to feed pups in their crates individually at this stage with the door closed in order to build this positive association around crates.

Once finished feeding take pup out to drink and toilet helping to promote clean pups.

When crating at other times ensure pup has toys and some form of food source or nyla bone with peanut butter on end. Reward quiet behaviour with a treat.

Passive Environmental Enrichment

Passive exposure continues by exposing pups to a variety of surfaces, sounds, movement, objects in their crate and den environment.

Acceptance of change and difference can be achieved by placing 1 random object into the nest each day that the puppies have not been exposed to before (backpack, hat, purse, statue like objects). Observe and record each pup’s reaction to novel object.


Pup to spend time in a crate away from their littermates but around people • 

Offer a stuffed Kong or nylabone • 

Gradually increase time in crate from 5 min to 30 mins – (toilet pup before and after)

Environmental sound CDs as well as music or talk back radio can be played. If there is an extra small metal crate a DVD player or computer laptop can be placed in the locked crate and a movie played. Lots of variety to keep pups interested.

Turn sounds on and off as well as changing the direction the sound is coming from. Our aim is to have the pups to be aware there was a change happening rather than then blocking out sounds that are playing continuously.

More challenging surfaces can be added in the litter’s room to encourage them to climb and walk over different surfaces. This helps build the puppy’s confidence and also their muscles! Keep in mind that the surfaces need to be age and skill appropriate.

Goal: To allow the puppy to explore multiple novel objects with a handler and to be comfortable with novel objects.

Surfaces Interactive Activity

Under-footings

Equipment  Required 

3-5 different surface types (from the under-footings box) 

One surface should be a tray from a crate with water in it to simulate walking through puddles 

Treats 

 Space to spread out the surfaces

Method NOTE:

Spread out the surfaces in the play area of the run ensuring there is plenty of room between them so you can see if pup tries to avoid any 

  1. Have pup off lead and allow them to explore in their own time for a minute or 2 
  2. Start to encourage pup to go over different surfaces using your voice or stuffed toys. 
  3. Praise them for going over any under-footings 
  4. Play with them within the area to keep it fun and light 
  5. Once pup is comfortable (equivalent of scoring a 5), the following session you can repeat with different surfaces and/or do the session at a different location.

Ensure you introduce a large variety of new people, start gradually to build up pup’s acceptance of difference. Demographics to cover include; young, elderly, male, female, toddlers, different ethnic groups. Be sure to follow Biosecurity protocols when allowing people to visit or interact with the puppies.

 

Safe items that move can be placed in the litter’s room to allow puppies to explore on their own.

Safe items that move will allow puppies to explore at their own pace. Record any concerns you observe.

Goal: To allow puppies to explore multiple motion objects with a handler and to be comfortable with walking on unstable objects and moving objects. 

To prepare the designated space for this activity, please complete the following steps. 

  1.   Gather 4-5 motion objects. Remember variety when selecting objects. 
  2.   Arrange the objects in a circle spread apart enough for the puppies and handler to move around comfortably. 

You are now ready to retrieve the litter of puppies you are working with. 

  1.   Allow the puppies to explore the room upon entering for up to 30 seconds. 
  2.   Encourage the puppies to explore each of the objects with you. 
  3.   Continue around the circle in the same manner.

Passive open crate exposure is the foundation to crate training. Puppies can explore the crate and go in and out as they wish. Hard plastic crates can be used if the front door is taken off to prevent puppies from becoming stuck in the crate.

Also make sure that latch is fastened back if using a metal crate.

Soft bedding and interactive toys will help to promote positive associations around the crate.

You can review further information on crate settling here.

Also, make sure to consider Biosecurity if your crate is positioned around other dogs, or outside of the puppy pen, etc.

 

Interactive Activities

  • Purposeful play with littermates exploring novel objects, sound objects, motion objects, and surfaces 
  • Puppies will develop positive experiences with body handling 
  • Puppies build positive associations with new objects and sounds  
  • Puppies build handler engagement

Experiences around body handling, and puppies can build positive association with new objects and sounds.  Every interaction with the puppies continues the building of handler engagement. 

It is important to start to build a solid foundation of skills. Body Handing is ongoing and involves lots of practice. It can be done in short sessions throughout the day in order to set the pup up for success by keeping skill training fun and expectations consistent. Body handling is the process of teaching our puppies to accept all parts of their body being handled while remaining calm while we touch and move all parts of their body.
This is beneficial for health/Vet visits. These skills also help with body sensitivities to equipment the pup may need to wear such as boots or coat.

Remember, Body handling should be a calm, gentle process – it’s not a time for cuddles or play – that can come later! Take extra care around your pup’s teeth, ears and paws – these areas are crucial for Body Handling but many pups find the handling of these areas strange at first.

Start by Teaching the “Close” position:

  1. Start by crouching on the ground with the puppy in front of you, facing you. 
  2. Place your right knee on the ground – If pup is on a lead put the lead under your knee so both hands are free 3. Use your left hand to lure the pup from your right knee in a circle until they are between your legs facing away from you 
  3. Tilt your lure back over the pup’s head so they go into a sit 
  4. Mark and pay 
  5. Put your knee down so you are kneeling with pup sitting between your legs and place your two hands on the pup’s chest 
  6. Repeat steps 1-6 until pup is quickly and easily moving into position as you lure
  7. Repeat steps 1-6 but this time say the word “close” just as their bottom touches the ground Do this 3 times 9. Fade the lure and work on duration – Reward pup for being still and calm. Ignore any wriggling or mouthing.
  8. Do this 3 times
  9. Fade the lure and work on duration – Reward pup for being still and calm. Ignore any wriggling or mouthing.

Handling Method

NOTE: For pups over 3 weeks, all handling starts in the “Close” position.

Ears

  1. Gently hold the puppy’s chin with one hand then use the other hand to lift their ear 
  2. Look inside and smell their ear for any signs of infection 
  3. Repeat with the other ear 
  4. Gentle praise, reward

Eyes

  1. Hold puppy’s chin gently and look at each eye 
  2. Gentle praise, reward

Teeth

  1. Gently hold pup’s chin and use the other hand to lift pup’s chin on one side to look at their teeth 
  2. Repeat on the other side 
  3. Gentle praise, reward

Legs and paws

  1. Run your hand down one of pup’s legs to their paw 
  2. Feel between the pads on their paw 
  3. Gentle praise, reward
  4. Repeat with other 3 paws 

Vet Restraint

  1. Use your left hand to gently restrain pup’s head against your chest so they are looking towards your left 
  2. Run your right hand down the back of the pup’s right leg to their elbow then raise their leg (it should be outstretched as if for a blood draw) 
  3. Mark and pay 
  4. Switch so pup is facing the opposite way and the other leg is outstretched 
  5. Gentle praise, reward

 Lay Over

  1. Place one arm underneath pup’s front legs
  2. Lift your arm (therefore lifting the pup’s front legs)
  3. Lean down until you are lying over the top of the dog 
  4. Remove your hand from under the pup 
  5. Gentle praise, reward

Release cue

  1. Tell the puppy “Go free” and allow them to break position 
  2. Give them a pat and plenty of praise

Introduce pups to the room prior to placing it in hydrobath. 

No water initially. Non slip mat on floor 

Pups in pairs 

Familiar toys for play 

Voice and touch for reassurance 

Time ending so it is a short brief positive experience 

Pup in office under desk with older dog in metal enclosure. Older dog is mirroring calm behaviour plus pup is having time away from littermates.

Pups experiencing drag leads

 Goal: To allow the puppy to explore multiple motion objects with a handler and to be comfortable with walking on unstable objects and moving objects. 

To prepare the designated space for this activity, please complete the following steps.  

  1.   Gather 4-5 motion objects. Remember variety when selecting objects. 
  2.   Arrange the objects in a circle spread apart enough for the puppies and handler to move around comfortably. 

You are now ready to retrieve the first puppy you are working with. 

  1.   Allow the puppies to explore the room upon entering for up to 30 seconds. 
  2.   Encourage the puppies to explore each of the objects with you. Make sure to create positive experiences for the puppy by pushing movable objects away from the puppy. Reward the puppy with praise, petting, and food rewards. 
  3.   Continue around the circle in the same manner.



Protocol

 

Goal: To allow the puppy to explore multiple novel objects with a handler and to be comfortable with novel objects.

 

To prepare your designated space for this activity, please complete the following steps. 

 

  1.   Gather 4-5 novel objects. Remember variety when selecting objects. 
  2.   Arrange the objects in a circle spread apart enough for the puppy and handler to move around comfortably. 

 

You are now ready to retrieve the first puppy you are working with. 

 

  1.   Allow the puppy to explore the room upon entering for up to 30 seconds. 
  2.   Encourage the puppy to explore each of the objects with you. Reward the puppy with praise, petting, and food rewards. 
  3.   Continue around the circle in the same manner.

Firstly, be sure to consider your environment’s Biosecurity before using the area for a Field Trip.

Have Brood in with pups (ensure Brood knows and is comfortable with onlookers) 

Short visits initially and end on a positive before pup displays stress signals 

Repeat a second time for confidence building. Pup has been there so building up more positive associations around changing environments 

Use bedding that has the pups/Brood scent on it 

Bring familiar toys 

No new people in with pups. Staff are a familiar like toys and blankets. Limit new learning to sights, smells, sounds in new environment.

Goal: To allow each puppy to explore multiple sound objects with a handler and to be comfortable with a variety of sounds. 

Light and Sound Desensitisation

Equipment Required  

Approx. 3-5 different light and sound toys 

See their tracking sheet to know what level each pup is up to 

Treats

 Method 

  1. Bring out a toy 
  2. Allow pup to sniff and investigate it (NOT CHEW IT) 
  3. When pup is comfortable, activate item a short distance from pup 
  4. Reward pup when they are calm (not shut down) or for approaching the item
  5. Remove the item 
  6. Re-present the item closer to them 
  7. Reward pup for being calm (not shut down) or approaching the item 
  8. Repeat with other items

From 6 Weeks of age

  1. Start to ask the pup to follow simple cues (Sit, down, walking etc.) while the light/sound toy is activated 
  2. Reward them for working with you and ignoring the item

 

Protocol

Goal: For the puppy to confidently explore each surface with a handler. 

  1.   Choose a variety of 4-5 surfaces. Items can be different heights, just be mindful of the puppy’s height, do not make it unsafe for the puppy.
  2.   Arrange the items in a circle with enough distance for the puppy to walk        comfortably around each item.

You are now ready to retrieve the first puppy you are working with. 

  1.   Allow the puppy to explore the room upon entering for up to 30 seconds.
  2.   Encourage the puppy to climb on or walk over all of the surfaces.  Reward the puppy with praise, petting, and food rewards. 

3.    Continue around the circle in the same manner.

Ensure pups have been introduced to van per previous protocols.

Session 1

  1. Put puppies in the van – ensure you practice door manners 
  2. Go for a short trip within your local center or environment – less than 5 mins

 Session 2

  1. Put puppies in the van – ensure you practice door manners 2. Go for a short trip around the center or a nearby environment (but do not remove the puppies from the vehicle) – less than 10 mins 

Session 3 Onwards

If puppies are comfortable, you can start to take them to various places offsite – Maximum 25 minute drive.

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