Training from birth to 8 weeks
by Socialization & Desensitization
We start desensitizing puppies at 2 days old with bio-sensory training. First we work with them to be used to be on their back, which is not a natural position for puppies. We also start with q-tips rubbing between their toes and around their ears for the concept later of trimming nails and cleaning ears. We also do a temperature change. We use a cold frozen wash rag and lay them on it for 2 seconds and remove. (NEVER leave the puppy on the rag to move off of it themselves) this helps with surprise environmental changes and is good for their circulatory system. By 1 week old we use a dog drimel tool for nails and desensitize them to the vibration the days prior to using it on their nails by just the vibration of the tool on their paws and body prior. We repeat these bio-sensory tasks daily.
Once their eyes and ears open we start introducing them to different noises; music, different voices (the kids will do their out-loud reading to the puppies), noisy toys, tv sounds, knocking on different surfaces and doors to not make it a barking trigger. We play sounds of fireworks, gun shots, and trains. We place different textiles in the puppy play areas throughout the weeks from their outdoor play time on astroturf to textured plastics, metal cookie sheet, a rotation of dog toys every few days.
All the puppies go on field trips every third day after 4 weeks old. They have been carried into places like Lowes, seen a variety of people, sounds, smells, have gone through a carwash, drive-up coffee shop or bank, been to our homeschool co-op and played with children, 4h business meetings (without other dogs) all while never touching the ground in new environments due to diseases and proper hand washing has taken place. By the time they go home they have seen short, tall people, different nationalities, people with hats on, masks on, people in hoodies, bikes, car rides, and skateboards. Puppies also have at least once a week bathing including being exposed to the blow dryer each week.
We purposely have exposed them to abrupt changes like the sound of a book being dropped near their pen and let them be inquisitive about these changes and encourage them to come see what happened not to hide from it. This is a huge indicator for correct personality for service dogs. As the puppies grow we still place them on their backs gently while holding them or across our stretched out legs. We are constantly providing new stimulation to desensitize them to things in their environment.
Below is an image detailing the early neurological stimulation we do with the puppies.