We follow the program set out by Jeanette Forrey with 4E Kennels that is designed to build trust with each puppy using intentional daily handling starting at just 3 days old. We build on that trust while we teach them that the world is safe, people are kind and dogs are friendly. We truly honor and respect our dogs in all we do. During our daily curriculum, puppies are exposed to a variety of sights, sounds, smells, textures and environments, where the focus is approach and investigate, as well as startle recovery. During this exposure the entire focus is building confidence and nerve strength by empowering our puppies instead of enabling them. This is their foundation that prepares them to leave our home; empowered, believing in their own abilities, ready and excited to explore and succeed.
Below is an outline of what each week looks like from birth to go home date.
Pre-Labor to Birth
We watch for a temperature drop, normally they stop eating and may have discharge. These are signs of Pre-labor. We move mom into her whelping area about a week before her due date so she can get comfortable. When puppies are born the first 3 days is just watching their weights and letting them get used to the world and learning to eat from mom.
Shannon with Aspyn just before moms 1st litter
Aspyn and her 1st litter & Kaileigh pregnant with her 1st baby
3 to 16 days
We are honored to be the first set of hands and the first heart to show these puppies that human people are kind. We always show our puppies respect, listening to the puppies and doing our best to honor them. We begin building trust and developing brain function at 3 days old using Early Neurological Stimulation (ENS) a short series of exercises & Early Scent Introduction (ESI), exposure to different smells. During such interactions puppies are held close to our heart, to hear our heartbeats and face to begin the bond and trust. Puppies are returned to their mom and mates just as quickly as possible, however, we make sure every interaction ends on a positive note. We continue the ENS & ESI until puppies are 16 days old. We also take a daily weight during this time to make sure puppies are getting the nutrition they need.
2 weeks old
At two weeks of age the puppies eyes begin to open and they start to take their first real steps! Puppies are still getting their Early Neurological Stimulation and Early Scent Introduction exercises and are being handled frequently and weighed once a day. Their mother is still cleaning up after them.
The puppies are finding their voices and you can hear them making growling and barking noises. It is the cutest! They are also beginning to interact with each other. Starting at 3 weeks old we begin building touch tolerance with our daily puppy massage, beginning with very gentle, slow and kind handling. We also begin our curriculum work in our whelping box. Gentle items are placed in the box as we begin to build high approach confidence. A new novelty item that is gentle in nature is placed every day during their third week for a short time. We mark their success when they approach each and every time with our marker words “GOOD!” “YES!”. At 3 weeks the ears open, and puppies have no sound fears. We play a variety of sounds from a baby crying, to a motorcycle engine, to a fire truck siren, barking dogs, doorbells, pots and pans being dropped. We shake jars of coins, bang on pots. Play music & movies and go all out on our sound exposure. At night, lullabies and classical music is introduced at bedtime and continues through the first few hours of the night. We also introduce potty trays with pellets in their whelping box to begin the potty-training process.
This week they are becoming steadier on their feet and balance is improving. They are still napping quite a bit. Starting at 4 weeks old our daily puppy massage begins to increase in pressure. Our daily exposure now takes place outside of the whelping box. We are focusing now on high approach, confidence, nerve strength, and startle recovery. We continue to use our marker words “GOOD!” “YES!”. We will introduce a gentle and calm stranger who interacts with the puppies in a trusting & respectful manner on the puppies’ terms. We introduce puppy mush as teeth erupt and mom naturally begins weaning the puppies. If the potty trays are going well we upgrade the puppies from whelping box to puppy stall with more play room and a doggie door.
Now they have the hang of walking and they can even run and play. Sometimes they even get in little tussles with their brothers and sisters. Potty training is coming along now. Now the fun really starts. Our exposure is taken to a new setting every day. Inside and outside we expose puppies to new textures, sights, sounds, smells. Our curriculum items move, they vary in texture, they make noise. We are very focused on high approach and startle recovery. While at this age puppies aren’t required to participate and engage, we try our best to encourage them. We continue to use our marker words “GOOD!” “YES!” The daily puppy massage continues, increasing again in pressure and handling. A few more strangers are introduced and some may perform the puppy massage. Sound exposure is continued as well as our bedtime routine. Puppy mush is slowly becoming firmer and more kibble like. Potty trays are placed outside the doggy door to encourage a transition.
Personalities are really starting to show and they are very active now. It is fun to see them becoming individuals. In our daily classroom curriculum work, puppies are required to participate. This is where all of our bonding and trust building comes into play. We do whatever we can to motivate puppies, often including luring them with our face. Our daily exposure may involve obstacle courses or just an outing around the property. This is our best opportunity to empower puppies to believe in their own abilities. As puppies show interest and high approach we still continue to use our marker words “GOOD!” “YES!”. We will take puppies for car rides and some exposure to the world from the safety of their puppy stroller. This is also the age that we will begin allowing a family visit. Daily massage continues by us and stranger exposures – reaching our maximum pressure and handling. We will also introduce a friendly and neutral dog in one of the walkabouts. We begin taking notes on personality traits and we work hard on those adjustable traits -- nerve strength, confidence, site & sound startle and recovery. Sound exposure is continued as well as our bedtime routine. Puppies are now eating hard kibble and mom may still nurse occasionally as she chooses. We will introduce crates at this age and momma stops sleeping with puppies this week as they are almost fully weaned.
Puppies activity really increases this week. Curriculum is exciting. Puppies are playful and curious. A variety of settings for classroom curriculum continues as well as obstacle courses and walkabouts. Car rides and world exposure in their stroller continues. We continue to use our marker words “GOOD!” “YES!” and empower puppies to believe in themselves. We work hard on adjustable traits – nerve strength, site & sound startle and recovery. This week we will also have a vet visit with vaccines. We are preparing your go home bags and arranging for puppy picks and “Gotcha Day”. Puppies are on hard kibble, mom is done nursing. Beds remain in the crates, but crates remain optional. We will also let the puppies experience the pool (weather permitting).
Gotcha day. It’s finally here, puppies go home. We are sad to see them go but so excited for them to be with their "Furever" families so they can continue to grow and train. You get to continue helping them grow with puppy massages, marker words and empowering practices as puppies continue to develop their personality traits until 16 weeks of age.