The trick to having a well-behaved dog is starting them young. By exposing puppies to a whole multitude of sensations during their first six weeks of life, from grooming them with toothbrushes to introducing them to bristly men, the dogs will be able to cope much better when exposed to new situations later in life.
The charity Guide Dogs, which in the UK trains 1,300 dogs every year to be used by visually impaired people, have come up with a standardized program that can be used on puppies to increase the chances they grow to be good doggos indeed. The first scientifically proven program of its kind, it shows how exposing the little ones to new sounds, feelings, and sights early on can have long-term, far-reaching benefits much later in life.
“Early life experiences have a much greater impact on future behaviors than experiences at any other stages of the life cycle,” write the authors in Applied Animal Behaviour Science. Mildly stressful experiences for puppies mean that as adults they are better able to deal with new situations, emotional disturbances, and even physical stress.
The main thing that needs to be done with the pups is to expose them to new people and situations within the first six weeks of life. While the puppies are born blind, and remain so for the first two weeks, during this time they should be gently stroked with a toothbrush. The trainers also recommend wrapping the little woofers in different materials like nylon and fleece.
The next few weeks are dominated by exposing them to different surfaces as they learn how to walk, such as rubber and concrete. While this is all going on, they should also be sat in front of TVs, have keys jangled around them, and encouraged to listen to mobile phones, although they may need help holding them to their ears.
By week five, the sausages are allowed out in the big wide world, getting their first experience of the warm Sun on their floof, along with the next challenge: mustaches and beards. This is when the pups need to be exposed to human face fluff, as well as hats and sunglasses. The trainers will also open and close umbrellas in front of them, and let the puppies check out their own reflections.
The impressive thing is that the researchers found that the benefits displayed by the puppies from these activities persisted as the dogs grew up, making them better behaved animals.
[H/T: The Telegraph]