Updated: Sep 2, 2022
Experts at Puppy Culture recommend doing Early Neurological Stimulation (ENS) exercises daily when the puppies reach 3 days old to wake up their neurological system, increase resilience, and stimulate brain activity during this critical stage.
“Tactile Stimulation” where we use a Qtip and run it over paws for 3-5 seconds to wake up neurological system
Hold puppy vertically with head up for 5 seconds
Hold pup with head down for 5 seconds
Hold puppy on back in ‘supine’ position for 5 seconds
‘Thermal stimulation’ put puppy on cold washcloth that’s cold and damp
We do ESI to increase neuroplasticity in neonates and prepare dogs to be successful in work and everyday life. Neuroplasticity refers to the brain's ability to modify, change, and adapt both structure and function throughout life and in response to experience. Some of our puppies will go on to become diabetes support dogs, emotional support dogs, or serve in other capacities.
On days 3-16 we present pups with a new scent like garlic, grass, dirt, leaves, bark, moss, flowers, pungent fruits, herbs, and spices including orange, banana, lemon, apple, lime, rosemary, mint, cloves, cinnamon, and even anise. Then we introduce working items, like ducks, pheasant, tennis balls, wood, and leather.
Then, one pup at a time we hold these scents just in front of – but not touching – its nose, allowing it to sniff them for 5 seconds. We are looking for one of three common reactions. Some items they love, some items they hate, and some they just don’t care about. How do we tell if a puppy likes the smell of an item? When they like it, the pup will often try to bury its nose in the object, snuffling, staying engaged, and despite their inability to move well they’ll even try to move towards it. If they hate it, pups will turn their head away and keep it there, sometimes blowing hard out their noses as if to clear it, and even screeching. Of course, there are many scents that they just don’t care about. We call this a neutral response and typically the pups do little or nothing aside from sniff when presented with the scent.
On day 16 until 8 weeks of age, we expose our puppies to Loud Noise and do Lifestyle Exposure exercises and daily handing exercises. We begin with sounds like clanging on a metal bowl and gradually work up to more startling sounds like fireworks, lawn mowers, airplanes, vacuums etc.
The goal of lifestyle exposure exercises is for the puppies to learn how to recover from being startled. Lifestyle exposure exercises include being introduced to bubble wrap, cardboard boxes, water bottles, steps and things to jump/climb through, puppy playground activities, wobble disks, crinkly tarps, ropes, tunnels, car rides, meeting a stranger, a ball pit (day 35-56), a skateboard, steps etc.