Our Puppy Raising Philosophy

The most important thing we can do for our puppies is prepare them for their life ahead and find the best possible home for each puppy.  We take raising our Greater Swiss Mountain Dog puppies very seriously and go to great lengths to make sure we do the best possible job. 

During the first 16 weeks of a puppy's life, his brain is rapidly growing and expanding.  It's a very magical time as well as a very critical period of time in the life of a puppy.  It's a time when breeders and owners can actually shape the puppy into the dog he will eventually grow to be.  Whatever a puppy experiences during this time, will stay with him throughout adulthood.  Likewise, whatever he doesn't experience during this time, also stays with him forever.   If for example, a puppy meets many people during his first 16 weeks of life, he will willingly accept strangers when he is grown.  If his exposure to people is limited, he'll be more likely to react to strangers by being timid, shy, or aggressive when he is grown.    This is true for virtually everything that occurs in the life of the puppy during his first 16 weeks.  Both positive and negative experiences will stay with him forever.

Our goal in raising puppies is to maximize each puppy's potential by exposing them to as many positive experiences as we possibly can during the first 8 weeks when they are with us and then provide new puppy owners with the information they need to continue the process. 

 

Raising Puppies - The first 8 Weeks

Maximizing a puppy's potential means giving him every opportunity to grow into the very best dog he can be.   We've gleaned information from leading experts in puppy development as well as other breeders to develop a puppy raising program that takes advantage of every opportunity to maximize a puppy's potential at each stage of his early development.  Following is summary of our puppy raising process during the puppy's first 8 weeks of life.

 

We have 4 phases to our puppy raising program, some of which have finite time schedules, others which are overlapping and ongoing:

  • Stimulation

  • De-Sensitization

  • Socialization

  • Enrichment

Stimulation

  • Touch:  Puppies are handled multiple times a day from the day they're born.  Every body part is touched and they're stroked from head to tail while they're nursing.  At this time, puppy handling is limited to family members.

  • Olfactory Stimulation:   Puppies cannot hear or see when they are born, but they can smell.  We stimulate their olfactory senses by introducing them to a new smell every day for the first 2-1/2 weeks of their life.

  • Early Neurological Stimulatron (ENS):  Early Neurolgical Stimulation, which includes five very brief exercises, has been proven to improve health, trainability, performance and overall potential for puppies.  Our puppies receive ENS from their 3rd through 16th day of life.  Learn more about ENS by clicking the link on the right sidebar of this page.

De-Sensitization

  • Touch De-sensitization:  Touch de-sensitization begins during the 2nd week of the puppy's life.   As we continue to handle each puppy several times a day, we begin to get them accustomed to different touch sensation, particulartly the type of touching that they might experience from young children.  We gently tug on tiny ears, tails, legs, and feet and open little mouths.  Touch de-sensitation continues for the entire time the puppies are with us.  

  • Sound De-sensitization:  Although the puppy's ears are just beginning to open during the 2nd week of life, we start exposing them to all kinds of sounds at that time so that as they begin to hear muffled noises, they'll hear a variety of sounds.   We create as many different sounds as we can in their whelping room and fill in the gaps of sounds that we can't create by playing soundtracks of everyday sounds that they're likely to encounter in the lifetime.  As puppies get older, the volume of sounds increases.  Sound de-sensitization continues for the entire time the puppies are with us, beginning in the whelping box and evenutally expanding to the outside world.   

 Socialization

  •  Human Socialization:  Socialization with people begins on day one of the puppy's life, through human touch as described above.  It expands as the puppy gets older, and explodes from 4 weeks of age until they leave us for their new homes.  Puppies are introduced and handled by an ever increasing number of people, including babies and young children.  Our  puppies meet at least 100 different people before they go to their new homes.
  • Animal Socialiation:  Our puppies interact with a variety of other dogs (all dogs who we know) while they are with us:  big dogs, little dogs, young dogs, and old dogs.  They will meet birds and horses and if we're lucky, we'll find a kitten to play with them too.
  • Bite Inhibition:   Although perhaps a subject unto itself, I've included bite-inhibition as part of Socialization because puppies first learn about bite-inhibition from their mother and from playing with their littermates.  Bite inhibition means training a puppy to use a soft mouth on people and other animals.  We work with each puppy individually to help them understand that the only acceptable contact of their teeth with human skin is a soft chew, not a skin-puncturing bite.

 Enrichment

  • Experiences:   Enrichment experiences begin when the puppy is 3 weeks old.  First, we offer enrichment experiences to the puppies while they're still confined to the whelping pen by giving them a variety of toys to play with, surfaces to stand on, and mirrors to look into.  As their play area extendes outside of the whelping box, their environment changes every day:  different toys, different surfaces, things to climb on, under, around and through, puppy swimming pool, puppy pool filled with balls, puppy ladders, puppy slides, puppy tunnels.... anything that will provide a stimulating new environment for the puppies to explore.  As the puppy gets older, his world expands outside of his play area with trips in the car, trips in the truck, and outside play where he will encounter more surfaces and smells to explore.  

 

  • Potty Training:  Potty training begins as soon as the puppy crawls out of the whelping pen.   We don't use paper for potty training; we use pieces of sod with real grass since that is the surface that most puppiies will be expected to use as a potty area when they go to their new homes.    Puppies naturally want to keep their sleeping quarters clean, so we simply use their natural instincts to teach them to use the grass potty area.  When they're older, we'll begin taking them outside to go potty so they will learn that there are other potty surfaces, (gravel, mulch, dirt) that also work!   This does NOT mean that your puppy will be house-broken when he goes home.  But he will be off to a great start by already knowing that there are places to potty and places to not potty!

  • Crate Training:  We recommend that new puppy owners use crate training until their puppies are completely housebroken.  We begin preparing them for this experience by getting each puppy accustomed to short periods of confinement in a crate.  We're careful to make it a positive experience for them by providing food-stuffed chew toys that they can enjoy in their crate.   When they're not in the crate, crate doors are left open, and a food-filled chew toy is tied to each crate so puppies learn to associate good things with crates.  They also learn that a crate is a good place to relax and enjoy a chew toy. 

  • Learning Basic Commands:  Our goal is to have each puppy learn at least six different commands before they leave us for their new home.   What they learn is not so important as that they "learn to learn" and grasp the concept that good behavior brings good things to puppies!

  • Leash Acclimation:  Puppies will be introduced to leashes and learn that it's okay to have a strange device around their neck and walk next to people. 

  

 

Raising Puppies - Weeks 9 through 16 

When you take your puppy home, the fun begins and the clock is ticking!   There are certain developmental milestones that must be met within specific time periods or the opportunity may be lost forever, or at best, be much more difficult to attain later in the puppy's life.   You need to be prepared to pick up where we left off and continue socialization and enrichment for your puppy as well as begin house-training and continue bite inhibition.

 

There are two e-books available for download from the right sidebar of this page, authored by Dr. Ian Dunbar and replublished here with permission. 

  • Before You Get Your Puppy

  • After You Get Your Puppy

These easy to read and entertaining books will guide you through continued training for your puppy.

 

The way in which we've raised your puppy during the first 8 weeks of his life utilizes Dr. Dunbar's techniques so following his guidelines for continued training will be a seamless transition for your puppy and will save you a lot of frustration, particularly with housebreaking and resolving common puppy behavior issues.   If you'll download and read these ebooks, it will be time well spent!