Help for Today’s Breeder

In the mid-70s, when I first became a professional dog trainer, it was not unusual for breeders to observe the whelping of puppies and then “stay out of mother’s way” while she raised her pups.  Then, sometime after 6 weeks, the pups were placed into their new homes.  Not much has changed in 30 years.  The average age for pups to leave the litter is 7 weeks; and many breeders still haven’t bought in to the early socialization bit.  This needs to change.

More recently, many dog professionals have enlightened society on the need to properly socialize pups during the early critical periods.  The key to the Superstar Program is the power of imprinting.  Imprinting has been well documented and, in many other species, has been put to use very successfully.  The research of Scott and Fuller defined critical periods in a young dog’s life.  The reality is, all puppies will be imprinted; the trick is do we decide what will be imprinted, or do we just leave it to chance?  
The consequences of failing to imprint and socialize pups early are also well documented; as trainers we see it each and every day.  Because of this lack of socialization, many trainers have lived comfortable lives from the revenue of problem dog-owners.  However, for me, I would much rather help a client improve an existing bond with their pup than to try and create a bond that was never allowed to form in the first place.  

For breeders to truly know and understand their responsibilities, they must have a thorough understanding of the critical puppy developmental periods.  Additionally, the breeder must know and understand how to use these periods to best prepare the dog for life in the real world.  Spending the extra time during these very impressionable phases in a pups life will prevent many long and heart-wrenching hours for the new family.  

Not only does the extra time spent with a litter save money and heartache for the new family, but it also creates a much more positive image for the breeder, thereby making their pups more desirable.  If a breeder is in demand, it does not mean they need to produce more pups, but it does put them in a position to be even choosier as to where their pups will live.   If we can place better pups into better homes, the number of pups in shelters will greatly be reduced.  All of this from breeders doing the right things early on!