How are Highland Puppies Raised?

How are Highland puppies raised?  With a lot of time and love.  There is a ton of information on puppy development available.  This page only hits on a few key points.  We follow the principles of the Monks of New Skete from their book, The Art of Raising a Puppy.

Studies have shown that the first sixteen weeks of a puppy's life are of vital importance in determining his later behavior as an adult dog.  Negligence by the breeder or the new owner during this time can scar a puppy for life! 

Puppy Stages

  • Neonatal (1-13 days)

  • Transitional (13-20 days)

  • Socialization (3-12 weeks)

  • Juvenile (12 weeks to maturity)

During the neonatal stage, puppies have basically no senses except that of scent.  Their ears and eyes are closed and they have no concept of where they are.  They are totally and completely dependent on their mother (or the breeder).  Without her (or the breeder), the pups will die.  Puppies at this age cannot keep themselves warm or even go potty without stimulation.  During this stage, puppies spend about 90% of their time sleeping. 

As the breeder our work consists of keeping the whelping box clean and dry and making sure mom is calm and attentive.  Because the pups can smell at this age, we keep a "dirty t-shirt" in the whelping box at all times.  This provides the pups with human scent even when we can't be there.  Human scent is a smell they need to be familiar with and recognize if they are to grow up to be happy, well adjusted dogs.

The transitional stage is the second stage of puppy development.  Somewhere between day 13 and 15, their eyes will start to open.  They really can't see much but light,.  It is not until about day 28 that they can distinguish forms and shapes. They become much more sensitive to their environment during this time.  They also try desperately to walk. 

During this time we start the puppies on what is termed "mild stress."  For a few minutes each day we take the puppies out of their temperature controlled whelping box and move them to a much cooler room of the house.  This is considered stressful for a puppy at this age.  It does not hurt them.  Studies have shown that by reducing their body temperature slightly for a short period of time (only seconds) causes their heart rate to increase.  This mild stress causes an involuntary hormonal reaction in the adrenal/pituitary system.  It helps puppies resist disease and handle stress better later on in life.  When puppies receive consistent, non-traumatic handling (stress), they are more outgoing and friendly and show less tendency to be fearful once they are older. 

The socialization stage is when our work as the breeder really begins.  During this time it is critical that the pups have lots of human interaction.  A study done by Scott and Fuller found that puppies raised without human contact during this time would show fearful reactions to humans.  We spend a lot of time in the whelping box with the pups.

At three weeks old, wolf pups begin to emerge from their den to urinate and defecate on their own outside of the den.  This reveals the natural tendency of wolves (and dogs) to keep their sleeping area clean.  A unclean environment not only makes the breeder look bad but signals health and behavioral problems for the pups.  When dirty papers are not picked up regularly, the pups walk and play in their own urine and feces and lose their natural aversion to soiling where they sleep and play.

Now that the pups can see and hear, we carefully introduce them to the other animals in the family and start getting them used to household noises.  Care must be taken to socialize them without going overboard.  Because the pups' sharp little teeth have begun to emerge, mom's ability to let them nurse for long periods of time diminishes.  She spends less time with them and becomes more impatience with their constant demand for food.  So at about three weeks of age we introduce the puppies to puppy formula.  After a few days, when they figure out how to lap up food versus suckling, they begin to eat puppy mush.  They graduate to soaked puppy kibble and finally to solid kibble.  This process is done gradually giving the pups time to get accustomed to their new diet as well as the prolonged absences of their mother.  The entire weaning process can take several weeks as three to four week old puppies require the stability and security their mother provides especially with the abundance of new experiences and stimuli the socialization period requires.  Too much too soon would be harmful. 

The sixth week of a puppy's life is critical in its development.  The main emphasis of socialization has shifted from the mother and littermates to humans and the world beyond the whelping box.  We start spending individual time with each puppy.

The juvenile stage is your time to shine.  Now it is your turn and responsibility to socialize and train your new puppy.  It is important to remember that the first few days in their new home will be very stressful.  This is NOT the time for visitors!  Give your puppy a few days to learn to trust you and get accustom to your schedule before you invite everyone over to meet him.  As much as you may want to introduce your puppy to friends and relatives, it is truly not wise to do this the first week home. 

The more time and effort you put into socializing and training your puppy, the more enjoyable your puppy will be.  While we don't require you to enroll in a Puppy Kindergarten class we highly recommend it.  As much you may know how to train your new puppy, Puppy Kindergarten is about socialization.  This is something you cannot get at home with no other puppies or people participating.  If your puppy never has an opportunity to play with other puppies, he may never learn how to.  Puppies learn very fast at this age.  You can teach a lot at this age and by teaching early, you can avoid unwanted behaviors. 

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