Early Neurological Stimulation or ENS
From the time the puppies are born, the mother naturally does an early neurological stimulation of her own. We feel that this natural process is superior to anything we could provide in their growth and development. When we interfere in the first few weeks of life, it causes undue stress for both mother and puppies during a very critical time in their growth, development, and bonding. That special bond that is developing between mother and babies ensures good physical and mental health, and that proper care will be given by mother.
The mother keeps the puppy close and nurtures it as she licks her puppy - sometimes roughly and sometimes gently on all different parts of their body, including face, legs, and toes. This is very much like the 1st step of ENS which is to stimulate the feet, including the toes for 3-5 seconds.
When puppies are nursing on mother, their heads are necessarily in an upward position. They are also looking and feeling around to find the milk. This whole process helps the puppy learn how to balance and maneuver. This is very much like the 2nd step of ENS which is to hold the puppy perpendicular with head up for 3-5 seconds.
As the puppies are looking for their mama to nurse, their eyes are still closed for the first weeks, and they are working for the proper feeding position. Oftentimes, they will tumble during this process. They will be in many different positions, including head up, head down, and on their backs. They quickly learn through the struggle how to quickly find mama and nurse well - even with their eyes closed, as well as how to balance and walk. This is very much like the 3rd step of ENS which is to hold the puppy perpendicular with head down for 3-5 seconds.
When needed, mother helps them by nudging them closer, or repositioning their bodies or hers. When they get "out of line", becoming too dominant within the pack, she quickly and carefully corrects them. Sometimes by turning them on their backs, telling them in dog language that they need to fall in line and listen to mother. This is very much like the 4th step of ENS which is to hold the puppy on its back for 3-5 seconds.
We keep the puppy area at a nice, warm temperature. But, when we open the door to check on mother and puppies (which is often), and when mother leaves for a potty break, the door is opened and a short burst of cooler air comes in. These fluctuations of temperature are also part of their development, and are done in a natural, normal way without causing harm to them. This is very much like the 5th and final step of ENS which is to place the puppy on a cold wet cloth for 3-5 seconds.
As you can see, all of these processes occur naturally, and that is why we let mother - their best caregiver provide her own early neurological stimulation for her babies. And what makes it superior is the love bond formed between mother and babies during this early period. The only time we feel that we should interfere with the process the mother does is if for some reason she is not able to do this on her own. Some breeds are naturally not very good mothers, and human interference is more often necessary. But, all of our dogs are excellent mothers, and we rarely need to interfere with their superior care.
This early phase prepares the puppies for the human socialization and environmental variabilities that we introduce, starting at about 3 weeks of age. In the first few weeks of life we keep stimulation from us to a minimum, other than what is necessary to check on and care for the mother and her puppies. In this care, the puppies do receive human touch as we are checking to make sure they are doing well.
Socialization and Environment
After mother and puppies have formed a strong bond, and the puppies have a good start in life, and once their eyes are opened, we start introducing more human socialization and environmental variabilities. Some of the things we do to help the puppies in their growth and development are:
We play with and cuddle them, have them walk on at least 4-5 different surfaces, expose them to different people of various ages, expose them to different environments, expose them to various sounds and voices, use various objects for them to climb in, on, and over providing challenges so that they can gain confidence. We also gently lay them on their backs as part of the process of natural dogmanship to teach them to submit to people. This process is calm and very gentle on the puppy. We highly recommend implementing natural dogmanship techniques for all of our puppy families, as this - along with obedience training, ensures the happiest, most balanced dog possible. Many of our puppies have gone on to be trained as excellent service and therapy dogs.