Does this fall into the realm of ‘better to leave alone’, or is it part of enriching and socializing dogs to share in man’s world as our pets? Most certainly, pups born in the wild would be exposed to more mild stresses early on than they would in our living room. Does it make sense to attempt to replicate a natural stress for a puppy? Maybe. The next step is to look at the whole picture for the puppy.
Does this makes sense in a holistic environment? Muscles do not get stronger unless you apply resistance to them. Immune systems weaken when they are not exposed to foreign invaders. Stimulating a body and then nurturing it back to a normal state encourages the body to minimize an adrenal response. This seems to be looking good.
The body after learning to minimize the adrenal response then learns how to temper itself – to learn that it’s “no big deal”. All seems well. All needs of the puppy seem to be being addressed. However, too much of a good thing is never a good thing. Over stressing a puppy can cause them to stop thriving, and suffer neurologically. How do you find the balance?
Dr. Battaglia has done wonderful research and reporting in Early Neural Stimulation. Based on his acknowledgement of both over and under stressing a puppy and how critical that is, his writings are certainly worth a closer look.
Dr. Battaglia’s program consists of five sensory activities to be performed on puppies once a day from days 3 to 16.
1. Tactile –Tickle a Q-Tip between the puppy’s toes for three seconds.
2. Head Held Erect – Holding a puppy with its head directly above its tail for three seconds.
3. Head Pointed Down – Reversing the direction of the hold for three seconds.
4. Supine Position - Cradling a puppy with its back in your hands for three seconds.
5. Thermal – Placing puppy’s paws on a cold surface for three seconds.
There are two important reasons to consider this information about new puppies. At first glance, none of these seem very ‘overwhelming’. It may be very easy, for example, to hold a puppy on its back for even longer without thinking about it, or to set it on the cold floor while you clean his bed. Here’s the warning: Without being aware of the risks and benefits, it would be very easy to over stimulate and thereby overstress a puppy without even knowing it. The second reason is to view it in the light again of holistic breeding. Does this still work?
Let’s go back to our original questions. Looking at the basis of leaving well enough alone, certainly the awareness of what is too much is crucial. But what about the balance? There is nothing ‘natural’ about a perfectly heated house and soft, warm blankets that are cleaned daily. Is there a place for providing these mild stimulations to offer a puppy a more natural introduction to the world? Would a puppy meet these situations in the wild? I could analyze any of those scenarios and see it affecting a puppy in a den. So far, this is appearing natural. If anything, we discussed the dangers of these being ‘too natural’ and easily abused.
The next step was does it address the puppy as a whole? Physical stimulation is there. Because a supine position is submissive for any canine, we can safely assume there is an emotional component involved. Reorienting a puppy and then righting it, requiring the brain to process the change would challenge him mentally as well. What about the positive side? If we are applying stresses, is there a balance to enable the puppy to return to a balanced state? I believe in this case, the answer is easy.
Mom. Her warmth. Her smell. Her presence. At this age, the return of the pup to its mother is all it needs. Physical, mental, and emotional are all there and he is safe by her side again. Just like an infant who learns to trust its parents by becoming stimulated and then comforted by mom, a puppy learns to trust that everything will be okay. And you know what, now that he is back here again – it really was ‘no big deal’.
The theory behind ENS, is that applying a small amount of stimulation or stress in a safe environment, makes for stronger, more resilient puppies that then grow into strong, resilient dogs.
The first step we took in analyzing this was to compare life in a purely natural setting to one in our homes. The mantra of holistic breeding is to only intervene when necessary.