Early Neurological Stimulation
Early Neurological Stimulation is something I stumbled upon in my research after Bessie and Jack's first litter. Bessie is the only dog we have had that is predisposed to travel sickness. This started within minutes of popping her in the car to bring her home at nine weeks of age. When I took Bessie and Jack's first litter to the vet for their vaccinations and microchipping, all of the girls were sick. The puppies arrived at the vet covered in vomit, wee and poo. It was awful! There were five vet nurses involved in assisting with the clean up of puppies, crate and car, as well as helping deliver the ten puppies in to the vet and back out to the car afterwards. It was quite an exhibition …….. and I decided that something had to be done about it.
It's no secret that reputable breeders are continually trying to improve their lines. This may be towards: better breed standards, improved hip scores, agility or better working ability. As only about 35% (or less) of a dog's performance ability is believed to be heritable (a product of genetics and pedigree), I have become interested in the other ways that a dog's natural abilities can be stimulated. The remaining 65% (or more) of performance ability can be attributed external factors such as: training, management and nutrition.
The US Military have long been using neurological stimulation in their canine program to improve the performance of their dogs. They have found that there are certain periods of time early in life, when neurological stimulation has optimal results. The first window of time begins on day three or life and completed on day sixteen. This period of time is of great importance to the developing puppy due to rapid neurological growth and development.
The program used by the US Military involves handling the puppies one at a time, each day, for a series of five exercises. The exercises are:
1. Tactile Stimulation:
This involves holding the puppy in one hand and rubbing between the toes of one foot with a cotton bud for between three and five seconds.
2. Head Held Erect:
Both hands are used to hold the puppy perpendicular to the ground for three to five seconds, ie. straight up, so it's head is pointing up and its tail towards the ground.
3. Head Pointed Down:
The puppy is held firmly with both hands - the head is reversed and is pointed downward so that it is pointing towards the ground for three to five seconds.
4. Supine Position:
The pup is held so that its back is resting in the palm of both hands with its muzzle facing the ceiling. Allow the puppy to sleep for three to five seconds while on its back.
5. Thermal Stimulation:
The puppy is placed feet down on a damp towel that has been cooled in a refrigerator for at least five minutes. The puppy is allowed to move. Duration is three to five seconds.
These exercises produce neurological stimulations, that don't occur naturally during this early period of life. Some puppies may resist these exercises, while others will appear unconcerned. We do not repeat them more than once per day and do not extend the time beyond that recommended for each exercise. Research has shown that over stimulation of the neurological system can have adverse and detrimental results.
These exercises impact the neurological system by kicking it into action earlier than normal, the result being an increased capacity leading to a difference in its performance later in life. Playing with puppies and routinely handle them should continue as the neurological exercises are not substitutions for routine handling, play socialization or bonding.
Benefits of Stimulation:
Five benefits have been observed in dogs that have been exposed to early neurological stimulation exercises. The benefits are:
Improved cardio vascular performance (heart rate)
Stronger heart beats
Stronger adrenal glands
More tolerance to stress
Greater resistance to disease.
In "learning" tests, stimulated puppies were found to be more active and more exploratory than their non- stimulated littermates. They were also more dominant in competitive situations.
In simple problem solving tests using detours in a maze, the non-stimulated pups became extremely aroused, whined a great deal, and made many errors. Their stimulated littermates were less upset by test conditions and were more calm in the test environment, made fewer errors and only whined occasional when stressed.
The results of our testing are that we have not had a travel sick puppy since we commenced Early Neurological Stimulation. This is one of the methods we use to produce puppies that cope with the stresses of modern day life better.