Friday, March 19, 2010
Canine Temperament Develops Early
Mothering in the whelping box begins the shaping puppy behavior. Mom sets the tone.
Once the eyes open around three weeks, the squeaky little barks and the mouth duels begin. Puppies learn to control the force of their bites gradually during the litter phase and beyond.
During the litter phase it is so cute to watch pups learn. One puppy will be on top, just feeling so full of himself that he bites the puppy on the bottom too hard. The puppy on the bottom then becomes fierce, telling the offender off.
The rule of keeping litters together for seven weeks while the nervous system myelinizes is the minimum acceptable time. The myelin sheath is the outer covering of the nervous system until this grows the puppy isn't "firing on all cylinders".
Some breeders take the mother away as soon as the pups can be weaned. A Bull Terrier breeder I know took the mother away because she was afraid the mother would harm the puppies. She was with the pups just long enough to feed. The breeder cleaned and stimulated the neonates; the mom was muzzled when she fed her brood.
The breeder kept a beautiful bitch out of the litter. She had that gorgeous turn of head that B.T. people love. She also happened to be the dominate puppy in the litter. By six months she was dominating the other dogs in the breeder's house. Her dam wasn't as dominant as the breeder thought and soon submitted to her daughter.
At ten months the breeder brought the bitch to me for social rehabilitation because she behaved aggressively at dog shows. This poor animal had not learned that she could submit and nothing bad would happen to her.
Had the breeder put her with a dog she trusted to correct the litter, this would have all been avoided.
The purpose of childhood is to have an opportunity to learn how to be a successful adult.
Puppies learn a lot together, but they need an adult to guide them.