We never X-ray our females during pregnancy. It is a common, commercial practice to x-ray pregnant females to determine how many puppies are going to be in a litter so that reservations can be taken. The practice puts puppies at risk of developing cancer at a young age. We stopped doing x-rays on humans during pregnancy because of the increased risk of the child developing cancer. Dogs are no different than humans in their response to prenatal radiation exposure.
We are aware that maternal stress during pregnancy adversely affects the mental and emotional development of puppies. Females that are kept isolated in kennels can experience chronic stress PRECIPITATED by the unnatural living situation. Dogs are pack animals and do not emotionally thrive when kept in isolation. A couple of hours per day of training or exercise does not compensate for the lack of social bonding that German Shepherds need daily. Dogs should be bonded to a human family or a dog pack for mental and emotional health. Chronic maternal stress induced by social isolation is not only cruel, but can have life-long effects on the mental well-being of the new puppy that you bring into your home.
Scientific research has found that puppies born to Dams who experience acute or chronic stress during pregnancy are at risk of developing retarded motor and learning skills, as well as abnormal exploratory, social, and maternal behaviors. Our commitment to keep our dogs out of kennels and engaged in daily life prevents maternal stress and the complications of chronic stress that are handed down to puppies. Every Tre'Good female lives with her handler and maintains her regular routine with her human and the other dogs during pregnancy. She is not running up and down the fence line of her kennel lost in anxiety induced by isolation.
Tre'Good German Shepherds is a small family run business. We maintain a limited number of breeding dogs to ensure their emotional and physical needs can be met. All of our puppies are born in the home of their mother's handler and are exposed to the sounds and activities of a family
Shepherd moms maintain their normal routine during pregnancy. We add maternal "TTouch" and massage to keep our girls relaxed and their endorphins high, which has a very positive impact on the developing puppies. During the last week of pregnancy, the whelping box is set up inside of the handler's home. The puppies will be born with the assistance of the dog's handler in her familiar family surroundings.
Neonatal Period (1-12 days)
We are not proponents of neonatal stress stimulation for puppies. The fad began in the early 1960s based on research at the time. More recent studies reveal that neonatal stress may have a detrimental impact on both brain development and metabolic health. The only benefit of early stress may be an increase of maternal licking and attention given to the puppies when they return to the whelping box. On balance, we do not believe that neonatal stress practices are beneficial. Instead we use methods to increase maternal care of the puppies during their early weeks.
Puppies are born blind and deaf but they do have a fully functional sense of smell. We do not want our puppies to associate the smell of humans with stress--another reason we do not remove our puppies from their mothers. But, we do desensitize our puppies to human touch while they are in the nest with their mom.
There are plenty of stressful experiences for a new puppy in a whelping box. We make sure that when we rescue a puppy and return it to safety that the puppy gets a good smell of our hand. This is the first step in teaching puppies that their humans are their ultimate protector. We have created a method that associates the smell of humans with safety and relaxation. Our goal is to create confident, calm dogs that associate humans with the good things in life--not stress and anxiety.
We want our puppies to associate the smell of humans with security and relaxation, not stress. The pup above feels as secure napping in her handlers hands as she does nestled against her mother's stomach.
As soon as the puppies have a desire to explore their environment, we add toys, different walking surfaces, and humans to the whelping box for the pups to investigate. Playpens will now be set up in key areas of the handler's home so the puppies can begin to experience the sights and sounds of family life.
As soon as the puppies are able, they begin to walk as a group to the enrichment room with their mother and a handler for playtime. We change the contents and obstacles in the room every three days. The puppies also have their first introduction to horses while in the room. Our horses love to stick their heads over the door and watch the pups at play.
Click on the picture above to see pictures of the enrichment room.
Depending on the maturity of each puppy, usually around four weeks, we begin to bring the puppies out into the real world. Handlers will place the puppies in front carriers and take them along during trips into town. The mother also goes on these excursions with the pups. Her calm reaction to the outings reassures the pups that there is nothing to be frightened of in this new world. We expose the pups to the sights, sounds, and smells of city life while being held close and secure to their handler but still with their mother.
We utilize the mother and other dogs during this period to help the pups maintain a positive emotional tone, in new environments, which is refered to as observational learning. When we protect our pups from unnecessary stress, we develop puppies with confident and courageous demeanors. Puppies between 3-5 weeks of age rapidily recover from fear-inducing social experiences without any long-term anxiety or avoidance patterns. We take the puppies out often during this period to insure a strong socialization pattern. We also introduce the pups to people and children of all sizes, shapes, and colors. We introduce interesting clothing, hats, and masks. We expose the pups to men with beards and mustashes. Of course, they have already been expose to vacuums, blenders, televisions, etc. in the home. This is a busy but very productive time for the pups and their handlers.
At five weeks the puppies are no longer immune to the affects of fear inducing experiences. So, with a solid socilization base, we begin to work on the puppies physical and mental development at home. We still bring the pups out into the world in their carriers but we are careful to bring them only into familiar environments and situations.
Back at home, when mom is willing, the puppies are introduced to our other dogs. They spend time playing with their parents, grandparents, and our other dogs. Their time together helps refine the polite, social behaviors of the puppies, which they will need to socialize with other dogs and their new human family. Under the watchful eye of their elders, the puppies begin to explore the natural environment of their fifteen acres.. The importance of free exploration of the natural world cannot be overstated. The pups neurological development is greatly enhanced while they romp together in the pastures and forest of their home environment.
We begin basic puppy training with nature hikes. The puppies follow their parents and a handler through the forest. Problem-solving begins as the puppies decide how to go through, over, and under natural obstacles to keep up with the pack. Puppies also learn to look up to their ultimate leader and protector, their human, during these hikes. The handler is always there to show a pup how to search out ways to overcome a difficult obstacle during the walk.
Teaching basic obedience commands begins during the walks using food as a motivator for the always hungry pups. We utilize their parents as role models for the obedience command execution. The pups are always very curious about our interactions with their parents. They watch and learn as their parents perform basic obedience commands reinforced with yummy treats. The pups quickly begin to imitate their parents response to the obedience commands. By using imitation for early puppy training, we try to eliminate any connection that could develop between training and mental/emotional stress. Because we use positive reinforcement techniques "only" during puppy training (no compulsion), our puppies associate obedience work with safety, fun, and play. Our early work with our puppies creates dogs that are easy to train for any job you have planned for them.
Your puppy will arrive at your home knowing basic obedience commands. He/she will be leash broke and will have a basic understanding of housebreaking. It is very important to us that your new family member makes a smooth transition into your home. We dedicate many hours to the development of each, individua puppy. Your pup also comes with a free six week super puppy course (one hour per week)). If you live out of state, we offer a condensed class that can be taken in few days when you pick up your pup. We can also bring your pup to you and offer the course at your home for a travel fee. It is our goal that every Tre'Good pup quickly becomes a valued member of your family.
The pups develop an adult-like brainwave pattern between 7-8 weeks of age. Mom begins to finish the weaning process sometime between 8-10 weeks. After mom weans the pups, human bonding begins in earnest.
After weaning, we begin one on one handler pup exercises and play. Intelligence and temperament go hand in hand. A fearful pup will be unwilling to problem solve in new or unique situations. Play is the best determinate of a dog's temperament and its willingness to express its innate intelligence. During play with a handler, a puppy must seek out novel approaches to problem solving. The handler is not training the pup, but allowing s/he to think for her/his self and to find her/his own solutions to the problems being presented. Earlier training is aimed more at left brain development. Play develops intuitive intelligence--an intelligence we prize most highly in or dogs.
We began to play with puppies as soon as they offer to participate. In the early weeks, play is more exploratory or child-like play. Now, we begin structured games that involve problem-solving but are still energetic and fun. Because we only use positive reinforcement with puppies, our pups are not afraid of coming up with wrong answers, but will eagerly try multiple options to find a solution. We accept any creative resolution devised by the young puppy.
We introduce specific games that teach our puppies that we will listen to them if they try to communicate with us. Dogs will stop trying to communicate with us when they figure out we are deaf to their attempts. We break down this wall early so our dogs learn that they not only listen to us, but that we will also hear them. Our languages and communication style may be very different but the gap can be bridged. A true working dog not only listens...s/he also talks. We teach new owners these communication skills during our super puppy course.
Our puppies are not placed in a home until they are ten weeks old. We do this for three reasons. One, parents who are not locked in a kennel or whelping room do not tire of their pups but continue to be active participants in their upbringing.
Second, puppies that are not prematurely removed from their parents tend to have confident, joyful, balanced demeanors. We know that attachment parenting develops emotionally intelligent, confident human beings. We believe it works the same for dogs. By supporting and allowing the natural bond between pups and their mothers, our pups are confident and ready to bond strongly with their new family. Stressing puppies and their mothers with forced early separation is not necessary to develop independence. Independence flows naturally from a strong bond with mom during their critical developmental weeks. As the pups mature the family pack also offers the pups a sense of protection and freedom to explore the natural world without fear, which leads to confidence, courage, and composure.
Third, pups go through a critical fear period between the ages of 8 to 10 weeks. A pup that is mishandled during this period may develop nervous behaviors or phobias. We keep our pups with their parents in a safe environment until they pass through this phase.
Below a puppy is learning how to behave and relax during a restaurant meal by imitating the behavior of our medical alert service dog. Without any intervention from her trainer, the puppy learned what was expected of her in a new, highly stimulating environment. Simply by following the lead of her doggie mentor, she painlessly adapted to this new situation. Wether this pup becomes a service dog or a family companion, she knows how to behave in restaurants, outdoor cafes, or at your dinner table.
Our puppies do not go from a kennel to your home. Our puppies have experienced weeks of handling, enrichment, socialization, and training before they arrive at their new home. Proper training and socialization of a young puppy is a precise, time consuming, and labor intensive endeavor. This is why we have developed our program. We want our families to know the joy of dog ownership.
Even very well socialized puppies can regress and lose their bond with humans and other dogs when placed alone in a kennel run. They may develop a fear of leaving their kennel which can lead to phobias and fear aggression. There is term for this in the horse world which is "stall crazy". In dogs it is referred to as "kennel-dog syndrome". The German Shepherd Dog seems to be the most vulnerable to the development of this syndrome.
At nine weeks we begin to introduce the physically astute puppies to the agility field.