Conquistador K-9 Development
We loved you before you were even born...
When we began our research into taking puppy training to a higher level, we found many training programs and many different opinions. That is why we developed our system based on a combination of several positive researched programs. One of those programs involved in our research was presented by Dr. Carmen L. Battaglia. Dr. Battaglia holds a Masters Degree from Florida State University. He is also AKC judge, researcher and writer, he has been a leader in promotion of breeding better dogs and has written many articles and several books. He found that the benefits from this early neurological stimulation led to:
More Tolerance to Stress
Greater Resistance to Disease
Stronger Heart Beats
Stronger Adrenal Glands
In tests of learning, stimulated pups were found to be more active and were more exploratory than their non-stimulated litter mates over which they were dominant in competitive situations.
Secondary effects were also noted regarding test performance. 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 litter mates were less disturbed or upset by test conditions and when comparisons were made, the stimulated litter mates were more calm in the test environment, made fewer errors and only gave an occasional distressed sound when stressed.
In our research and in talking with many others who have followed Dr. Battaglia’s system we felt that it would have a positive effect on our program. We did find a few opinions that did not feel the system had any merit, however from our personal training experiences, we feel it does.
Conquistador K-9 uses the Bio-Sensor program as developed by the US Military for their canine development. Based on years of research, the military learned that early neurological stimulation exercises could have important and lasting effects. Their studies confirmed that there are specific time periods early in life when neurological stimulation has optimum results. The first period involves a window of time that begins at the third day of life and lasts until the sixteenth day. It is believed that because this interval of time is a period of rapid neurological growth and development, and therefore is of great importance to the individual. The "Bio Sensor" program was also concerned with early neurological stimulation in order to give the dog a superior advantage. Its development utilized six exercises which were designed to stimulate the neurological system. Each workout involved handling puppies once each day. The workouts required handling them one at a time while performing a series of five exercises. Listed in order of preference, the handler starts with one pup and stimulates it using each of the five exercises.
The handler completes the series from beginning to end before starting with the next pup. The handling of each pup once per day involves the following exercises:
1. Tactical stimulation (between toes): Holding the pup in one hand, the handler gently stimulates (tickles) the pup between the toes on any one foot using a Q-tip. It is not necessary to see that the pup is feeling the tickle. Time of stimulation 3 - 5 seconds.
2. Head held erect: Using both hands, the pup is held perpendicular to the ground, (straight up), so that its head is directly above its tail. This is an upwards position. Time of stimulation 3 - 5 seconds
3. Head pointed down: Holding the pup firmly with both hands the head is reversed and is pointed downward so that it is pointing towards the ground. Time of stimulation 3 - 5 seconds
4. Supine position: Hold the pup so that its back is resting in the palm of both hands with its muzzle facing the ceiling. The pup while on its back is allowed to sleep. Time of stimulation 3-5 seconds.
5. Thermal stimulation: Use a damp towel that has been cooled in a refrigerator for at least five minutes. Place the pup on the towel, feet down. Do not restrain it from moving. Time of stimulation 3-5 seconds.
These five exercises will produce neurological stimulation, none of which naturally occur during this early period of life. Experience shows that sometimes pups will resist these exercises, others will appear unconcerned. In either case a caution is offered to those who plan to use them.
These exercises impact the neurological system by kicking it into action earlier than would be normally expected, the result being an increased capacity that later will help to make the difference in its performance.
Generally, genetics account for about 35% of the performance, but the remaining 65‰ (management, training, nutrition) can make the difference. In the management category, it has been shown that breeders should be guided by the rule that it is generally considered prudent to guard against under and over stimulation.
Early Development Stimulation
Not many dog owners are aware of the fact that dogs undergo fear periods during their developmental stages. During these distinct periods dogs may gradually become more and more fearful of situations they once appeared to be accepting of. The fear may be manifested by overly cautious behaviors, where the puppy or dog approaches people or items tentatively or defensive behaviors involving barking/lunging/growling. In some cases, dogs may act bold towards certain stimuli and uncertain with others. However, it is important to note that dogs can become fearful of specific things at any age and no generalizations can be made. Let's take a look at these fear periods and see how they affect man's best friend.
First Fear Imprint Period:
According to Meghan E. Herron, veterinarian and Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists, this first fear period takes place between the ages of 8 to 10 weeks. During this time, the puppy is very sensitive to traumatic experiences and a single scary event may be enough to traumatize the puppy and have life-long effects on his future behaviors. The fear can be of a person, dog or object. A fear period is therefore a stage during which the puppy or dog may be more apt to perceive certain stimuli threatening.
In nature, during this time, puppies are getting out of the den and starting to explore the world around them. This is when puppies would learn under the guidance of their mom, which stimuli are threatening and non-threatening for the purpose of survival. At this stage, once they are fully mobile and outdoors, a lack of caution may cause them to easily get killed, explains Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist Patricia McConnell, in her book "For the Love of a Dog".
Coincidentally, in a domestic setting, this fear period coincides with the time most puppies are separated from their litter mates and moms and are sent to new homes. Some breeders feel that their puppies are better off adopted at a later age. This is why we decide not to send our puppies home until after this stage.
During the first fear period therefore it is important to avoid exposing the puppy to traumatic experiences. Shipping the puppy or allowing the puppy to undergo elective surgeries at this time is not recommended. Veterinarian visits and car visits should be made fun and upbeat. Stimuli and experiences puppies may find as frightening include but are not limited to: vaccines, cold examination tables, taking rectal temperatures, placing puppy on scale, nail trims and being handled by strangers.
Second Fear Period: 6 to 14 Months
While the 8 to 12 week puppy fear period is in some cases hardly noticed by puppy owners, the second fear period appears to have a much bigger impact. Rover has grown now and if he is a large breed he may even weigh 100 pounds or more! This fear period is believed to be tied to the dog's sexual maturity and growth spurts. This means that in large breeds it may develop later compared to a smaller dog. Often, this stage is also known as "teenage flakiness" according Ellen Dodge in her article "Critical Periods in Canine Development" published in the Weimaraner Magazine. October. 1989.
In the wild, dogs at this age are allowed to go on hunts with the rest of the pack. At this stage, it is important for them to learn to stick with the pack for safety, but they also need to learn about fear since they need fear for survival purposes. The message to the puppy is to run away if something unfamiliar approaches them, explain Wendy and Jack Volhard in the book Dog Training for Dummies.
Reactivity levels rise during this stage causing the dog to act defensively, become protective and more territorial. Owners often report the fear seems to pop out of nowhere. Dogs appear fearful of novel stimuli or stimuli met before but that did not trigger significant reactions. As in the first fear period, it is best to avoid traumatic experiences during this time such as shipping dogs on a plane and any other overwhelming experience. Because at this stage the owner may be dealing with a dog barking and lunging and pulling on the leash, this fear period has a bigger impact, causing the owner to worry about the dog's behavior.
Submissive urination, crouching, shaking and other related behaviors might be evident.
Laura McAuliffe of DogComm explains the second fear period nicely. Suddenly spooked. The Secondary Fear Phase. ‘Your teenage puppy may suddenly show fear, backing away or perhaps even barking at things they coped well with before- people with hats, flapping carrier bags, people on ladders, bikes and scooters, black or flat faced dogs etc are all top ten triggers.’ Inanimate objects can suddenly become a source of terror!
McAuliffe says, ‘Secondary fear isn’t very well defined in the scientific research and there’s some debate about when it occurs (which is likely to influenced by breed and genetics) and if it actually occurs. It’s well reported though that dogs may suddenly (and hopefully temporarily) become more fearful about certain things…
‘Secondary fear is thought to occur anywhere between around 6 and 18 months old, during the period of social maturation where dogs change from puppyhood into adults. There are complex hormonal and neural changes that also occur around this time and sudden fear may well be linked to these physiological changes within the body. The primary fear centre in the brain, the amygdala, is enlarged at this time meaning that it reacts more sensitively to the environment and stress hormones are at their highest levels in adolescents.
In evolutionary terms, secondary fear also often corresponds with the time (around 8/9 months old) when older puppies of wild and semi feral dogs would have left their family group and ventured off alone into the big wide world. It is thought that a scaredy period at this time would protect puppies from venturing too close to things that could present a danger to them. Perhaps we still see throwback behaviour to this time.’
McAuliffe continues, ‘Not all dogs will have a secondary fear phase and some dogs may have more than one, meaning you could experience more than two fear periods. It typically lasts between 1 and 3 weeks and needs careful handling as there is a risk that dogs may become permanently fearful of certain thing if they are exposed to a very traumatic experience at this sensitive time.’
What happens during the fear period, exactly?
You may notice that your previously friendly, confident adolescent dog becomes spooky about certain things that don’t normally bother her… perhaps she refuses to go near a new garden flag in the yard, or barks at a man with a beard who says hello to her on the street. This sudden increase in suspicion and reactivity towards things in the environment is normal – as long as you are cheerful and don’t make a big deal of the problem, it will pass on its own and you’ll have your familiar, happy-go-lucky companion back in 2-3 weeks.
The dangerous part is this: during this particular developmental stage, your dog’s brain is on a hair trigger, exquisitely sensitive to anything “bad” that may happen. A single frightening or painful experience during the fear period can have a lasting impact for the rest of your dog’s life.
This is a phenomenon called single event learning – meaning that it only takes one experience to result in an intense, permanent emotional reaction to the trigger that caused it. It makes a lot of survival sense in the wild, when a young wolf needs to steer clear of a dangerous predator without requiring multiple near-death experiences to teach the lesson.