Pure Dog Talk, Mary Albee: Dr. Gayle Watkins welcome back to Pure Dog Talk
GW: Thanks Mary
MA: And today I believe that you’re going to give us a full education on the neonatal period of our puppy’s
GW: Well I don’t know if it will be a full education but we’ll get started in talking about this really important period
MA: More than I knew when you did your seminar which was so fantastic. If you every have a chance to go to an Avidog seminar it’s a must
GW: Thank you, thank you. So, the neonatal period we call this period where they go from potatoes to puppies because neonatal puppies are just so helpless. They’re such an unusual phase of dogs and if you’ve raised puppies you don’t think anything about it, but they don’t really look like dogs or act like dogs. They appear to be completely helpless, they can’t see, hear, can’t control their body temperature, they can only move in circles, they have very limited ability to communicate. They can’t even pee or poop on their own, so they’re a really apparently helpless creature, but in reality there’s an awful lot going on in their brains. This is a massive stage of brain development in puppies, they are creating synapsis, connections between brain cells. They are also cutting them out, they are reducing the amount of synapsis that aren’t of value to them, so even this early in the puppy’s life it’s brains making a decision about what nerve connections it needs and which ones it doesn’t. So, if we think about the kinds of activities those puppies should be involved in, the kind of environment that they need. A lot of it is related to setting their brain up for life time success as well as their immune system in their body. So, one of the things I think about that really leap out during this period, #1, Mothers. Their mother is so key to their development, it’s really incalculable, so mother dogs in addition to providing heat or warmth and milk, also do mothering. And mothering is a term that captures the kinds of things that moms do to puppies, they lick them, they clean them, they poke them, they scrub them down, they touch them. They touch them all over, a lot of the touching is on the genitals as they clean the puppies, but they’re rolling them around. Some mothers might even put their pawn on them to scrub them and make sure that they’re spotless. All of those actions are developing the puppy far behind just hygiene, just cleanliness. It stabilizes the puppy’s stress management response over a life time, so it’s that mothering that sets our dogs up to be able to handle stress in the future. And so, what are stress management systems in dogs, how do we see it? Well we know we talk about “bomb proof” dogs, dogs that just don’t respond to stressful events, or if they do they can be startled by something, but then they just shake it off and they don’t get upset, they don’t get aggressive, they don’t bark at it, that’s a very good stress management system. It’s a stress management system that realizes there’s stress and it goes up, and then it immediately comes back down again. There are other dogs with less effective stress management systems and those are dogs that spin up, and don’t come back down again and their body has trouble re-engaging or stabilizing their response to the world. So, depending upon the breed or even the individual dog, that could be reactivity, so it could be reactive barking, it could be aggression depending upon the breed, or it could be fearfulness, bolting, running, quivering, shaking, urinating, things like that and those are at the extreme. There are the dogs that maybe aren’t that bad but simply once they get stressed they have trouble getting themselves back under control again. So, what differentiates a dog’s ability to respond to stresses as an adult? Well some of its going to be genetics, what it got from its parents, but a lot of it is the mothering that it received in the first two weeks of life. And so, allowing moms access to their puppies, ensuring that we select moms that do engage with their puppies in those first two weeks, and them stepping back and letting it happen. We monitor it, but you’ve raised puppies, you know it’s not real gentle sometimes, I mean they can be really scrubbing puppies down and the puppy’s crying and mom couldn’t care less, she’s gonna do what she needs to do to make sure that that puppy is ok. So, we’re gonna focus on mothering first and foremost, and we gonna try to make sure that we allow our moms to mother. Now there are moms that just have no intention in mothering, they are either dis-interested or they are aggressive towards their puppies. We want to then make sure that our puppies are protected from those mothers. An option for some breeders who have more than one dog, that if you have an Auntie, less often an Uncle, Uncles like to go play with puppies but they don’t necessarily like to mother them, but there are Aunties or Grandmas that want to be in with the puppies and engage with them. And if you have an aggressive dam you can look for that option as well, carefully, but you can use that. The other thing that we need to do is set an environment up that encourages mom to mother. And the number one aspect of that is room temperature or ambient temperature. If you read any breeding book, it will tell you to keep your whelping room at 80 or 90 degrees, and for your average, medium, large or giant breed dog, that is the equivalent of hell on earth. It is so hot, and they have these puppies up against them, and they’re lactating which already raises their body temperature, we just cook our dams if we put them at that temperature. If instead we drop the ambient temperature that pushes mom and puppies together so that the puppies automatically are up against their mom to stay warm, and the dam is comfortable having them there, so she curls around or lies with them. So, through that process has the contact that we would need for good mothering. In addition, simply touching her puppies will improve her lactation, her milk production, her milk will even be brought down more quickly, so if we think of ambient temperature not as we have to keep the puppies body temperature at 100 degrees because they can’t control it, and instead understand that that is what mom is for, and so we’re going to use the room temperature to push mom and puppies together.
MA: That’s a good one because I’ve always followed the thing where you put the heating pad, and the puppies go lay on the heating pad, and mom goes to lay where it’s a little bit cooler, so obviously, something else I’ve been doing wrong!
GW: Well I think we all did it. We were taught early on either a heating lamp or a heating pad in the box all the time, and so we ended up with puppies on one side and moms on the other. If you have a Newfoundland, she’s not underneath a heating lamp, it’s just too hot for her. Now if you have toy breeds you need to keep your room temperature warmer because they don’t have as much mass. But if you have a toted breed, or large or giant breed you can bring the temperature down. For example, our whelping rooms are typically between 70 and 72 degrees. How do we know our temperatures are right? Puppies are up against mom and puppies are quiet. I had this funny phone call once where a friend called and said: I have such a high drive litter, these are gonna be great performance dogs. And I was thinking they’re two days old how could you possibly know that? And she said because they’re crying all the time, they just have so much go. And I said no, they’re just too hot, lower the temperature. Sure enough she lowered the room temperature and the puppies got delightfully quiet. And that’s when you know, when you have that puppies nursing away but no crying, or whining or that constant screaming. If you hear that kind of noise somethings not right and often it’s room temperature.
MA: So something else you discussed at the seminar during the neonatal period, had to do with the touch, taste and smell development at this time.
GW: Absolutely. This is the time that we can really push the three senses that are working in puppies at this stage, so that’s gonna be their ability to smell, taste and touch. Many, many, many people have done Early Neurological Stimulation, also known as bio sensory, that was introduced by Dr. Carmen Battaglia back in 1995 I think, and published it in the AKC Gazette, a magazine I miss terribly, and that started people off on doing Early Neurologic Stimulation. I’ll make sure that you have on the resource page, the pictures for each of the positions for Early Neurologic Stimulation for your listeners. But it’s a series of four positions, and then two touches, to very mildly stimulate puppies sense of proprioception, where they are in space, which is part of touch as well as temperature, and then we tickle a foot once a day. We only do those for three to five seconds so it’s very quick. We aren’t trying to overwhelm the puppy with these mild stressors, but in doing this stressing it is a formalized method of handling that makes us put puppies out of their comfort zone, and often out of comfort zone cuz we don’t particularly like pointing puppy’s head down or putting them on their back because they tend to cry. But if we know we’re doing it for three to five seconds, and that it benefits the puppy of a life time then it’s worth doing. You can do a litter of 12 puppies in 10 minutes doing bio sensory, it’s a very quick process and it will benefit them, particularly that stress management system that we were talking about, for a life time. The other thing that we do is we stimulate their scenting ability because many of the dogs we produce go on to some sort of working home, and we can do this with pets because most dog owners love to watch their dogs use their nose. So about 13 years ago, we started an early scent introduction, and we just coupled it with Early Neurologic Stimulation, so from three to day sixteen, early in the neonatal and a little into transition period, we introduced a unique scent to the puppies once a day. So, one scent, once a day for 13 days, you have to think of 13 things for them to sniff. Those things can be any natural item, it can be a training item, if you have Herding dogs you might want to do wool, do some sheep wool or duck feathers, if you have Hunting dogs you might want to do some sort of game bird wing, but you’re gonna let them smell different items for three to five seconds, so it’s a very short period. We’ll often use fruit, we’ll use lemons or apples, we’ll use herbs and spices, cinnamon and basil, if we can smell it and it’s really pungent then it’s a good thing to offer the puppies. I have a lot of obedience breeders who follow this and my recommendation if you produce dogs for obedience, don’t do metal. You know we do metal scent articles in Utility but that isn’t something puppies can really smell, but you can do wood, grass, leaves, leather, all kinds of things like that. What shouldn’t you use? You shouldn’t use foods, things that dogs consider foods such as meat or cheeses. You can use bananas, because although dogs like bananas, puppies don’t think of them as food. And you’re just going to hold the puppy gently upright, you know so their tail down and head up, and you’re gonna put the scent object right in front of them, maybe 1/2 inch from their nose, and you’re gonna let them react however they react. So about 1/2 the time you’ll typically get a neutral reaction, which is the puppy just sits there. You can see their noses moving and that they’re sniffing but they don’t have a strong reaction one way or the other. For maybe 25% of objects the puppy expresses extreme dislike, I find this happen a lot with bananas for some reason even though my adult dogs like bananas, not many puppies do. And so how do you know that they don’t like it? They whip their head away and they will often vocalize it. You’ll also hear them trying to clear their nose, so they’ll snort out of their nose to try and clear the scent out. And then maybe 25% of the objects the puppies will love. They will be so engaged, they’ll try and paddle closer to it, they’ll move their face towards it, they might even bury their face in it, and in some cases interestingly enough, they’ll try and taste it because taste and scent are really closely connected. And so, you’ll see them put their mouth on it, and maybe like it as well. I have trouble predicting what is going to elicit that kind of response from puppies, but a lot of times if it’s a Working breed, it will be something related to the work. So, it might be wool for a Kuvasz, or a duck wing for a Labrador Retriever, and it might be a quail for a Pointing breed, so it really tends to depend upon what they’ve been bred for, you might get this really strong positive reaction. When you get those positive reactions its’ perfectly fine to go for more than five seconds and just let them enjoy it. You’re going to do this once a day, so it adds about three to five seconds to your day, aside from figuring out what you’re going to let them smell. And what we found, we did a study looking at two different cohorts of dogs, one that had this done with it and one that did not, and these dogs were able to succeed at scenting better, so they were achieving higher levels of scenting ability. So, we studied this over about a 12-year period, two cohorts, one that had early scent introduction, one that did not, the dogs that had early scent introduction were able to achieve scenting accomplishments much sooner, at a much higher level, and much more complex accomplishments. And so, we kept doing it because, one, our dogs loved it as do our owners, but two, it’s really fabulous to see that just doing these short little exercises from days three to sixteen can have such a lifetime effect on dogs.
MA: Speaking of life time effects on dogs, last week in Episode 11 you discussed the importance of probiotics for both adults and puppies, and recommended the probiotic Geneflora. Our sponsor Neil at genefloraforpets.com has offered our listeners a 15% discount on Geneflora. Just use the code “puredog” at checkout at genefloraforpets.com. So, Gayle, the last part I’d like you to address the latest research in regards to hip dysplasia and traction in the whelping box.
GW: Ya, so traction is really this very interesting aspect of raising puppies because we’re trying to balance hygiene and cleanliness with the health of the puppies. And for many of us who’ve been breeding for a long time, we started raising our puppies on newspapers, that’s what was available to us and that’s what we used, never really realizing that newspaper is very slippery for puppies. And if you’ve never seen puppies raised any other way it looks normal when they slip and slide, and you’re always looking at the bottom of their pads on their back feet, so they’re flipped with their feet facing skyward because they can’t get their feet under them. And that’s what we thought was normal in puppies. Fast forward to today and now we know that traction can have a significant effect on reducing orthopedic issues in dogs, and with good traction, puppies can be up on their feet standing up within hours of birth. They’re not coordinated to walk yet but they can hobble around and stand up so they get higher on the bitch for nursing. So, we are always looking for a couple of things to tell us whether traction good in the whelping box. Are we seeing puppy’s legs slipping out from underneath them? We should not be seeing that at all. Are we looking at the pads, the pads on the bottom of the feet? If we’re seeing them all the time then the puppy is not able to get its hind legs underneath him. And then thirdly, are the puppies staying low on the dam, or are they able to get at least 1/2 way on her ribcage if not higher. So now we have x-rays that show that joints in puppies are not connected, truly the hip bone is not connected to the leg bone. There are these very large gaps between the bones in the joints that close over time and they are developed, the joints themselves are formed through the pressure that comes through the use of the joint. So, the puppy that is standing from very early on is not as likely to develop hip dysplasia than one who’s hips are constantly slipping out from underneath him. There have been a number of Guide organizations that have changed their traction, we changed our traction and the reduction in hip dysplasia is significant, to the point that you can be at 0% hip dysplasia. Obviously by selecting healthy parents, but also by focusing on traction. Carol Beuchat at The Institute of Canine Biology has also put out a lot of information on traction and showed a lot of videos comparing different surfaces and the effect they have on traction, so we’ll link to that so that people can look at those videos and see the difference. We use a product called sterilon, S-T-E-R-I-L-O-N, it’s not particularly easy to get, it’s only carried in the United States by a single company, and there’s another company in Canada that carries it, I’ll give you the links for that so that you can share that with your listeners, but there are other fleece products, and fleece is usually your best bet, that are equally effective. Things like newspaper, plastic, linoleum, tile, those are not going to be successful in developing good joints in our puppies.
MA: Thank you Dr. Gayle Watkins
GW: Thanks Mary
MA: Three things before we go: First, next week Gayle will be back for Part 3, The Transition Period of Puppy Development. Second, as you can hear, Gayle is a wealth of knowledge and if you’re serious about breeding, learning or raising better puppies, avidog.com is offering 25% off their course Introduction to Transformational Dog Breeding. Just use the code “puredogtalk” Third, as always show notes and links to all the resources, photos of ENS, links to a video of early scent introduction are all available on our website, puredogtalk.com. Thanks for listening and we will talk next week. Take care.
PDT: As always, if you have any questions or input we’d love to hear from you. The show notes and links to resources on today’s topic are available on puredogtalk.com. Drop us a note in the comments or email to Laura at puredogtalk.com Remember guys, this podcast is for you so if you want to know something, give me a holler, we’ll do a podcast for you. If you wouldn’t mind you could help me out here. Take a couple minutes to visit iTunes and give us a review, this will help others out there share the love with others out there in the sport. This has been Pure Dog Talk with your host Laura Reeves. We hope you can join us next time as we continue the journey to success with your purebred dog.