ENS and Puppy Culture

The first eight weeks every puppy will spend with its mother, litter mates, and breeder is critical to their temperament and development. It truly does matter how they are raised! We raise our puppies utilizing many Puppy Culture (PC) protocols. Puppy Culture is a program that promotes early neurological stimulation, socialization, communication, and problem solving in puppies. Your puppy will be familiarized with many (but not all) of PC protocols for the first eight weeks he or she is with us at Beloved Bernedoodles. PC is an 12-week program, so we encourage all families to purchase the DVDs and continue the program from weeks eight to 12.

“Socialization does not exist after 12 weeks old. Now, we have the ability to counter-condition them, desensitize them, and teach them, but it’s a much, much harder process and a much longer process, and it doesn’t always work because the brain chemistry is just not the same [after your puppy is 12 weeks old].”

– Meghan E. Herron, DVM Diplomate – ACVB, Associate Professor – Clinical
Behavioral Medicine, Ohio State University

The purpose and benefits of Puppy Culture:

  1. Communication
  2. Emotional stability to recover easily from fear in a socially acceptable manner
  3. Habituation – familiarity with the maximum number of everyday objects and sounds
  4. Enrichment – the view that novelty and challenges are opportunities for enrichment rather than things to be feared or avoided
  5. Health – physical wellness and motor skills that will allow the puppy to develop in a neurologically and physically sound way
  6. Skills – learned behavior that will allow him to function in human society.
  7. Love – the desire to seek out company of dogs and humans as emotionally positive experiences.

How we implement Puppy Culture at Beloved Bernedoodles:

Puppy Culture involves early neurological stimulation (ENS) from days three to 16 of a puppy’s life; certain protocols to begin teaching your puppy how to communicate with you (“manding”); understanding how to offer a behavior to receive a reward; as well as exposure to the maximum number of sounds, textures, challenges, and experiences so that they are a well-adjusted, resilient pup. Your puppy will not be perfect. He or she is a puppy who has been alive for 8 weeks. 🙂

We do all ENS protocols from day three to 16. We teach manding. We do challenges to help them problem solve. We expose them to many sounds, objects, and surfaces to walk on, which helps encourage quick recovery from their startle reflex. During week seven, we might put them on leash a few times and walk them around our house and yard to get them used to the feeling.

We use litter boxes pretty much starting at week three of life. During play sessions, we use artificial grass pads so your puppy will get used to going on a grass. By eight weeks old, the puppies go potty in their litter boxes 99% of the time, which are placed INSIDE their large puppy pen. If outside of their puppy area, walking around unsupervised, they will do what any puppy less than 16 weeks old would do:  have accidents! We cannot expect bladder control by eight weeks old. 🙂 They will know how to go in and out of the doggie door. They often choose to go through the doggie door to go potty. We are not teaching with potty bells, although we encourage the use of potty bells once you bring your puppy home if you so desire.

We will do a few exercises to help desensitize them to the crate with the crate door open, but we do not crate train. We do not have them sleeping in crates at night. If you would like to crate train at home, which we highly recommend for the safety and stability of your pup, here is a step-by step-crate training guide on our “Puppyhood and Training” resource page: https://belovedbernedoodles.com/puppyhood-and-training/

In October 2020, I reached out to the administrator for Puppy Culture’s Facebook page to make sure my expectations were realistic with the PC protocols we choose to implement at Beloved Bernedoodles, and she kindly responded. I’ve included her comments here, as I think it helps set up realistic expectations for PC puppies:

“The Puppy Culture DVD set and the workbook NEVER say that a breeder MUST have puppies crate trained, fully litter box trained and using potty bells by the time the puppies go to their new homes.

There are NO GUARANTEES a puppy raised with PC protocols will not have some problems and issues throughout life. Hopefully, the puppy will have a bit of a head start to being the most behaviorally and emotionally resilient his genetics will allow. But stuff happens. Stray dogs injure or overwhelm another dog. Accidents happen. Illness happens. 

***Personally, I would be very cautious about placing a puppy in a home with very rigid, accelerated expectations about a puppy, even if that puppy was raised with PC protocols as best the breeder was able.

If people are expecting to get a perfectly trained, perfectly formed puppy at 8 weeks of age, they are misleading themselves, or someone else has been misleading them.  And I would worry how that puppy would fare in the new home if the impending family is “stuck” on that interpretation of “what is a PC puppy.”

All you have to do is watch the Madcap University 4-part course about bringing home a puppy to realize an 8 week old puppy is changing daily, and from week to week. They are not miniature versions of a full-grown dog. They have lots of emotional, social, cognitive and physical developmental markers to hit between now and 2 years from now.

Your lovely puppies, raised with great care and attention are not SUVs, fully formed and ready to be parked in the garage until the family requires them. They are living, breathing individuals. This puppy will have been on the earth 8 weeks. Human children are not eating solid food at 8 weeks; they are not potty trained until 2-3 years (with some luck and effort!). Human children do not sit politely at meal time without throwing food until years after that. Bringing home a puppy WILL require effort, including trial and error. There will be moments of joy, frustration, confusion, and relief. But they will receive a puppy raised with knowledge and research about best practices, combined with careful attention and lots of effort.”

– Cindy M.

How to purchase the Puppy Culture program:

You can continue implementing Puppy Culture with your Beloved Bernedoodle by purchasing the DVD. Click on the image below:

Here is a great summary for puppy owners of the benefits of Puppy Culture: https://shoppuppyculture.com/pages/puppy-owners

This video explains the importance of Puppy Culture during the first 12 weeks of your puppy’s life: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=13&v=ja6E4xa-6Hs

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