Puppies Do Party
It has been a full and busy week. The week was bookended with what we cheerfully and carefully call “Puppy Parties”. Cheerfulness in our attitude and positive reinforcement of our puppies “try” with a click & a treat, a smile, a giggle and just plain fun. The parties are not random events or have anyone crashing the party uninvited. We take great care to not ‘flood’ the puppy with stimuli. We provide only experiences that are developmentally appropriate and always give the puppy choice.
Our first party is when the puppies are about 6.5 weeks old. That is when the puppy is especially primed for social interaction. Their level of approach behavior (coming to you happily) is strong; flee behavior, low. So we orchestrate a party with carefully selected activities. The guest list includes friends who are dog savvy. Armed with clickers, cheese and hotdogs, they welcome this “puppy fix”.
All guests, canine and human, had a grand time. Smiles abounded and it was a fun time all around. I believe it was a much needed respite for many us. The laughter, innocence and joy healing.
Later in the week, we loaded the puppies up in the car, safely tucked into a large crate to go on a 3 hour drive to get their eyes checked for CEA, collie eye anomaly in Loveland by a Veterinarian Board Certified Ophthalmologist. To prepare for this adventure, they had two other shorter car rides the previous week and did quite well. Just a little whining for a few minutes when we started out. A cream cheese kong or a whimzee chew did the trick to help them settle in. Mama Rose rode along for the first ride. The motion of the car soon lulled them to sleep. We made the journey successfully and our results were good for all the puppies.
This past weekend we did temperament evaluations and structural evaluations for conformation. We were blessed to have eight friends and collie fanciers join us at our Foxhaven Barn. We had two litters, born one day apart to evaluate, for a total of 14 lovely puppies. The other litter is from my friend and collie mentor, Shelley Berstraser. The doors were open wide for fresh air and sunshine, no covid welcome here. Our donkey Sam provided a bit of song for our second party. Shelley conducted the evaluations. puppNone of the puppies had ever been to the barn, so it was a new experience packed with all kinds of scents. In this environment they were presented with a series of challenges seeking to determine, in some instances, their level of drive (prey, pack, and fight/flight). In others, we sought to determine sensitivity to touch, sound and sight, as well as general stability. This last test, for example, was to see how the puppy reacted to an umbrella being popped open and placed on the floor near them. In all, the ‘tests’ were to not only to determine temperament with the goal to help inform our matches to families, but to indicate what the puppy may need more help and training with in the coming weeks.
Puppies from both litters did well. Some had a bit more prey drive, great for a herding prospect and performance dog. Some had a bit more social attraction and following behaviors; perfect for a therapy dog or family cuddle muffin. We all celebrated with good lunch while puppies played and snoozed. An eventful day full of shared knowledge, hopes & dreams and puppy loving. Good parties lead to good naps.
As the puppies enter their eighth week, there is a shift from rapid neurological development toward rapid intellectual development. They can understand eye contact and attention as a behavior. We will have more new experiences, develop new skills and enjoy problem solving activities; including, scent circles, asking for more in our clicker training mini-sessions and working on heeling foundation work. It is also the week that the fear period lies, so we will simply “be together” and enjoy these last days together. Puppies will be going to their beloved forever families at 9.5-10 weeks old. The love affair is about to begin for them in earnest. XOX darlings.