Running time- 5 hours, 21 minutes
This 5 DVD disc set is being hailed as a true masterpiece, and is a hugely informative wealth of information, filling a long existing shortage of knowledge for the best practises of raising puppies.
Most dog enthusiasts are aware of at least some of the recommended "socialisation" activities discussed in many books. However, sometimes, why we do them, and just how they impact on later life, is not always clear.
In this DVD, Jane Killion, along with a number of other prominent experts, including Jean Donaldson and Carmen Battaglia, explore in detail the critical early periods of development that each puppy goes through as well as what you can do to increase your odds of raising a happy, socially successful, and trainable dog. Over 50 lessons are organized on a logical, week-by-week timeline to give breeders and puppy owners a clear roadmap for raising a puppy. The film follows one litter of puppies, bred by Jane Killion, through the programme and checks back on them over the next three years so you can see the profound, almost unbelievable, results of the Puppy Culture program!
Claimed as one of the important works to come out in recent years, this DVD is a must see for anyone who breeds dogs, or comes to own a young puppy, or who works with puppies on a professional basis.
Killion begins by telling us that the first 12 weeks of a puppy’s life shape his future. Only the lightest of touches make a permanent impression, meaning that as breeders we have the power to change the outcome of a dog’s future. She continues to explain why she decided to make this DVD, adding that the origins of many behaviour problems can be traced back to the first 12 weeks.
Killion starts with the pre-natal period, she discusses genes and how they work, as well as how the emotional and physical health of the mother affects the puppies. She adds that during this period the first concern is to ensure that the bitch is relaxed, well fed and comfortable, also explaining the benefits of caressing the mother’s side during pregnancy.
We then move on to the neo-natal period. Killion comments on dogs being an altricial species, meaning they are not fully formed when they are born. She explains the significance of this is that dogs develop fear later on, which is why they have a critical socialisation period. Killion then looks at how puppies communicate at this age, as well as the importance of the routing reflex and why puppies twitch in their sleep. She also considers how a certain amount of stress and struggle is appropriate during nursing, as well as how being exposed to very light stress at this stage can have beneficial results. Dr Carmen Battaglia, the author of Breeding Better Dogs, takes us through the recommended protocols and benefits of exposing puppies to light stress, providing specially-formulated exercises.
The next section concentrates on the transitional period. Killion stresses that it is important to judge puppy development on behavioural markers rather than on their age. At this stage, puppies begin to eat solid foods and begin with more vocalisation. It is at the end of this period that puppies are ready to begin socialisation.
Killion then investigates the introduction to critical socialisation phase further. She explains that the chief characteristic at this point is the ease with which we can form the puppys attitude, something that is forever lost afterwards. We then hear from Dr Megan Herron, the director of veterinary behaviour at Ohio State University who teaches us the biology of critical socialisation. Killion then covers the seven key points of socialisation which include;
- Emotional stability
Killion continues with advice on how to influence the quality of early communications between the puppies and their mother, as well as other dogs in the household. She explains what to do during weaning in order to achieve non-violent conflict resolutions, an important lessons for the puppies to learn. Killion also explains the purpose of ritualised threats, such as growling, adding in more detail why dogs will always try and avoid violence if possible. She then looks at introducing toys and visual objects, showing us how exercise, enrichment and stimulation helps the brain to develop. She explores the idea of the enrichment effect further and comments on the importance of recovery from fear and conditioning emotional resilience. Killion also covers habituating to humans and why we should handle puppies individually.
The next section looks at the puppies at four weeks of age. Killion explains that physical exercise is a key component of enrichment, and shows us how to set up a suitable exercise pen. She adds that the critical elements of enrichment are learning and problem solving, and puppies need these in addition to toys and social interactions. At this age, Killion advises to start presenting the puppies with physical challenges. She demonstrates the barrier challenge, which involves creating a barrier that the puppies must successfully negotiate in order to reach their food. These challenges teach the puppies not only to think for themselves, but also to deal with frustration – an important lesson, as in later life frustration can quickly turn to aggression.
Killion continues by introducing us to the communication trinity, which she describes as puppy sign language, teaching them a socially acceptable way to communicate. . This trinity consists of the following three elements:
Killion then covers each of the above in more detail, showing us how to condition puppies to the clicker, teach them to offer behaviours, which helps to build impulse control, as well as show them how to ask for things. Killion believes manding is particularly important as this helps to give puppies a voice, and a need to be heard is a deep emotional need for all animals. She also explains how puppies learn in distributed learning, elaborating on how this principle works.
We next look at fear. Killion explains that puppies develop a true fear response at 5 weeks and then again at 8 weeks of age. We hear from Dr Meghan Herron who explains the fear imprint period in more depth. Killion advises us to exercise caution at this age so that the puppy does not have any really bad experiences, also discussing why we shouldn’t comfort puppies who experience a low level of fear.
We then move on to the six week socialisation period. Killion tells us that this is the peak socialisation time, as it is when puppies are at their highest response and lowest fear phase. It is also sometime known as the curiosity period. Killion highly recommends holding puppy parties at this age, which provide an excellent opportunity for socialisation, giving us detailed instructions on how to run these. At this age, Killion also takes the puppies for a hearing test, and Dr Noemie Bernier explains how this test works, also commenting on the importance of health testing.
In the next section, Killion discusses moving the puppies to a bigger weaning pen, also covering the beginnings of house training.
Killion then examines behaviour problems. She argues that behaviour problems are often a true and correct expression of genetic material, and it is our job to intervene during early puppyhood to shape this behaviour into something we consider more acceptable. She believes that sadly many behaviourists are chasing the symptoms of these problems rather than the cause. Killion then shares some advice on dealing with bite inhibition and also takes a look at resource guarding, something that often comes naturally to pups. Jean Donaldson, renowned behaviourist and author of Mine!, then explains why dogs resource guard and descrbies some of the simple steps breeders and owners can take to rectify this.
Killion continues by commenting on the importance of body handling, explaining that dogs don’t naturally enjoy body contact such as hugging, so it important they become desensitised to touching.
We then look at why we should not punish, and Dr Meghan Herron explains why it is easy to allow ourselves to be intimidated into punishment, but it is important to ignore this advice as evidence shows punishment leads to behavioural problems.
Next, Killion considers matching puppies to new owners. She explains that all of her puppies undergo two evaluations, one for conformation and one for personality. We hear from June and Irv Kruenkamp of TNG Dalmatians and Bull Terriers, who conduct the conformation assessments and Diane Zdrowski of Evanlake Cavaliers and Therapy Dogs, who conducts the temperament test, about what these two assessments involve, and what precisely they are looking for. Killion adds that experts disagree on the usefulness of puppy testing, explaining it’s origins and why many still choose to do it.
At 8-10 weeks the puppies go through another fear imprint phase. Killion advises not to place pups in their new homes during this time. She then covers some early training, going through simple foundations such as recalls, crate training, sitting before attention and treats, and walking on a lead. Killion also comments on the meaning of gazing and bonding as well as explaining that many trainers seem to have lost sight of the fact that obedience is only a component of a puppy’s education and not an end in itself.
The final age stage covered is 10-12 weeks. Killion shows us how to manage introducing new dogs as well as documenting a road trip she went on with the puppies. She also discusses when is best to vaccinate, and Dr Kenneth Leal explains how exactly vaccinations work. Killion then gives advice on how to find a good puppy class, and we hear from Dr Terry Bright, the director of the behavioural department at MSPCA, on her play and learn classes.
Killion ends the DVD by stressing that what happens in these first twelve weeks guarantees the road ahead for the puppies, and therefore we cannot underestimate the importance of this time.
The final disc is a recap of all of the above.