top of page

Building Resilient Pups
Neonatal Curriculum: Day 3-16

Puppies are born with their eyes and ears sealed. They acclimate to their surroundings by touch, smell and how their bodies travel through space, the vestibular system.

Early Scent Introduction (ESI)

Early Scent Introduction is a concept developed by Dr. Gayle Watkins and her Avidog program, a Golden Retriever breeder, scientist, researcher and competitor in a range of dog sports. ESI is claimed to increase neuroplasticity in neonates and prepare dogs to be successful in work and everyday life. Neuroplasticity refers to the brain's ability to modify, change, and adapt both structure and function throughout life and in response to experiences. Each day for days 3-16 pups are introduced to a new strong scent for a few seconds and given the opportunity to interact with it or move away from it. Scents range from leather, to fur, to spices. This experience is advantageous during this particular developmental stage to help build resilience and brain function.

Since pups this young have not opened their eyes or ears yet, scent is a powerful way for them to experience the world.

Puppy Massage/Ten Step Handling
Our ten step handling procedure starts at just three days with gentle massage. Since touch is one of the senses available at this time, it is an excellent opportunity to begin to teach calm and self soothing practices. It helps to build more touch tolerance in our puppies. We rub their ears, eyes, nose, mouth, tap their nails, rub their backs, tug gently on their tails, massage their paws, and rub their bellies. These exercises increase as the puppy matures and is able to tolerate and enjoy being held in various ways. We encourage you to continue to do it once you take your puppy home.

Early Neurological Stimulation (ENS)

Early Neurological Stimulation is a concept developed by Dr Carmen Battaglia, a breeder, AKC judge, researcher and writer. It encompasses tactile stimulation, thermal stimulation and exposure to mild stressors, which improve your puppies’ stress responses. These exercises are performed once a day from days 3-16. Using a protocol of five exercises, puppies are gently moved through different positions. This gives them opportunities for human interaction while increasing a tolerance for being held and increases brain development.

Benefits of introducing early puppy stimulation exercises

  • Boost brain development

  • Improves circulation and immune system

  • Stimulates the neurological system

  • Improves stress responses in later life 

  • Encourages a daily physical check of each puppy


This protocol takes advantage of this unique time in the puppies development when neuro pathways are forming, not only increasing the amount of neuropathways but also the size of them. Utilizing these exercises gives our puppies another opportunity to gain resilience and comfort when being handled. It is believed that ENS performed during this time helps increase their ability to fight disease, handle new situations and have increased vestibular strength.

Socialization & Handling week 3–9

We use puppies' developmental benchmarks as indicators as to what to introduce and when. Starting gradually we build exposure as the weeks move on, starting in the whelping box around three and a half weeks and moving into various classroom settings throughout our home and property.

Whelping Box Exposure Activities:

  • Various household items; pots, pans, blocks of wood, fruit

  • Items that don’t move

  • Items that do move

  • Balls of various sizes and textures

  • Tunnel

  • Sit & spin

  • Overhead movement

  • Obstacle courses

  • Various footing

  • Adult dogs that aren't mom

  • Stroller rides

  • Outside puppy exposure

  • Wobble Board

  • Things with wheels

  • Activity cube

  • Sound desensitization

  • And more!

bottom of page