The past four years our company Training Canines, LLC has worked with over 25 plus litters of Golden Retrievers, Labradors, and Bernese Mountain Dogs. We work with local breeders, and bring the mom and the litter of puppies to our facility when they are seven to ten days old. The day they arrive, the training starts! We keep mom with us until the puppies are 8 weeks old, and then she goes back to our breeder. We continue working with the puppies until they are between 13 and 15 weeks and then they leave for their forever home.
During these past years, we have studied how the puppies learn and kept track of our results. We found what works and what doesn’t. Our system is ever-evolving, as we learn something with each and every litter. Amazingly so, we found that we could actually start telling the temperament of puppies as quickly as 3-4 weeks old. In labs, we can even tell their personality by the texture of their coat!
The cognitive abilities, of a 4-week-old puppy are amazing! It all started when we had a litter of puppies that at 4 weeks old were all eating each other’s poop! As many of you know, this is a learned behavior, so how did they know to do this? Mom! They watched her and began to imitate her. At 14 days their eyes opened. It takes several days for their eyes to become adjusted to light and their vision is blurry. Since the puppies were doing this by 28 days old, this meant these puppies learned by imitation of their mom in only a week to ten days! We could not believe it. So the light bulb went on for us. What if we could teach them by watching themselves on a television at a mere four weeks old? We ran all the scenarios and we have now successfully taught 7 litters (approximately 65 puppies) to learn basic obedience from watching other puppies on television. We found not only did they learn this without luring and food, they also generalized much better. By taking the “human” out of the equation, puppies were sitting further away, and even behind us. Not the traditional way, where you ask a puppy to sit, and they come face forward right in front of you. It was unbelievable!
All of this led us to search what science had learned. We searched for studies that would help us further our program. What did researchers find? Were they seeing what we were seeing? We found a study that was done at the Animal Welfare Science Center in Australia in 2011. It was published in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior. They cited that puppies could learn as early as 3 weeks of age. It also stated by doing so this could potentially increase the number of dogs that are well adjusted for human society and thus reduce the number surrendered to shelters. Low and behold, this is what we have been saying for the past four years! This is what we have been doing! We searched for additional research projects and we have shared some of them with you below. You can follow the links to see the articles.
PUPPY POWER! USING SOCIAL COGNITION RESEARCH TASKS TO IMPROVE SOCIALIZATION PRACTICES FOR DOMESTIC DOGS
Studies of social development in puppies would enable researchers to explore whether encouragement of the skills examined have a positive effect on behavior as adults, and should thus be specifically incorporated into socialization practices by all breeders and new owners.
DOGS CAN CLASSIFY COMPLEX PHOTOS IN CATEGORIES LIKE HUMANS DO
Friederike Range and colleagues from the University of Vienna in Austria have shown for the first time that dogs can classify complex color photographs and place them into categories in the same way that humans do. The dogs successfully demonstrated their learning through the use of computer automated touch-screens, eliminating any human influence.
YOU CAN TEACH AN OLD DOG NEW TRICKS, BUT YOUNGER DOGS LEARN FASTER
The older dogs required more trials than younger dogs. It showed older dogs are less flexible in their way of thinking. Older dogs find it more difficult to change the habits they have learned.
The dogs reached a learning criteria in which they were again shown two pictures on the touchscreen.
CAN DOGS LEARN FROM TV?
DOG SPOTS THE DOG: DOGS RECOGNIZE THE DOG SPECIES AMONG SEVERAL OTHER SPECIES ON A COMPUTER SCREEN
According to research by Dr. Dominique Autier-Dérian from the LEEC and National Veterinary School in Lyon in France and his colleagues, dogs pick out faces of other dogs, irrespective of breeds, among human and other domestic and wild animal faces and can group them into a category of their own.
THE POSITIVE APPROACH
IF YOU’RE AGGRESSIVE, YOUR DOG WILL BE TOO, SAYS VETERINARY STUDY
In a new, year-long University of Pennsylvania survey of dog owners who use confrontational or aversive methods to train aggressive pets, veterinary researchers have found that most of these animals will continue to be aggressive unless training techniques are modified.
DOG-DIRECTED SPEECH: WHY DO WE USE IT AND DO DOGS PAY ATTENTION TO IT?
Pet-directed speech is strikingly similar to infant-directed speech, a peculiar speaking pattern with a higher pitch and slower tempo known to engage infants’ attention and promote language learning.
DOGS IMITATE NOVEL HUMAN ACTIONS AND STORE THEM IN MEMORY
Dogs can learn, retain and replay actions taught by humans after a short delay. According to a new study this deferred imitation provides the first evidence of dogs’ cognitive ability to both encode and recall actions.
HERE’S LOOKING AT YOU: DOGS CAN DISCRIMINATE EMOTIONS OF HUMAN FACES FROM PHOTOS
A team of cognitive scientists has demonstrated for the first time that dogs can differentiate between happy and angry human faces. Dogs may have developed this skill due to their close relationship with people, in which the animals have learned to understand certain aspects of human non-verbal communication.
MORE FAT, LESS PROTEIN IMPROVES CANINE OLFACTORY ABILITIES
From sniffing out bombs and weapons to uncovering criminal evidence, dogs can help save lives and keep the peace. Now, researchers have uncovered how to improve dogs’ smelling skills through diet, by cutting protein and adding fats.
WOULD A LAB KNOW WHEN TO STOP EATING? NEVER!
A May 3 study in Cell Metabolism links a gene alteration specifically found in Labrador Retrievers and related flat coat retrievers to greater food-motivated behavior, describing the first gene associated with canine obesity. The variation also occurs more frequently in Labradors chosen as assistance dogs and might explain why these canines seem more trainable with food rewards.