Puppy Enrichment Program

Handling- Mild stress handling during the neonate period

Dr. Carmen Battaglia’s Early Neuro Stimulation protocol Days 3-16

In this exercise, each puppy is held for 5 seconds in various holds that can create stress.  Puppies exposed to mildly stressful experiences from a very early age (1-6) weeks usually develop into dogs possessing superior problem solving ability, with less emotional imbalance than their counterparts raised without such stimulation. In the young pup, in addition to raising the heart rate, stress causes an involuntary hormonal reaction in the adrenal-pituitary system, and helps in resisting disease and handling stress. The overall effect of this is to prime the entire system, building it up and making it more resilient to emotionally challenging experiences later in life. We find that at each particular stage of growth, the specific types of handling enhance the development of pups and orient them in a positive manner to later life. When puppies receive consistent, non-traumatic handling, they become more outgoing and friendly and show less inclination to be fearful once they are older.

Early Scent Introduction

This exercise is done days 3-16, once daily for a total of one minute per puppy. Thirteen natural scents (dirt, grass, leaves, bark, pine cones, moss etc.) are offered to each puppy for 5 sec. We are looking for one of three common reactions. If they love the scent they will try to bury their head in the scent and move toward it. If they do not love the scent they will turn their head away from the scent and may even make sounds. And if they do not care either way about the scent the puppy will not move toward or away from the scent.

At High Altitude Labs we schedule regular periods of handling making sure that each puppy receives daily handling from different members of the family.

Mild stress handling during the transitional (13-20) days

The transitional period begins when the puppies have fully opened their eyes consists of:

Elevation Exercise

We hold the pup up in the midair until the pup begins to squirm and protest. We then draw the pup close and stroke the pup gently to allow the pup to settle down.

Dominance Exercise

We place the pup on a soft surface, roll the pup on it’s back, and hold the pup there for 15 seconds. After the pup begins to struggle and squeal, which most do, we turn him upright again and stroke him gently. After a week of this the pups will associate the gentle petting with the end of stress. It also helps dispose the pups to human presence and handling, which will be increased in the upcoming weeks.

Grooming Exercise

Weekly grooming sessions will be performed on each pup that teaches the puppies how to be handled and touched. The pup’s will get their ears cleaned, nails clipped, and a light brushing on their fur. At first the pups will protest this grooming exercise but after a few sessions they will actually enjoy it!

Socialization Period

By Socialization I mean two things: first, the positive adjustment a puppy makes to the many aspects of their life, whether other dogs, people, places, or objects; second, what we do to foster this. A puppy is extremely sensitive to socializing experiences between 3-12 weeks of age, when their effects are permanent, whether GOOD or BAD they are FOREVER!

Restraint and social dominance tests (Aptitude Testing)

The next two phases include the restraint and social dominance tests. These tests are given right after each other and measure puppies’ tendencies toward dominance or submission, as well as their willingness to forgive.

Submissiveness test

To test submissiveness the pup is rolled over on their back while the trainer pets the pup on the tummy. After 30 seconds the pup is placed back on all fours and stroked gently from head to tail. How the pup reacts to this will depict the degree of submissiveness/dominance and the pups willingness to forgive after being punished.

Dominance test

The elevation dominance test- the pup is held in midair for thirty seconds. This takes all control away from the pup. The amount of struggle that is displayed by the pup during this 30 seconds where there is a loss of control will tell us more about how this pup may handle situations like a vet’s office or a groomer or any other situation where there is a loss of control.

Touch sensitivity

Testing touch sensitivity is done by squeezing the webbing between the pup’s toes and counting to 10. Release the pressure when the puppy responds to the pressure. This will measure the pup’s sensitivity to touch.

Sound sensitivity

Testing sound sensitivity is done by dropping something that will make noise close to the pup. How the pup reacts to the loud sound will tell us if the pup has a sensitivity to sound. This can also be done while the pup is eating so that there is something pleasing going on simultaneously therefor minimizing the pup’s sensitivity to loud noises.

Sight sensitivity

Testing sight sensitivity is done by using a strange object near the puppy and observe his/her reaction to the unfamiliar object.


Breeders who are genuinely concerned about their pups set aside quality time for daily encounters because they understand how much of a pup’s future personality is shaped by these seemingly insignificant moments. This play is creative in the deepest sense of the term, allowing the finest elements of a puppy’s personality to develop.

Puppy placement should never be arbitrary. Rather, it should be the result of careful consideration and planning, something that evolves out of a respect for the puppy and person alike. Different puppies are suited to different circumstances, and it is important for a breeder to come to an accurate appraisal for each pup’s possibilities.

Notes will be taken on each individual puppy from birth till they leave our home. These interactions and notes taken will enable us to be very familiar with each puppy’s adaptability to various circumstances and overall temperament. This, coupled with extensive genetic background knowledge and our commitment to understanding what our clients want in a puppy, we are confident that we will pick the right dog to suit both you and the puppy’s needs. Our goal is to place each person with the puppy who best fits expectations, experience, and lifestyle.

Researchers have tried to explain how much of a puppy’s personality depends on inherited traits and how much is due to their environment, or their early socialization and training- things you can control . The conclusion was that about 35 percent of a pup’s personality traits such as shyness, dominance, and other factors are inherited. This leaves 65 percent of their adult personality to be shaped by their environment and experiences.

High Altitude Labs believes in and practices “The Rule of Sevens” which was developed by expert dog trainer in the 1980’s Pat Schaap which states that by the time a puppy is 7 weeks old, he/she should have…..

        Been on 7 different types of surfaces: carpet, concrete, wood, vinyl, gravel, dirt, wood chips, etc.

        Played with 7 different types of objects: big balls, small balls, soft fabric toys, fuzzy toys, squeaky

Toys, paper or cardboard items, metal items, sticks, hose pieces, etc.

Been in 7 different locations: front yard, back yard, basement, kitchen, car, garage, laundry room, bathroom, crate, etc.

Met and played with 7 new people: children, older adults, someone with a cane, walking stick, or walker; someone in a wheelchair; etc.

Been exposed to 7 challenges: climb on a box, climb off a box, go through a tunnel, climb up steps, go down steps, climb over obstacles, play hide and seek, go in and out of a doorway, run around a fence, etc.

Eaten from 7 different containers: metal, plastic, cardboard, glass, china, pie plate, frying pan, etc.

Eaten in 7 different locations: crate, yard, kitchen, basement, laundry room, living room, bathroom, etc. 

By four weeks the puppies will start eliminating on different surfaces, this will help the puppy to be comfortable eliminating on various surfaces. For example, if the pup is boarded and needs to eliminate on concrete or if their new owner prefers them to eliminate on gravel, grass, bark etc. In addition, pups will be fed outside at first. It is natural for puppies to wonder away from a feeding and relieve themselves. Feeding them outside will help them to learn the routine of eating, eliminating outside, and coming inside. By the time your puppy goes home with you they will be well on their way to being housetrained.

Puppies will be exposed to crate training, car rides, and have been to home depot (one of our favorite spots to train in public)

Aptitude Testing

Aptitude testing will be done as close to 49 days as possible because at this time their neurological development has reached adult levels. Note that between 8-10 week pups enter their “fear period” and during this period testing should not be done as it will be a misinterpretation. This test will involve the elevation and dominance exercise as well as a following and responsiveness exercise. Sight sensitivity will be tested as well as the pups reaction to a strange object.

During the fear/avoidance period which occurs between 8-10 weeks a pup that was confident and precocious a week earlier can suddenly appear tentative and cautious. This might make you question if something is wrong. Be reassured that what is most likely occurring is merely the pup’s natural adjustment to full adult sensory capacities. Please be cautious during this phase and use it to your advantage. Your patience and understanding strongly encourage the pup to come out of this phase having created a strong bond with you. This phase is normal and it is important for you to support this phase by not exposing the pup to highly stressful situations during this time. During this period pups are especially sensitive to traumatic experiences and poor handling. Traumatic experiences during this time has been shown to have lasting emotional scars. Socialization is very important during this sensitive phase so it is important to balance socialization and support during this phase. Creating new experiences that are not traumatic and easy for the pup to deal with will set him/her up for success, and this will enable a natural recovery back to his/her normal self by the end of the tenth week.

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