Many paws have walked the hills and shared their life with us. This blog tells the story of Drifter an ISDS registered Border Collie puppy as he learns about life and the experiences he will encounter.
Opinion is divided as to the best time for a puppy to leave the litter. The advantages of staying with the litter needs to be weighed against the advantages of settling in with their new family.
Staying with the litter allows the puppy to learn more about canine communication and how to deal appropriately with day to day encounters with other dogs. A problem often encountered with puppies that are deprived of play with other puppies is they have difficulties coping with other dogs as they mature. Puppies naturally learn how to deal with the daily frustrations encountered with litter brother and sisters and the consequences of not coping appropriately. Puppies that leave the litter too early do not experience these frustrations and can be difficult to handle becoming frustrated when they cannot get their own way.
The longer a puppy stays in the litter the less chance he has to learn human ways and what he will encounter in the big wide world. A puppy has significant capacity to learn during these early stages of development a capacity that cannot be repeated in the later stages of development.
Dogs that do not have the opportunity for regular positive interactions with both familiar and unfamiliar humans can be difficult to communicate and play with and can be shy around humans this in turn can lead to nervous aggression. An added complication is that some breeds mature more quickly than others so a six week old puppy of a small breed may be more mature than a eight week old puppy of a larger breed.
The current view is a puppy is ready to leave the litter between six and eight weeks but this has to be a compromise. The degree of socialisation and habituation that the breeder is able to give the puppies is a major consideration if the puppy is remaining with the breeder for longer. The importance of having as many humans of all ages positively interacting with the puppy should not be underestimated. The puppy should also be enjoying loads of new daily experiences and the individual attention that is all part of joining a human family.
Is is evident that Drifter already enjoys lots of positive socialisation and is more than capable of dealing with the daily frustrations that living with his brothers and sisters create. We have decided to bring Drifter home at seven weeks of age to build on this and introduce him to our world.
We have organised ourselves ready for our puppy. We have set up his Puppy Pen so that he has his own space in a part of the house with lots of activity but where he can have a sanctuary to rest and observe the novelty of his new home.
We have set his pen up with a clear distinction between sleeping, play and toilet areas. If a puppy has a space where these area are not distinguishable then it is more difficult for the puppy to practise appropriate toileting behaviours making house training more difficult. The door to exit his pen is sited so he exits from his sleeping play area rather than his toileting area.
From his pen Drifter will be able to observe the world around him. At this stage of development he will have a strong desire to please and will enjoy social contact. Our set up will ensure we will be able to better supervise these interactions making them pleasant events when he is out and about and we can focus on him. We will also be introducing him to our older dogs and cat. The puppy pen will help to ensure that these introductions are appropriate and time limiting for all concerned.
Drifter will be seven weeks old when he comes home and from this age puppies can become increasingly afraid of things they have not encountered before so the introduction to novel experiences will take place with care. In the coming weeks he will be experiencing and enjoying lots of different situations and environments.
Between seven weeks and three months is the most critical point in a dogs life for socialisation and habituation and it is important to make the most of this period to gently introduce new experiences. Play will be increasingly important to Drifter during this period for both mental and physical stimulation, and a great opportunity for us to build that enduring relationship that will last a lifetime.
We had already done our homework regarding the breed we wanted and found a good breeder that understands the importance of the socialisation and habituation process. The brain development of puppies will vary greatly at 7-8 weeks of life dependent on how they have been raised during this early period.
We had obtained lots of information on the puppies parents and met mum and the other collies that Janine and Gareth own. Behavioural traits are passed down by the parents and puppies learn from watching how their mother deals with life. The parents will have a profound effect on the puppies future behaviour and its capacity to cope with what it will encounter throughout its life.
We saw the environment that the dogs lived in and where our puppy would be raised for the first weeks of his life. These are the fundamentals of ensuring our puppy has the very best start to life.
When we got back off holiday we went to see the puppies which had grown and were becoming active. All the puppies were confident and relaxed at encountering unfamiliar people (us) and it was difficult to choose between them.
It is very easy for your heart to rule your head, choosing the one that looks cute or the little one sitting at the back nervously looking out on the world. It was very difficult to choose as all the puppies as they were all confident and relaxed.
I look for a puppy that has a mild reaction to unfamiliar sounds such as clapping of hands or dropping of keys but quickly recover and come to investigate the sound. I also look for a puppy that has the same reaction to unfamiliar people but quickly recover and approach newcomers and are happy to be handled.
All the puppies showed the traits we were looking for and so we then looked at confirmation and markings and our gut instinct to choose our puppy. I always aim for what I call a thinking puppy that stands back assesses the situation and then investigate. This was our Drifter.
Some people make the mistake in thinking one puppy is very much like the next. In fact by the time our puppy comes to live with us he will be a unique individual ready to react to life in his own individual way.
This will be due to his own particular genetic make up and the experiences he has already encountered whilst with his litter brother and sisters. Research also tells us that the experiences that Blue, his mother encountered whilst pregnant will also have influenced the neurological development of our puppy. These influences range from diet through to the stress and anixiety she encountered during the gestation period. This tells us that from the moment of conception his health both physically and neurologically will have been heavily influenced by our breeder. This is why choosing the right breeder is so important.
His genetics will be the blueprint for his behaviours. Our ancestors over generations selectively bred dogs for useful traits for particular types of work. Our puppy Border Collie will have a predisposition towards a set of inherent behaviours typical of the breed. These inherited predispositions will form the raw material that we will be working with to make the best of our puppy.
During the early development of breeds the main attribute was their working ability rather than their looks. In more recent times it has become the predominant requirement to breed dogs that are “typical” of the breed in appearance alone for the show ring. Physical appearance has become the significant driver in success in the show ring. Only the most caring show breeders are concerned about maintaining the working ability, genetic health, and temperament of their stock. Nowadays many of our pet dogs come from show stock.
There are still Border Collies that are bred to work, this is why we decided on our ISDS registered puppy. The working Border Collie is an intelligent breed that require plenty of exercise. They are energetic, have a high work ethic and enjoy plenty of mental and physical stimulation.
The mistake many people make is choosing a dog because of the way they look rather than considering how it is likely to behave. Choosing a puppy with the right genetic makeup that suits the reason you want a puppy will help to ensure that your mature dog meets your expectations. Choosing a dog with a high work ethic and then not finding the time to meet its genetic needs ends up with the dog driving their owners mad and the dog demented in the process. A situation so often seen in Rescue Kennels.
Having previously owned and worked Border Collies in Search and Rescue has given us the experience to plan the future training and socialisation for our puppy and ensure we obtain our puppy from a breeder we can have confidence in.
As we have a purpose for having a new puppy to share our lives with we contacted Denwyn Border Collies. I knew that the puppies they bred would fulfil this purpose but more about this later.
Visiting their website http://www.denwynbordercollies.co.uk/ illustrates the experience they have in breeding and working Border Collies. The care they show in meeting the health and welfare needs of their dogs and puppies is very evident. The videos show both the motivation and tenacity their dogs have to work. So often these days this tenacity and motivation to work has sadly been bred out of many of the working breeds our ancestors bred.
Our puppy was born on the 31st January so eight weeks to wait but we will be able to see the litter shortly.