I’ll give a longer update in a day or two, but all the Hokkatatoes are doing well! They made it past the critical 72-hour window and have moved on to work towards the next benchmark of eye and ear-opening, which should happen sometime in the area of Day 10 (roughly the 18th, give or take some time).
Umma is being an attentive mother, though since the 72-hour window passed she’s wanted short breaks here and there to spend time with the humans.
When we first started making plans to have this litter at our home, we asked Umma’s breeder at Hokusei Kashinoki what kind of resources we should read/find/research to learn about how to do this right (in addition to her very helpful advice!). One of the places she directed us to was a Facebook group about something called Puppy Culture. After reading some posts and perusing their website we were convinced this was the perfect guide to help us raise the best puppy citizens possible.
We bought the Puppy Culture DVD set and the accompanying workbook, which addresses some of the pre-whelping aspects, neonatal aspects (the phase we are in now until their eyes open), and socialization. So far, apart from weighing the pups twice daily and recording the progress, most of the exercises and recommendations still lay in our future.
The purpose of this post is to introduce the concept of Early Neurological Stimulation (ENS), the first real tangible part of the Puppy Culture process we’re implementing. ENS is a protocol of five different exercises developed based on research into early sensory stimulation that will help the puppies for the rest of their lives. Applying this protocol once daily on days 3-16 has proven to lead to adult dogs with stronger heart beats, stronger heart rates, a faster adrenal system, greater tolerance to disease, and greater tolerance to stress.
Note: This is different than regular handling and cuddling puppies get from their breeders through the normal course of raising them, which lowers stress levels. Both things work together to give the puppies a strong neurological base.
We started the protocol on Day 3, running each puppy through each exercise and took some pictures on Day 5 to share.
This exposes the puppy to a new feeling, in this case having a Q-tip tickle them between the toes for 3-5 seconds. Green, the female black and tan Hokkatato, is our model.
Head Held Up
In this exercise we hold the puppy with his head held up for five seconds. The goal is for the puppy to learn how to deal with blood draining from their brain, to get the heart to then push blood back up to maintain equilibrium. Orange, the male brindle Hokkatato, models.
Head Held Down
Essentially this is the opposite of Head Held Up – blood rushes to the brain for five seconds, so get the heart to pump blood the other way. Pink, the brindle female, models. (Yes, this one is blurry – it’s the one exercise none of the puppies enjoy. Over time the idea is they should adapt and it won’t be as big of a deal.)
In this exercise we hold the puppy on its back for five seconds. Blue, the black and tan boy, models this one. He’s so chill nothing bothers him.
This exercise is a little different. We take a washcloth, get it wet, wring it out, and put it in the fridge for half an hour. Then we put each puppy, four paws down, on the cold cloth. The idea is to get them used to drastic temperature changes. I have to say, I’m not really sure if this applies in the same way to the cold weather Hokkaido Ken – all five pups thought this was fantastic and didn’t make one move to get away from the cold. Purple, the red female, models here.
We’ll continue through Day 16 and while it may not be obvious to the puppies’ owners in their forever homes, the exercises should help form solid canine citizens.
All in all it’s going well! I’ll do a more thorough Week 1 wrap-up soon.