My goal is to raise confident and stable bearded collies who are willing and able to do any job asked of them. To that end, I use a combination of puppy-rearing protocols (Puppy Culture, Avidog, etc) to help support our puppies' development into smart, inquisitive little dogs.
My own dogs are house dogs and family members first and foremost; the expectation is that the same will be true for our puppies, whether they go to show, sport, or companion homes. I am always proud and happy to support homes who are interested in competing with their dogs and welcome your questions!
Before puppies are born, we spend most of our time nesting (and shopping!) and preparing for them to arrive. It's still important that momma dog stays fit so she's healthy and ready for labor and delivery. With under a week until puppies are due, we get an x-ray to confirm the number expected.
Neonatal Period ~0-14 Days Old
After puppies are born, the focus in this early time is on quiet time, bonding, and keeping everyone warm and fed. At 3 days old, we begin trimming puppy nails; nails are trimmed every few days from then on until puppies go to their new homes. From days 3 to 16, we perform early neurological stimulation exercises on each puppy; the benefits of ENS exercises include faster recovery from and increased tolerance to stress. We also do early scent introduction (ESI) exercises to help develop their olfactory systems.
Transitional Period ~14-21 Days Old
When puppies eyes and ears begin to open, their exploration of the world begins. While eyes are opening, we are very careful to keep the lighting gentle until they adjust to the world. We add the litter pan to their whelping box as they develop the instinct to move away from the nest to potty and keep their bed space clean. New toys and tactile objects are added to the box for them to experience. From this point forward, we introduce one novel object each day to their lives.
Socialization - 3-4 Weeks Old
Now that puppies can hear, we begin sound protocols - playing classical music, habituating them to various recordings of loud sounds from the world, working on their startle recovery, and exposing them to things like the vacuum and blow dryer. Puppies start eating a kibble/meat mush while continuing to nurse from mom. And as they begin to move around the world more, we give them obstacles to learn to work through. Puppies also typically move into the much larger weaning pen during this week with more space for toys and activities - they are busting out of their whelping box! By this point we've also begun very light grooming habituation with an occasional turn on the grooming table as well.
Socialization - 4-5 Weeks Old
Puppies continue their exploration of the world this week. If the weather is conducive, we begin to play outside and explore the yard. Barrier challenges set them up for success building confidence. We begin to teach them to take treats, play clicker games, and do basic training. Grooming work on the table continues and they usually get their first bath around this time.
Socialization - 5-6 Weeks Old
We continue to introduce novel objects daily to puppies throughout this time. Puppies become more and more accustomed to pottying outside and often will try their hardest to wait until they are let out in the morning - if they can't hold it, they are very good about using their litter pan. They are eating more and more dog food now and less from mom, so we begin to feed them in crates and separate them to get them comfortable with this. We spend a lot of time outdoors where they can run and play and explore the hillside and we also take short car rides up and down the dirt road so they are used to the bumps and noise.
Socialization - 6-7 Weeks Old
Puppies continue to meet new people and take on new experiences. We take longer car rides down to listen to highway noise or go through the car wash. Training continues in every way from grooming to handling to basic skills like attention, crate training, housebreaking, impulse control, and leash walking. If conditions are safe we even do short off leash hikes in our woods.
Socialization - 7-8 Weeks Old
In their 8th week, puppies are preparing to transition to their new homes. All of their prior activities continue and we have experienced bearded collie breeders visit to assist with puppy evaluations. Temperament tests are conducted in a new-to-puppies location by strangers they've never met, and then we do structural evaluations - all of this information helps inform the choices in where each puppy should go.
Socialization - Beyond 8 Weeks
It goes without saying that the foundation of the first 8 weeks is just that, a beginning. Puppy homes are expected to take that foundation and continue to build on it with additional socialization and training. If you do not teach your bearded collie puppy manners, it will not have any!