Our experience with both the training and veterinary sides of the dog world gives us a unique knowledge of how to raise confident puppies.
Although golden retrievers are generally a very stable, outgoing breed, they still need to receive plenty of socialization and exposure to different environments. We believe that a huge amount of learning takes place before the puppies ever set foot out of the whelping box, and we try to maximize this precious period of time with them.
When a puppy is born, it immediately begins to learn about the environment. Most of their education for those first few days is based on smell and touch, which allows them to nurse and to begin to learn how to navigate amongst their siblings. We also take advantage of this very touch-sensitive time to begin to introduce them to human touch and human smells. We make sure to touch all of their feet, ears, tails, and muzzles to give them a very early jumpstart on handling training. Our litters are all born in our homes, so that we can be with them as much as possible, both to help mom out and to ensure that they are progressing as they should be.
At about 2 weeks of age, the puppies begin to gain some more senses. Their eyes will start to open, and their ears will start to pick up on sounds. At this time, we will start playing the radio or the TV softly in the background, let the puppies hear recordings of dog show sounds, and let them hear the sound of a vacuum cleaner a few rooms away. At around 4 weeks, the puppies are starting to get much stronger and have an easier job moving around. We will start to expose them to different surfaces and to puppy adventure boxes and agility equipment. When they are exposed to new and potentially alarming changes in environment at this age, surrounded by littermates, they learn to explore with boldness and confidence.
As the puppies keep getting bigger and stronger, we continue to challenge them at age appropriate levels. They will start to go outside to feel the sensation of grass, gravel, concrete, and other surfaces. They will continue to get handled multiple times a day, and exposed to new and different people, including children. They will also get a chance to see dogs of different shapes and sizes, but always dogs that we know are healthy, vaccinated, and safe for the puppies to be around. The puppies will have had colored ribbons to identify them, and those will be switched over for collars. This very early introduction to the sensation of a collar will simplify the introduction to leash walking. Puppies will also get the chance to go for car rides, and to see that the world goes beyond the house and the yard.
By providing our puppies with a solid start in exposure and socialization, combined with early vet care and quality nutrition, we can set them up for optimal success when they go on to their forever homes. For puppies who go into a training program, this kind of work will continue for as long as they are in our care. For those who go home at 8 weeks of age, we will provide each new home with information on how to safely continue to socialize their new family member.