Photo: Manon Nuvelstijn-Proost
There are many stories and advice about the education and development of puppies. We would like to create some order in all stories and misunderstandings. We will go deeper into a number of things that are often being said without any substantiation for them. We will go for exercises, the famous / infamous 5 minute rule when walking, and busy puppies that seem tirelessly.
Issue 1: I do not start practicing / training until later, then he learns everything better
At first there is quite a lot to be said. Dogs can usually start a sport around the age of 1 year. There are also preparatory activities that you can start with earlier, such as e.g. pre-agility. But then you only have an eye for the future sport. The basic preparation for a sport is the good development of the motor skills and fitness of the future sport dog. He must be physically ready to start the sport without problems. That development actually starts in the nest.
The nervous system is basically ready to be used at birth of the puppy. It only needs to be activated. With each activity the insulation layer around the nerves (myelin) is made thicker . That layer ensures that the speed of a stimulus in that nerve increases and that the stimulus becomes more specific because it can not leak to other nerve pathways. A nerve with a thickened myelin sheath always remains intact.
At one point – in dogs we think about 6 to 7 months – all nerve connections that are not regularly used are removed by the body. At a later time in life, these nerve connections are no longer easily established. You can still learn a lot, but the self-evidence of automatisms (also called muscle memory) and learning ability is greatly reduced. Children who learn two languages within the first ten years of life will learn all languages more easily for life. That learning ability is activated. Others may learn a foreign language, but they will never be as extremely talented as those who have learned it at a young age. You will never forget cycling when you have learned that at your young age. That is why it is better to teach your pup to learn balance and Core Stability with a lot of different circumstances at an early stage. The ease of movement is learned in the first months. Then you have to row with the straps your dog has. It is therefore unfortunate if you miss this first period unused.
Issue 2: 5 minute regulation for walking
A rule circulates that a pup can walk for 5 minutes per month of life. We do not agree with this. It is too rigid a rule, which of course has been drawn out as a precaution because puppy owners tend to walk too early for too long. Especially if you already have several dogs.
You do not walk extensively with a puppy. You can take it with you in a baby carrier on your stomach or in a cart if you walk with the other dogs. It is a good idea to put him on the ground for a few minutes at regular intervals and let him move freely. Always look for alternating places that are safe for the puppy. He thus receives a wealth of experiences, which he can process well. He can also look at his surroundings and socialize in this way. Take a good look at your pup. If he gets tired – and that is with a lot of impressions soon – you stop loosening and he goes back into the cart or baby carrier. Later on the walk you can repeat this ritual.
Issue 3: My puppy is very busy. He has to become even more tired, otherwise he will not handle it.
Puppies like to play and can run around unrestrained. Sometimes he can not calm down. People then think that you have to make your puppy tired. That he has too much energy when he is running around like that. Often the opposite is true. The puppy can be tired and over-stimulated. He does not really know what he is doing anymore. Apart from the fact that it can be dangerous for him because he no longer has any control over his movements, he will become increasingly restless. You actually train him to become busy. Just when a puppy is so unrestrainedly active, you give him a time-out in the bench. First rest and then he can start new activities again with fresh courage.