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Early Puppy Development: From Breeder Insights to Temperament Testing

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For anyone dreaming of bringing a new puppy into their home, understanding the journey of a puppy's early life is both fascinating and essential. The first few weeks are not just about growth; they're about laying the groundwork for a well-adjusted, healthy adult dog. In this blog post, we'll dive into the vital early stages of puppy development, emphasising the importance of neurological stimulation, the responsibilities of breeders, and the intriguing process of temperament testing.

We'll explore the critical role breeders play in nurturing puppies during their formative days, from essential neurological stimulation exercises to proper socialisation and care. These initial experiences are key in shaping a puppy’s future temperament, behaviour, and adaptability.

Additionally, we'll delve into the details of temperament testing, such as the Volhard Puppy Aptitude Test. We'll explain what these tests involve and how their results can help prospective owners choose the right puppy for their home and lifestyle.

For situations where breeders may not conduct formal temperament tests, we'll provide guidance on how to assess a puppy's temperament yourself. Knowing what to look for and how to interpret a puppy's behaviour during your visit is invaluable in finding a compatible canine companion.

Join us as we navigate the essential early stages of a puppy's development, offering insights and tips to assist you in making informed decisions as you search for the ideal four-legged addition to your family.

Early Puppy Development

Understanding the stages of puppy development is crucial for grasping their growing needs.

Neonatal Period (Birth to 2 Weeks):

  • Puppies are born blind and deaf, relying completely on their mother.
  • The focus is on weight gain and physical development. Breeders provide a warm, safe environment and monitor health closely.

Transitional Period (2 to 4 Weeks):

  • Puppies start to see and hear, stand, walk, and recognize their surroundings.
  • Breeders begin gentle handling and introduce mild stimuli to aid sensory development.

Socialisation Period (4 to 12 Weeks):

  • A vital time for learning social skills from their mother, littermates, humans, and other animals.
  • Breeders ensure exposure to various sounds, environments, and experiences.

Juvenile Period (3 to 6 Months):

  • Puppies grow and become more independent, exploring their surroundings actively.
  • Ongoing training and socialisation are crucial to encourage positive behaviours.

Role of Breeders in Early Puppy Development

  • Nurturing Environment: Breeders ensure a safe, clean, and stimulating environment for puppies, including proper bedding and play areas.
  • Health and Nutrition: Regular veterinary care and balanced nutrition are provided for both the mother and puppies.
  • Early Neurological Stimulation: Breeders might use specific exercises to boost nervous system development, leading to better temperament and stress tolerance.
  • Socialization and Exposure: Introducing puppies to different stimuli helps develop adaptable, well-rounded dogs.
  • Foundation for Training: Basic training and housebreaking often begin while still with the breeder, setting the stage for future training.

Understanding these stages and the breeder's role in puppy development helps potential owners appreciate the factors contributing to the health and temperament of their future pet, emphasising the importance of selecting a committed and responsible breeder.

Early Neurological Stimulation (ENS) Exercises

ENS exercises are a set of specific stimuli applied to puppies in the first few weeks of life. These exercises are designed to activate the neurological system, fostering neural development and enhancing overall physiological performance.

Benefits of ENS Exercises

  • Improved Stress Tolerance: Puppies that undergo ENS often develop better stress tolerance and cope more effectively with pressure.
  • Enhanced Immune System: ENS can lead to a stronger immune system, potentially reducing health issues later in life.
  • Better Problem-Solving Skills: Dogs that experience ENS typically show improved problem-solving abilities and adaptability.
  • Greater Temperament Stability: ENS may lead to a more balanced temperament, with dogs showing less fear and more confidence.

Common ENS Exercises

  • Tactile Stimulation: Gently stimulating the puppy’s toes with a Q-tip or soft brush.
  • Head Held Erect: Holding the puppy upright to stimulate the vestibular system.
  • Head Pointed Down: Gently tilting the puppy’s head downwards as an additional vestibular exercise.
  • Supine Position: Placing the puppy on its back in the palm of your hand.
  • Thermal Stimulation: Brief exposure to a cool, damp towel.

Timeline for ENS Exercises

  • These exercises are typically conducted from the third to the sixteenth day after birth, a crucial period for neurological development.
  • Each exercise is performed gently and briefly to avoid overstimulation.

Impact on Puppy Development

  • Correct and consistent implementation of ENS exercises can have lasting positive impacts on a puppy’s physical and emotional health.
  • ENS helps prepare puppies for a life full of diverse experiences and challenges, aiding in their development into well-adjusted adult dogs.

Responsibilities of Breeders in Puppy Development

Responsible breeders are integral in shaping a puppy’s early life, focusing on:

  • Creating a Stimulating and Safe Environment: A clean, nurturing space with toys and gradual exposure to new environments.
  • Monitoring Health and Growth: Regular veterinary check-ups, developmental monitoring, vaccinations, and parasite control.
  • Ensuring Proper Nutrition: A balanced diet for both puppies and the nursing mother, transitioning to high-quality puppy food during weaning.

Importance of Socialization and Exposure

  • Early Socialisation: Introducing puppies to various stimuli and positive interactions to develop confident, well-socialised dogs.
  • Handling and Habituation: Acclimating puppies to human touch, household sounds, and different textures and surfaces.

Nutrition and Health Care Essentials

  • Feeding Protocols: Following vet-recommended feeding guidelines and monitoring for allergies or intolerances.
  • Healthcare Regimen: Implementing a comprehensive healthcare plan, including deworming, flea control, and vaccinations.

Responsible breeders understand that the care and experiences provided during the early weeks significantly impact a puppy’s long-term health and temperament. Their dedication to comprehensive care, socialisation, and early training prepares puppies for a smooth transition to their forever homes. This commitment showcases their love for the breed and their devotion to each puppy’s well-being.

Introduction to Temperament Testing in Puppies

Understanding a puppy's temperament is crucial for prospective dog owners. Temperament testing is a systematic approach used to evaluate a puppy's behavioural tendencies and personality traits. These tests and observations provide insights into a puppy's nature, such as assertiveness, sociability, sensitivity, and responses to various stimuli.

Purpose of Temperament Testing

  • Assessing Individual Personalities: Each puppy has a unique personality. Temperament testing helps identify these individual differences that might not be obvious during casual observation.
  • Predicting Future Behaviour: The behaviours shown in these tests often give clues about how the puppy may act as an adult, like whether they might be more bold or shy.
  • Ensuring Suitable Matches: The goal of temperament testing is to ensure that each puppy finds a home that fits its personality, fostering a harmonious relationship between the dog and its owner.
  • Reducing Future Problems: Matching puppies with the right homes based on their temperament can decrease the chance of future behavioural problems.
  • Guiding Training and Socialization: Knowing a puppy's temperament helps new owners tailor their training and socialisation efforts.
  • Benefiting Breeders and Owners: For breeders, temperament testing showcases their commitment to responsible breeding. For owners, it gives confidence in choosing a compatible puppy.

Volhard's Puppy Aptitude Test (PAT)

The Volhard's PAT is a well-known method to evaluate the behavioural tendencies and temperament of puppies.

Components of the Test

  • Social Attraction: Assesses the puppy’s sociability and attachment to people.
  • Following Tendency: Evaluates the puppy's willingness to follow and depend on humans.
  • Restraint: Indicates acceptance of dominance and ease in handling.
  • Social Dominance: Assesses acceptance of social dominance and comfort with physical contact.
  • Elevation Dominance: Evaluates acceptance of dominance when feeling insecure.
  • Retrieving: Measures problem-solving ability and willingness to work with humans.
  • Touch Sensitivity: Determines sensitivity to touch and pressure.
  • Sound Sensitivity: Tests nervousness and startle response to unexpected stimuli.
  • Sight Sensitivity: Assesses visual attraction and chase tendencies.
  • Stability: Evaluates curiosity and cautiousness or fearlessness.

Interpreting PAT Results for Prospective Owners

PAT scores, ranging from 1 to 6, help indicate a puppy's suitability for different home environments. Lower scores generally suggest a more confident and independent dog, suitable for experienced owners, while higher scores may be better for first-time owners or families with children.

In summary, Volhard's PAT is invaluable for both breeders and prospective owners, offering insights into a puppy's inherent temperament and helping make decisions that lead to successful, fulfilling human-canine relationships.

DIY Temperament Testing for Prospective Dog Owners

When visiting a litter, prospective dog owners can conduct informal temperament tests to select a puppy that aligns with their lifestyle and preferences. Here’s a guide on how to effectively perform these assessments:

  • Preparing for the Visit:
    • Observe the puppies in a familiar and comfortable setting.
    • Ensure a quiet, distraction-free environment to accurately gauge natural behaviour.
  • Observing Initial Reactions:
    • Notice the puppies' reactions upon your entry. Do they seem curious, excited, indifferent, or shy?
    • A sociable and confident puppy typically approaches with a wagging tail, while a reserved one might stay back.
  • Assessing Sociability:
    • Engage with the puppies by calling them over or getting down to their level.
    • Puppies eager for human interaction are generally sociable, an important trait for family pets.
  • Testing for Sound Sensitivity:
    • Make a sudden noise (like clapping) and observe the puppies’ reactions.
    • Quick recovery from initial startle suggests adaptability to active households.
  • Checking for Playfulness and Energy Level:
    • Play with the puppies to assess their energy levels and interest in play.
    • High-energy puppies may require more exercise and mental stimulation.
  • Assessing Confidence and Independence:
    • Watch how puppies explore their surroundings. Confident ones might venture out alone, while less confident ones may stick close to littermates.
    • Independent puppies can be self-reliant but may pose training challenges.
  • Handling the Puppies:
    • Gently handle each puppy, including holding them on their back. Comfort with handling can indicate trust and tolerance.
    • Struggling or fearful puppies might need extra patience and gentle socialisation.

Tips for a Conducive Temperament Test Environment

  • Visit when puppies are typically active, like after napping or eating.
  • Keep external stressors to a minimum for accurate personality assessment.
  • Spend enough time with each puppy to observe a variety of behaviours.
  • Discuss your observations with the breeder for additional insights.

By conducting your own temperament tests, you can gain insights into each puppy's personality, aiding in choosing a puppy that complements your lifestyle and expectations. Remember, every puppy is unique, and these tests are a part of the selection toolkit.

Quantifying Puppy Reactions

To objectively evaluate a puppy’s behaviour during temperament testing, consider the following steps:

  • Creating a Scoring System:
    • Develop a simple scale (like 1 to 5) for each temperament aspect (sociability, confidence, sound sensitivity, etc.).
    • Assign scores based on the puppy's behaviour, with lower scores indicating one trait (e.g., shyness) and higher scores indicating its opposite (e.g., boldness).
  • Consistency in Testing:
    • Test each puppy under similar conditions with the same stimuli for comparable results.
    • Repeat tests as needed to confirm your initial observations.
  • Taking Notes:
    • Record detailed notes on reactions to different scenarios, including approach, response to handling, noise reactions, and interactions.
    • Note any distinct behaviours that stand out.

Understanding Puppy Reactions

  • Sociability and Confidence: High scores may indicate a puppy suited for a family or active lifestyle; lower scores may be better for quieter settings.
  • Sound and Sight Sensitivity: Puppies with low sensitivity might adapt more easily to busy environments.
  • Energy Level and Playfulness: Align the puppy’s energy level with your lifestyle; more active puppies suit energetic owners.
  • Response to Handling: Puppies comfortable with handling might be easier to train; others may need patient, trust-building training.
  • Compatibility with Lifestyle: Match the puppy’s temperament scores with your lifestyle for a harmonious relationship.

Objective assessment, combined with personal interaction, helps prospective owners choose a puppy that not only meets their lifestyle needs but also forms an emotional connection.

Why Trusting a Breeder's Choice Can Be Beneficial

Letting a breeder choose a puppy for you might seem unusual at first, but it often leads to a more successful match between the puppy and its new family. Here’s why trusting a breeder’s judgement can be advantageous:

  • Breeders’ Expertise and Experience:
    • Breeders closely observe each puppy's temperament, behaviour, and health from birth, equipping them with the insights to make informed decisions about the best match for a specific home or lifestyle.
  • Objective Assessment:
    • Breeders can objectively assess each puppy’s personality. Prospective owners might choose based on appearance or first impressions, which don’t always reflect long-term compatibility. Breeders consider various factors, including temperament and energy levels.
  • Matching Lifestyle and Environment:
    • Breeders take into account the owner's living conditions, activity levels, dog-handling experience, and the presence of children or other pets, ensuring a suitable environment for the puppy.
  • Reducing Future Behavioral Issues:
    • A mismatch between the puppy’s temperament and the owner’s expectations can lead to problems. Breeders aim to minimise this risk by selecting a puppy that aligns with the owner’s lifestyle.
  • Fostering Long-Term Happiness:
    • Breeders are focused on the happiness and well-being of both the puppy and the owner, striving for a harmonious relationship throughout the dog’s life.
  • Supporting Responsible Breeding Practices:
    • Opting for a breeder who carefully matches puppies to homes also supports ethical breeding, demonstrating their commitment to the puppies’ welfare beyond the sale.


In conclusion, understanding early puppy development and temperament testing is crucial in forming a solid foundation for a puppy’s future as a balanced and well-adjusted companion. Recognizing and interpreting a puppy’s temperament, whether through formal tests like Volhard's Puppy Aptitude Test or DIY assessments, is key to finding the right match. The way a puppy responds to various stimuli provides insights into its personality and future behaviour.

Selecting a puppy is a journey that goes beyond finding a pet; it’s about welcoming a new family member. It’s a commitment to nurturing, understanding, and growing together. With the knowledge from this guide, you are now better equipped to embark on this rewarding journey, ready to find the perfect canine companion who will bring joy and love to your life.


What is the purpose of early neurological stimulation in puppies?

Early neurological stimulation (ENS) exercises are designed to gently expose puppies to a range of stimuli in their early developmental stage. The purpose is to enhance their neurological growth, leading to improved adaptability, stress tolerance, and overall health. These exercises can help puppies become more resilient and well-adjusted as they grow into adulthood.

How can a prospective puppy owner assess a puppy's temperament?

Prospective owners can assess a puppy's temperament by observing their behaviour in various situations. This can include how the puppy interacts with their littermates, responds to human interaction, reacts to unfamiliar noises or objects, and copes with handling. Watching for signs of confidence, shyness, aggression, or fearfulness can give insights into the puppy's personality.

What does Volhard's Puppy Aptitude Test entail, and what do the results indicate?

Answer: Volhard's Puppy Aptitude Test involves a series of exercises to assess different aspects of a puppy's temperament, such as sociability, willingness to follow, sensitivity to touch, and reaction to unfamiliar stimuli. The results help predict the puppy's future behaviour and suitability for various environments, and aids in selecting the best individual puppy for your household.

What should I look for during a DIY temperament assessment when visiting puppies?

During a DIY assessment, look for how the puppy interacts with people and their littermates, their curiosity levels, response to handling, reaction to new environments, and playfulness. Observe if the puppy is outgoing, timid, dominant, or submissive. These observations can help determine the puppy's temperament and how well they might fit with your lifestyle.

Are there any specific behaviours that indicate a well-socialised puppy?

A well-socialised puppy typically shows curiosity and confidence in new situations, is comfortable being handled, responds positively to human interaction, and plays well with their littermates. Such puppies are usually adaptable and can cope better with changes in their environment, making them suitable for a variety of homes and lifestyles.