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  • The impact of touch on a puppy


    Common sense and numerous research projects over the years show us that the act of touching (or stroking) a dog is beneficial for our well being. This may translate into a lowering of blood pressure, a relieving of our anxiety or simply a feeling of well being. But what about the reverse: the effect of human touch on a puppy?

    Victoria Stilwell, world-renowned dog trainer, writes in “Positively”: “As soon as a puppy is born, it relies on touch to find its mother, to stimulate milk flow for feeding, and as a source of comfort. Mothers in turn lick and nuzzle their puppies from birth, improving the puppies’ circulation and encouraging them to eliminate waste in order to stay healthy. Touch helps form emotional bonds between mom and her pups, which can then be transferred to humans. It is really important that a puppy experience human touch from birth to promote a human/canine attachment and encourage the puppy’s ability to develop social attachments with others as it grows. Habituating a pup to being touched from birth is extremely important.”

    Susan Tasaki quotes Stan Rawlinson, the UK’s original “dog listener” in “Bark” magazine: “Humans handling pups from day one provides a mild stress response, which acts to improve the puppies both physically and emotionally.  After that, at 10 to 14 days, the sense of hearing and smell develop, eyes open and the teeth begin to appear.

    Their eyesight is not fully formed until seven weeks. Though they can see enough to get round from around three weeks of age. Pups that are handled regularly during the first seven/eight weeks of their life mature and grow quicker. They are more resistant to infections and diseases, and are generally more stable. These pups handle stress better, are more exploratory, curious and learn much faster than pups that are not handled during this period. They are also more likely to be happy around humans and are rarely aggressive. Therefore, the pups born in kennels outside, and not in the home, and the ones born into puppy farms are less likely to get this vitally important tactile input.”

    So, from day 1, the importance of puppies being touched cannot be overstated. The breeder and the puppies’ mom work hand in hand to both provide the help puppies need to perform basic bodily functions as well as subconsciously preparing them for the time when they will be living with their human “pack”. Good breeders know the significance of letting puppies stay with their mom for the first 8 weeks of their life and not getting pressured into releasing them earlier. Life lessons and giving puppies a good, healthy (physical and mental) start must always be the goal. 

    From the time we first talked to our breeder (Prairie Doodles) until the day we collected Finn, we were always happy with the way the puppies were treated. All I can say is the loving touch that she used has certainly paid off.