Stages of Puppy Development
Américo Cardoso dos Santos Júnior
CAFIB - Fila Brasileiro Improvement Club - has always recommended (and continues to do so) that the puppies remain with their mother and their siblings until they are 60 days old. It is that the games among them and the resulting socialization, allied to the lessons that the female dog teaches and the example of protection that she provides, bring undeniable benefits to their physical and psychic development. In fact, although many breeders release their cubs to their future owners when they are reaching 45 days of age - to get rid of the hassle and expenses and, most importantly, to receive the money from the sale -, scientifically, they should not be separated from the mother and the siblings until they reach the exact age of 49 days.
The discovery of critical periods during cubs' development revolutionized knowledge about dog training.
The studies that led to this conclusion were leveraged in 1945, in the United States, shortly after the Second World War. At that time, the traditional Roscoe B. Jackson Memorial Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine, headed by renowned scientist John Paul Scott (1909 - 2000), received a considerable donation from the Rockefeller Foundation to finance research on canine genetics, with the aim of shedding light on human genetics and child behavior. Scott, in addition to a PhD in Psychology, was a geneticist who conducted research on the congenital and hereditary aspects of human behavior (especially aggressiveness) and, together with his main collaborator, biologist and psychology professor John Langworth Fuller (1910 - 1992), made quite a few comparisons with canine behavior. In these studies, dogs of five quite different breeds in temperament and functional aptitudes were used, having in common only the small size, in order to be more easily maintained at the facilities of the research center: the Basenji, the Beagle, the Cocker Spaniel, the Wire-Haired Fox Terrier and the Shetland Shepherd. In addition breeding these five purebred breeds, scientists also conducted research on the products resulting from their crossbreeding; and these crossbreeds were called “Hybasco” (Hybrid Basenji-Cocker Spaniel) or “Cobasco” (Hybrid Cobasco-Cocker Spaniel, that is, ¾ Cocker and ¼ Basenji, hence the name “Co-bas-co”, from Cocker-Basenji- Cocker).
BASENJI - This primitive dog, known since ancient Egypt, is one of the few breeds originating in Africa and has unusual characteristics. In females, heat is manifested once a year, as in wild dogs, and not twice, as in domestic dogs. They usually clean themselves by licking body parts, as cats do. Furthermore, because they are not able to bark, they emit a kind of howl, or grunt.
BEAGLE - It is an English breed of hunting dogs that, although docile, are stubborn, disobedient and difficult to train. It is the most used breed in laboratory research, which has triggered vehement protests on the part of animal advocates, including here in Brazil, where more than 100 specimens were kept at Instituto Royal (Royal Institute), in São Roque (SP), invaded by activists. In the United States, there are about 70,000 Beagles in use in laboratory tests, and in the United Kingdom, they make up 97% of the stock for this purpose. In the 18th century, the British conducted a selection and crossing work to obtain the so-called “pocket beagle” (now extinct), rather appreciated by Queen Elizabeth I. The most popular Beagle is Snoopy, from the comics.
COCKER SPANIEL - In the same way that Snoopy Beagles popular, the Cocker Spaniel has in the female dog Lady (companion of mutt, Vagabundo), his most famous representation in books and children's films. Some specimens of this breed usually manifest the congenital behavioral disorder called “fury syndrome” (in English “Cocker madness” or rage syndrome), a dominant character that triggers uncontrolled aggressive actions for no specific reason.
FOX TERRIER DE PELO DURO (Wire-haired Terrier Fox) - Also called in Brazil “pelo de arame” (literal translation from English “Wire-haired Fox Terrier), this British breed, of very energetic, athletic and courageous dogs, had as their original function to flush out foxes and other prey. This is the origin of the name "Terrier", which derives from the Latin word "terra", to designate the breeds that enter holes when hunting. In the comics, the best known is dog Milu, owned by reporter Tintin, designed by Belgian Hergé, in 1929.
SHETLAND SHEPHERD - Looks very similar to a Collie, but in a much smaller size. In these icy Shetland Islands, which were once part of Norway and now belong to Scotland, there are other miniature animals, such as small cattle and sheep, in addition to one of the smallest horses known, the Shetland Pony. As a very strange curiosity, in the Internet there is a video showing a blind Muslim woman in Chicago, in the United States, who unable to have a guide dog for religious reasons, is guided by one of these ponies, through the streets and even inside the bus.
As a curious piece of information, the famous Swedish zoologist, specialized in ethnology, Dr. Erik Zimen (1941 - 2003) devoted himself intensely to the research of the the behavior of wolves and, also, of the so-called “Puwos”, which were the products resulting from the hybridization between dogs of the Poodle breed (Pudel in German) and wolves (wolf in German).
Finally, in 1948, Dr. Scott disclosed, as a result of his research, the critical periods in the cubs' lives. Together, the two researchers published, in the 1960's, a work now considered a classic, “Genetics and the Social Behavior of the Dog”. And, in recognition of the duo's remarkable work, Behavior Genetics Association began to award, annually, the prestigious Fuller-Scott Award to outstanding scientists in that area.
Based mainly on these studies, dog researcher and trainer Clarence Pfaffenberger (1889 - 1967), also in the 1960's, published the equally classic “The New Knowledge of Dog Behavior”, an extraordinary practical guide for breeders and trainers, especially in the area of blind guides. Dogs have been used for this noble function since very ancient times, but their recent history begins in 1916, when the German physician Dr. Gerhard Stalling, who had been conducting research on various forms of canine training for years, founded, in Oldenburg, the first school in the world dedicated to the training of guide dogs for the blind. Soon, branches were opened in several German cities and, later, in other countries. In 1927, the North American Dorothy Harrison Eutis (1886 - 1946), who trained dogs for the army, police and customs in Switzerland, after spending several months at the famous Potsdam Training School - historic medieval city near Berlin, which since the 19th century has been recognized as an important scientific center, with more than 30 research institutions -, reported the experience that had so impressed her in the Saturday Evening Post. The title of this article was “The Seeing Eye”, or “The Eye that Sees”, a name also used to baptize her first training center in Switzerland, “L'Oeil qui Voit”. In the United States, in 1929, she founded the institution “Seeing Eye”, today the largest and most important in the world in guide dogs for the blind, in addition to leading research in disease control, genetic improvement and animal behavior.
Labrador Retriever is one of the most used breeds to guide the blind. It originates from the island of Terra Nova, in Canada, in whose dangerous coast numerous ships wrecked, such as the extremely luxurious and supposedly “unsinkable” transatlantic Titanic, in 1912.
In these hypocritically correct times, it is necessary to open parentheses to justify the use of the word blind, now considered almost offensive in Brazil. In fact, “visually impaired” is someone who has limitations to see, or sees poorly; and “blind” is someone who cannot see. I feel very comfortable with the use of that word because, as a child, I used to attend the home of a friend quite often, whose mother was the extraordinary Dorina Nowill (1919 - 2010), of international renown, and who had gone blind at the age of 17. For anyone who did not know it, while observing the relaxation of her movement and the confidence in the performance of her varied activities through the numerous rooms of the wide residence, would never have suspected that she could not see. In 1946, with support from the Government and international institutions, she had created the “Fundação do Livro do Cego no Brasil” (Foundation of the Blind's Book in Brazil), whose main objectives were the publication and distribution of works edited by the Braille system. In 1991, the name of this institution was changed to Fundação Dorina Nowill para Cegos (Dorina Nowill Foundation for the Blind). This, and dozens of other entities of qualification and rehabilitation of people who do not see, or have very low vision, are gathered at the Organização Nacional de Cegos do Brasil (National Organization of the Blind of Brazil), in turn, affiliated to ULAC - União Latino-Americana de Cegos (Latin American Union of the Blind) and also to the UMC - União Mundial de Cegos (World Union of the Blind (and not the visually impaired). And here I close parentheses.
It should be remembered that research aimed at the selection and training of dogs for this difficult activity had remarkable progress at a time when many young soldiers of World War II returned home mentally traumatized and physically mutilated, paralyzed or blind. Pfaffenberger, for many years, devoted himself intensely to this work, started at the remarkable institution Guide Dogs for Blind Inc., in San Rafael, California. His research was based on the fact that, although many domestic animals can be trained to provide services to people, performing actions that help their owners or guides in the most diverse fields of activity, the dog is unique in expressing true joy and feel euphorically rewarded by the simple fact of being able to please man.
This reminds me that, at the beginning of those 1960's, when I was a child, I spent school holidays on relatives' farm, located in the Northwest region of São Paulo, at the time still surrounded by vast ranges of virgin forests, which allowed us, during horseback riding, to see traces of jaguars in the coffee plantation grounds. At that time, one of my uncles had the habit of hunting berets and quails to enrich the meals served at that large table filled with ravenous cousins of various ages. I was very fond of accompanying him on these hunting excursions, mainly to admire the skill and enthusiasm of the old English Pointer (at the time, generically named Perdigueiro there) who located and made the birds take off. Already at that time, as a boy, I kept wondering of the dog, in fact, was not enthusiastic about the hunting itself, because, if this was so, he would not have the guts to lie in the sun on the porch and would, alone, look for the bird's track. In fact, his enthusiastic, and even euphoric, behavior only manifested itself when he saw my uncle wearing his high-top boots, his hat on his head, the belt with the cartridges around his waist and the shotgun in his hands. His real pleasure was to serve and please the owner.
Pfaffenberger, in the account of his experiences, explains that, according to Dr. Scott's surprising finding, by the age of three weeks, the puppets are not affected by any environmental influences nor were they capable of any learning. He reports that only from this second phase, when his organs of sense (vision, hearing and smell) become functional, do they begin to learn and that, from 21 to 28 days of birth – a period in which it is very important that the puppets remain with the mother– suddenly, their mental and emotional abilities begin to develop very acutely and quickly. Tests with electroencephalography devices reveal that the dog is born with a very immature brain and that, on the 21st day, there is a profound change in the recording of brain waves, when the states of sleep and wakefulness are differentiated. According to Pfaffenberger, it is at this time that the animals begin to perceive the world around them and live as an individual. In this second phase, between the period of 21 to 49 days of life, that is, between the third and the seventh week, the development of their brain reaches the capacity of an adult dog (although obviously, without his experience) and their learning faculties become very high. It is a stage in which the cubs play and fight a lot (in some breeds, even with ferocity) and the hierarchies and dominance among them start being established. It is also the most propitious phase for the beginning of the teaching of the first lessons because, if they do not learn from the owner, they will learn on their own and may acquire undesirable habits. He considers that the 49th day is the ideal time for the puppy to be weaned and taken to the new home by the new owner.
The cubs need to stay with their mother.
Between the seventh and twelfth week of life, that is, in the period between the 49th and 84th day after birth, the third critical period occurs in the life of the puppy. At this stage, in which his ability to learn continues to increase, he needs a lot of individual attention and is the best stage to strengthen ties with the owner. The studies also found that the learning and experiences of the puppy between the seventh and sixteenth weeks of life will shape the character of the adult dog. It is a period when, if the little dogs are not taught by the owners, they will continue to find some way to learn out of their own initiative. And Pfaffenberger considers this to be one of the greatest discoveries that have revolutionized the breeding and training of the blinds' guide dogs. The fourth critical period, which takes place between the twelfth and the sixteenth weeks (84 to 112 days), is the one in which the puppy declares his independence from the mother and can begin to be trained more seriously. This phase is also the one in which the hierarchical relations between the dog and his owner are defined. He also points out that, although the process of socialization with the siblings of the cubs is very important, it is equally fundamental to socialize with their owner, which will lead to the development of the puppy as an individual, in addition to strengthening their self-confidence. For this, Pfaffenberger recommends that the puppy be periodically separated from the siblings and any other dogs, to have, alone with the owner, pleasant play sessions and the first training lessons. Another curiosity disclosed by these experiments is that the specimen that grows to adulthood with the mother, because it was not separated from the mother as a puppy, will never achieve good results as a guide dog.
On the importance of the age at which lessons should be started, he rewrites the old adage who claims it is not possible to teach new tricks to old dogs, saying that, in fact, an old dog, who has never been taught anything, will not be able to begin learning in old age. And that those to whom the lessons began at the right age can always continue to assimilate new lessons.
It should be noted that, although we tend to stipulate time intervals in multiple round numbers of 10, or 5 (the cub must stay with the mother and siblings up to 45 or 60 days), Mother Nature, or the laws governing the operation of the universe, prefer the weekly periods, therefore multiples of 7. Many ancient peoples, besides having noticed the influence of the moon phases on the movement of tides, in the pruning of plants, in planting and harvesting of crops, also adopted as a reference of the passage of time, the lunar cycles, which were still associated with the menstrual cycles of women, both lasting 28 days, or four weeks. And these experiments of scientists with dogs were thorough to the point of noting that puppies born on the 63rd day of gestation (nine weeks) developed the functionality of their senses of vision, hearing and smell a little earlier than those coming from a pregnancy one or two days shorter.
In his book, Pfaffenberger describes, in detail, the process of evolution of the tests applied to the puppies to select those capable to perform the difficult function of guiding the blind and comments on the high rate of failures recorded during the beginning of the research. It must be considered that, in addition to learning to obey certain command voices, the guide dog, in his routine, will certainly have to face many unforeseen practical situations for which he had not been specifically trained and which require decision-making. Along his routine itinerary, the most varied and unexpected obstacles may come up and will have to be overcome. The caution plate, warning that the manhole cover is open for repairs to the pipe, cannot be read by the dog or his dog's owner; the heavy branch of the tree that broke and stood on the wall is tall enough for the dog to pass underneath, but not his owner. One of the photographs illustrating the book shows a newspaper delivery man Alvin Kinser with his Labrador named Timmy. And the caption of the photo explains that the dog is the one who knows the itinerary to be followed and, when some unforeseen obstacle arises on the way, it is also he who decides whether to lead the owner through, around, or over the obstacle. It also says that although eventually the guide dog needs to change the route, never one of the 160 daily newspaper deliveries has ceased to be made. And, to top it off, it says that on the day he receives payment, the dog takes the paper man, without hesitation, to the homes of monthly subscribers, ignoring the residences of the annual subscribers. This example confirmed by Pfaffenberger's assertion that only dogs capable of taking initiatives and taking responsibility (attributes that are usually believed to be denied to animals) can become guides to the blind, because otherwise they may put their owners' physical integrity at serious risk or even lead to death.
The Scottish Breed Golden Retriever is the most popular breed in Japan. Originally designed for the hunting of waterfowl, today, in addition to being used as a guide for the blind, because it is also a great sniffer, it also been employed as a rescue dog, search and rescue.
The approval rate in these tests applied to the puppies rose strongly after Pfaffenberger went on to follow the guidelines of the famous geneticist Dr. Clarence Cook Little, founder and director of the aforementioned Jackson Laboratory, where, for many years, he conducted a breeding program in which thousands of mice reproduced in close inbreeding, always mated from brother to sister, father to daughter and mother to son, for more than 250 generations, which made them of great value in genetic experiments. This stock, with such homozygosis, allowed the standardization of research on the origins, causes and treatments of many non-contagious diseases, such as cancer, diabetes and others, in clinical laboratories in various locations around the world. Because this huge population of mice became as similar to each other as identical twins, it was as if, in the most varied countries, those thousands of experiments, conducted by the most different scientists, were all being done with the same animal.
The initial milestone of the process of selecting guide dogs from consanguineous mating was the German Shepherd FranckofLedge Acres, brought by the great trainer William F. Johns, who became Executive Director of the institution. The program guided by Dr. Little included the registration of more than 1,500 dogs by the then rather modern support of IBM (International Business Machines Corporation).
The extraordinary success of the criteria adopted in genealogy studies, mating schedules and the selection of cubs is attested by Pfaffenberger's finding that, at the beginning of this work, when only one of the cub's puppies achieved success as a guide dog, this result was celebrated as a great victory; and years later, if only one of them did not serve, this failure was considered a sad disappointment.
It is interesting to record some curiosities on this topic. At the beginning of the training, instructors teach the blind, minutely, the characteristics of each item of equipment that the dog will use and how to handle it. The different types of collars, the ways to put and exchange them are covered, as well as the various guides, of varying lengths, for specific uses, and the harnesses that the blind holds. The command voice and the dog's reactions when listening to them are also explained. At this stage of the process, for a few days, the instructor positions himself at the other end of this equipment, in the dog's place, and executes the commands given by the student, going up and down stairs, skirting obstacles, turning corners and crossing streets through which vehicles transit.
Here in Brazil, the use of guide dogs is still negligible. The indexes are not uniform, but according to 2010 data from IBGE – Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística (Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics), there are in our country about seven million blind people or with different levels of severe and permanent visual impairment, while the number of guide dogs in activity does not reach 200. The appropriate institutions apply a process of assessing the needs and characteristics of the interested party who will then join the waiting list to receive an animal suitable for their profile. It's important to point out that he won't have to pay anything for it. A project of the Federal Government, conducted at the Camboiú Campus by the Federal Institute of Santa Catarina deserves highlight, as well as the actions of other serious and competent entities, such as the Escola Helen Keller (Helen Keller School), the Corpo de Bombeiros de Brasília (Fire Department of Brasilia), the Instituto Magnus (Magnus Institute), the Campus Urutaí do Instituto Federal Goiano (Urutaí Campus of the Federal Institute of Goiás) and the Campus de Alegre do Instituto Federal do Espírito Santo (Alegre Campus of the Federal Institute of Espírito Santo). It is also important to emphasize that Brazilian legislation guarantees to the blind, the coach and the socializing family the right to enter and stay with the dog in virtually all public and private environments, such as shopping malls, restaurants, theaters, hospitals and public transport including airplanes. The law requires that the animal be carrying the collar with identification and the harness to guide; and that the owner always brings the card with photos and identification data of himself and the dog's. Only food handling sites (such as kitchens) and sterile environments (such as ICUs) are off limits.
And speaking of collars and belts, I close this text with some more curious information. The Catholic Church considers Saint Luzia of Syracuse (280 –304) to be the protector of the eyes and vision. At the time of the so-called Holy (though indeed diabolical) Inquisition, she was persecuted, imprisoned, and tortured, having her eyes ripped out by the executioner before being killed. This memory occurs to me because her contemporary, San Blas de Sebaste (264 – 316) – in Brazil, called São Brás – after being martyred and beheaded, came to be considered the protector of throat diseases, both of people and animals. Therefore, the ancient Spanish Mastiff – who was not a shepherd, but a large molossoid used as guardian of the herds to protect the sheep from the attacks of wolves and bears – had, on its neck, a metal collar surrounded by pointed rods, called "carlanca".
The carlancas, made of metal or leather, were already used in Ancient Greece times and their use still continues in certain regions of Spain, Italy and Turkey.
This type of apparatus goes back to Ancient Greece and is called a "wolfcollar" in England and "roccale" or "vreccale" in Italy. In the past, these collars were always manufactured on dates of religious festivals of great importance, considered conducive to the production of lucky charms, especially on Corpus Christi's day. In order to strengthen the protection of the dogs' necks against the bites of large predators, they also used to be bathed in holy water and received belts that had been in contact with some image of San Blas. This bishop, physician and martyr, because he was a Christian, had been the victim of the persecutions initiated in Armenia by Emperor Diocletian. He took refuge in a cave where, they say, he used to take care of the wild animals that, wounded or sick, went looking for him there. After his death, several miracles began to be attributed to him. He became so popular that in Italy, 35 churches were built in his honor. In conclusion, one cannot fail to consider that, due to the always surprising human wickedly, the gallows had always been the stage on which the holy protecting saint of the eyes had her own eyes ripped out and the holy protector of the throat had his throat cut.