I've come to the conclusion through experience and research that neurological stimulation is a key component to providing a well-socialized and high-performing Jack Russell Terrier. My goal is to provide you with a puppy that's the best it can be! I want our pups to have a head-start when they're sent out into the world!
Dogs that can achieve more and out-perform others have, within themselves, the ability to use hidden resources. It isn't capacity that explains the differences between individuals, because most seem to have far more capacity than they will ever use. To make ultimate use of what a Jack has available, early development and stimulation must occur.
In our breeding program we don't just rely on inherited traits to bring you an excellent quality Jack Russell. Researchers have found that only about 35% of performance is controlled by inheritable factors, with the remaining 65% attributable to other influences such as training, management, and nutrition.
Researchers have looked for new ways to stimulate dogs in order to improve their natural abilities. Some of the methods discovered have produced effects for a dog's entire lifespan. Today many of the differences between individuals can now be explained by the use of early stimulation methods.
We know that early life is a time when the physical immaturity of a puppy is susceptible and responsive to a restricted but important class of stimuli. Because of its importance, many studies have focused their efforts on the first few months of life.
Newborn Jack Russell Terrier pups are uniquely different from adults in several respects. When born, their eyes are closed and their digestive system has a limited capacity, requiring periodic stimulation by their dam who routinely licks them in order to promote digestion. At this age they are only able to smell, suck, and crawl. Body temperature is maintained by snuggling close to their mother or by crawling into piles with other littermates. During these first few weeks of immobility, researchers noted that these immature and under-developed canines are sensitive to a restricted class of stimuli which includes thermal and tactile stimulation: motion and locomotion.
Other mammals such as mice and rats are also born with limitations, and they also have been found to demonstrate a similar sensitivity to the effects of early stimulation. Studies show that removing them from their nest for three minutes each day during the first five to ten days of life causes body temperatures to fall below normal. This mild form of stress is sufficient to stimulate hormonal, adrenal, and pituitary systems. When tested later as adults, these same animals were better able to withstand stress than littermates who were not exposed to the same early stress exercises. As adults, they responded to stress in "a-graded" fashion, while their non-stressed littermates responded in an "all or nothing" way.
Data involving laboratory mice and rats also shows that stress in small amounts can produce adults who respond maximally. On the other hand, the results gathered from non-stressed littermates show that they become easily exhausted and become near death if exposed to intense, prolonged stress. When tied down so they were unable to move for twenty-four hours, rats developed severe stomach ulcers, but littermates exposed to early stress handling were found to be more resistant to stress tests and did not show evidence of ulcers.
A secondary effect was also noticed. Sexual maturity was attained sooner in the littermates given early stress exercises. When tested for differences in health and disease, the stressed animals were found to be more resistant to certain forms of cancer and infectious diseases, and could withstand terminal starvation and exposure to cold for longer periods than their non-stressed littermates.
Other studies involving early stimulation exercises have been successfully performed on both cats and dogs. In these studies, the Electrical Encephalogram (EEG) was found to be ideal for measuring the electrical activity in the brain because of its extreme sensitivity to changes in excitement, emotional stress, muscle tension, changes in oxygen, and breathing. EEG measures show that pups and kittens, when given early stimulation exercises, mature at faster rates and perform better in certain problem-solving tests than non-stimulated mates. Research in primates shows, when deprived of stimulation and interaction during early development, they were less able cope, adjust, and later adapt to situations as adults.
It's also known that a suitable amount of stress for one may be too intense for another, and that too much stress can cause lacking mental development. The results show that early stimulation exercises can have positive results but must be used with caution. In other words, too much stress can cause pathological adversities rather than physical or psychological superiority.
Methods of Stimulation
The U.S. Military in their canine program developed a method that still serves as a guide to what works. In an effort to improve the performance of dogs used for military purposes, a program called "Bio Sensor" was developed. Later, it became known to the public as the "Super Dog" program. Based on years of research, the military learned that early neurological stimulation exercises could have important and lasting effects. Their studies confirmed that there are specific time periods early in life when neurological stimulation has optimum results. The first period involves a window of time that begins at the third day of life and lasts until the sixteenth day. It is believed that this interval of time is a period of rapid neurological growth and development, and therefore is of great importance to the individual.
The "Bio Sensor" program was also concerned with early neurological stimulation in order to give the dog a superior advantage. Its development utilized six exercises which were designed to stimulate the neurological system. Each workout involved handling puppies once each day. The workouts required handling them one at a time while performing a series of five exercises. Listed in order of preference, the handler starts with one pup and stimulates it using each of the five exercises. The handler completes the series from beginning to end before starting with the next pup. The handling of each pup once per day involves the following exercises:
All of these exercises should be done up to 16 weeks of age. The puppies are smarter and less likely to develop anxieties, being accepting of normal touching for the care of our dogs.
These seven exercises will produce neurological stimulation, none of which naturally occurs during this early period of life. Experience shows that sometimes pups will resist these exercises, while others will appear unconcerned. In either case a caution is offered to those who plan to use them. Do not repeat them more than once per day and do not extend the time beyond that recommended for each exercise. Over stimulation of the neurological system can have adverse and detrimental results. These exercises impact the neurological system by kicking it into action earlier than would be normally expected, the result being an increased capacity that later will help to make the difference in its performance. Those who play with their Jack Russell pups and routinely handle them should continue to do so, because the neurological exercises are not substitutions for routine handling, play socialization, or bonding.
Benefits of Stimulation
Five benefits have been observed in canines that were exposed to the Bio Sensor stimulation exercises. The benefits noted were:
In tests of learning, stimulated Jack Russell Terrier pups were found to be more active and were more exploratory than their non-stimulated littermates, becoming dominant of them in competitive situations.
Secondary effects were also noted regarding test performance. In simple problem-solving tests using detours in a maze, the non-stimulated pups became extremely aroused, whined a great deal, and made many errors. Their stimulated littermates were less disturbed or upset by test conditions and when comparisons were made, the stimulated littermates were more calm in the test environment, made fewer errors, and gave only an occasional distress sound when stressed.
As each animal grows and develops, three kinds of stimulation have been identified that impact and influence how it will develop and be shaped as an individual. The first stage is called early neurological stimulation and the second stage is socialization. Most researchers agree that among all species, a lack of adequate socialization generally results in unacceptable behavior and oftentimes produces undesirable aggression, excessiveness, fearfulness, sexual inadequacy, and indifference toward partners.
Socialization studies confirm that one of the critical periods for humans (infant) to be stimulated are generally between three weeks and twelve months of age. For canines the period is shorter, between the fourth and sixteenth weeks of age. The lack of adequate social stimulation, such as handling, mothering and contact with others, adversely affects social and psychological development in both humans and animals. In humans, the absence of love and cuddling increases the risk of an aloof, distant, asocial, or sociopathic individual. Over-mothering also has its detrimental effects by preventing sufficient exposure to other individuals and situations that have an important influence on growth and development. It occurs when a parent insulates the child from outside contacts or keeps the apron strings tight, thus limiting opportunities to explore and interact with the outside world. In the end, over-mothering generally produces a dependent, socially maladjusted and sometimes emotionally disturbed individual. Protected youngsters who grow up in an insulated environment often become sickly, despondent, lacking in flexibility, and unable to make simple social adjustments. Generally, they are unable to function productively or to interact successfully when they become adults. Owners who have busy lifestyles with long and tiring work and social schedules often cause pets to be neglected. Left to themselves with only an occasional trip out of the house or off of the property they seldom see other canines or strangers and generally suffer from poor stimulation and socialization. For many, the side-effects of loneliness and boredom set in. The resulting behavior manifests itself in the form of chewing, digging, and hard-to-control behavior.
Regular trips to the park, shopping centers, and obedience and agility classes serve as good examples of enrichment activities. Chasing and retrieving a ball on the surface seems to be enriching because it provides exercise and includes rewards. While repeated attempts to retrieve a ball provide much physical activity, it should not be confused with enrichment exercises. Such playful activities should be used for exercise and play or as a reward after returning from a trip or training session. Road work and chasing balls are not substitutes for trips to the shopping mall, outings, or obedience classes, most of which provide many opportunities for interaction and investigation.
Finally, it seems clear that stress early in life can produce beneficial results. The danger seems to be in not knowing where the thresholds are for over and under-stimulation. The absence or lack of adequate amounts of stimulation generally will produce negative and undesirable results. Based on the above, it is fair to say that the performance of most individuals can be improved, including the techniques described above. Each contributes in a cumulative way and supports the next stage of development.
Pet owners can now take advantage of this information available to improve and enhance performance. Generally, genetics account for about 35% of the performance, but the remaining 65% (management, training, nutrition) can make the difference. In the management category, it has been shown that pet owners should be guided by the rule that it is generally considered prudent to guard against under and over-stimulation. Short of ignoring pups during their first two months of life, a conservative approach would be to expose them to children, people, toys, and other animals on a regular basis. Handling and touching all parts of their anatomy is also a necessary part of their learning, which can be started as early as the third day of life. Pups that are handled early and on a regular basis generally do not become hand-shy as adults.
Because of the risks involved in under-stimulation, a conservative approach to using the benefits of the three stages has been suggested based primarily on the works of Arskeusky, Kellogg, Yearkes, and the "Bio Sensor" program (later known as the "Super Dog" program).
Both experience and research have dominated the beneficial effects that can be achieved via early neurological stimulation, socialization, and enrichment experiences. Each has been used to improve performance and to explain the differences that occur between individuals, their trainability, health, and potential. The cumulative effects of the three stages have been well-documented. They best serve the interests of owners who seek high levels of performance when properly used. Each has a cumulative effect and contributes to the development and the potential for individual performance.
We introduce small amounts of stress in scheduled intervals to produce a well-adjusted puppy that can handle flights or anything the outside world might hold. This type of early socialization has proven to stimulate a longer lifespan, ability to better problem solve, resistance to disease, and to all-around improve natural abilities and processing as adults. I have noticed and can tell you that these pups are smarter and don't get anxious. Anxiety is one of the problems people should be concerned about. I personally love this method.