Raising Puppies the Nicholberry Way
Our English Golden Retriever puppies are born in our home and we are there the entire time to support the mama. Puppies are well socialized with the sounds of everyday living, including active and boisterous children! They spend their days with the family. Whether it's on the kitchen floor or outside in the puppy-proof puppy yard, they are constantly exposed to a variety of textures (grass, concrete, synthetic turf, tile), smells (cats, horses, goats, other dogs, and whatever's cooking in our ever "open" kitchen), and of course touch (lots and lots of cuddling!). Throughout their day, they are safely introduced to the outside world, playing and exploring, and most importantly, learning to trust the many hands who gently handle them.
We cannot overemphasize how critical enrichment is for the long term development of an English Golden Retriever, and much the way we “imprint” new foals, we “imprint” our new puppies. While they are in a “quarantined” area (in order to prevent any possibility of parvo and other illnesses), they can see and smell all of the activity on our little farm.
A puppy’s greatest learning window is very short - from birth to 16 weeks – and we recognize the responsibility of exposing our puppies to the world so that they grow into confident, trusting, intelligent and relaxed dogs. Our puppy rearing protocol is driven by intentionality: each week, we manipulate their environment and activities to correspond with their development at that time. Puppies develop at warp speed. At birth, they cannot see, hear, or walk. And yet, studies reveal that the use of Early Neurological Stimulation (ENS) at this time helps produce puppies who grow into dogs with increased emotional resiliency and balance.
The window for ENS is short - between days 3 and 16 of life. Once puppies are 3 weeks old, their startle response emerges. Exercises during this time, which capitalize on this small window, will help puppies become dogs who quickly recover from a startle.
Like ENS, the startle/recovery exercises are only effective for an extremely short window in a puppy's life. The same is true of the developmental changes that puppies go through in each subsequent week. These are critical windows that profoundly affect who a puppy becomes as an adult. We calendar each of these windows, insuring that every puppy has the stimulation and enrichment to which they are receptive in that particular developmental phase.
All of this takes TIME. Lots of time. And it requires true "hand rearing"; that is, puppies are raised in our home. Not only does this allow the puppies to consider the sights and sounds of a family normal, but it enables us to have constant evaluation of the puppies.
We also believe it is essential for puppies to learn how to have quiet time in a crate before leaving our home. Again, this is a time-intensive endeavor! But, critical. There is nothing quite as rewarding as having an entire litter of puppies in individual crates, happily and quietly chewing on a bone! The lessons in this are profound for a puppy. There is a strong, positive connection to the crate before they leave our care; there is a growing ability to self-entertain; there is a security in being alone. We did not do this for the first few years that we bred, and we can see such a huge difference in the puppies who have had the benefit of this early crate training. We are ALWAYS looking for ways to get better and improve the emotional health of our puppies, and this one was a giant discovery for us!
Last, there is a balance between protecting puppies and exposing puppies, and we strive to achieve a perfect balance. There is the old adage that it takes a village to raise a child, and we believe the same is true of puppies. We are grateful for our crew of friends who help us expose our puppies to a vast array of people. (And it's a win-win, because there isn't much that's more fun than playing with puppies!). There are two ideal windows during which puppies should be held by a variety of people, and our house is busy during those two windows! We have lots of "puppy parties" (and of course our puppy support team is well-prepared with clean clothes that have not had contact with other dogs).
Because so many of our families live in Northern California (San Francisco, San Jose, Burlingame) as well as Southern California (especially the beach cities like Manhattan Beach, Huntington Beach, San Diego, and Palos Verdes), we are delighted to have families visit their English Golden Retriever puppies and help us in the socialization process! It is great fun for all of us (including the puppies!).
In short, we are passionate about maximizing the potential of a puppy. There is so much more to raising puppies than just holding them and cleaning up after them. The more we study and research, the more we discover about the profound impact of these 8 weeks with us . It is our commitment to you, and them, to do everything possible to help them become the greatest possible version of themselves.