This story first appeared in LIFE in NATURE.
Tallgrass Gordon Setters' Tom Loy sits next to the box, where a three-day-old setter puppy traps the tiny universe behind closed eyes. One by one, Loy lifts the puppies out of the box and runs them through a series of short exercises. When done, the puppies return to the box and crawl close to their mother.
These courses continue for the next 13 days, and while the exercises have nothing to do with bird hunting – at least not immediately – Loy puppies effectively teach how to manage stress. Years later, this early training leads to dogs that are less shy, more sociable and better equipped to handle the stressful situations that every working dog encounters in the field.
Loy's program has been pioneered by the U.S. military as part of an effort to improve dog performance. Research shows that shortly after birth, puppies and other mammals respond well to stimuli and that early stimulation can improve overall health. Exposure of puppies to stimuli has been shown to increase brain function, which enhances overall confidence while reducing stress-related behaviors, such as biting or grunting. Originally called "biosensor training", these exercises are now known as the Super Puppy program.
From the age of three days to 16 days, each puppy in the program is exposed to five stimuli once a day. These include keeping the head up, the head down and the back (back) position. cotton swab stimulation in the legs. and lies in a cold sink. Each phase, which does not cause pain or discomfort, lasts a few seconds and after the training is over, the dogs return to their mother.
This program has been shown to improve cardiovascular health, increase adrenal function and brain activity, and improve a puppy's resistance to stress and disease. Similar tests in mice and primates have shown identical results.
Loy is a professional in the Super Puppy program and has started exposing all his puppies to early stimulation.
"I noticed that in every litter, I had some shy puppies who wanted to hide or not socialize," says Loy. "With the Super Puppy program, I don't see it that much. The timid dogs become bolder and more social."
As gunshots mature and begin to train, they are exposed to stress – everything from control cords to electronic collars and shots. Learning to deal with stress as very young puppies, Loy's regulators can process the strokes in the field. They are generally ready for more advanced training compared to puppies that have not passed the program, says Loy.