written for the SSDCA Learning Center, June 2004

People are often drawn to "breeder" ads that claim to have "Home Raised Puppies" available because they want to avoid purchasing their future companion from a horrific "puppy mill." but they may be being misled down a very sad bunny trail!

There is an art to RAISING PUPPIES THE RIGHT WAY, and all honest REB's know this fact very well! They have been around long enough to know that if they don't take the proper steps to properly socialize their pups prior to placing them into their new homes--they won't be able to produce enough replacements!

Some breeders even go to very lengthy extremes such as placing 4-5 day old pups in the refrigerator for a few minutes in order to shock them to environmental changes. 

You may find some of these articles quite interesting!

"Imprinting (species identification, integration)
Birth to 10-14 days - Sensitive to warmth, softness, smell, tactile stimulation
Imprints on mother, littermates, and any human handling them by odor
14-21 days - eyes and ears open, adds visual and auditory aspects to imprinting "

A New Look at Socialization (by Jean D. Petersen, Canine Consultant.)


"Through species identification a puppy is able to recognize its parents (filial imprinting), and develop preferential intraspecific social relations (fraternal imprinting) and the relations (sexual imprinting) which means the survival of the species (filial and sexual imprinting). An animal that is badly imprinted is lost for the species."

In one year my practice treated 773 dogs - 79 of them, that’s 10 percent, had problems of fearfulness towards people or the environment due to a lack of early socialisation or habituation and a further 4.5. percent were inept at relating to other dogs, again due to a lack of early socialisation. The problem is immeasurably greater than these figures suggest. Many dogs show a weakness of temperament or inability to cope when faced with a particular situation, without their behaviour becoming problematical enough for the owners to seek help."

"Fox (1975) experimented with puppies placed in contact with increasingly complex stimuli (enrichment) at 5, 8, 12 and 16 weeks: as they grow the puppies tended to seek out complex environments. Puppies raised in surroundings poor in stimuli ("stimulus-poor puppies") and placed for the first time in a highly stimulating environment at 12 or 16 weeks are inhibited (fear) and search less complex environments. Enriched puppies are systematically dominant in the presence of stimulus-poor dogs."
[Emphasis added]

Sensory, Emotional and Social Development of the Young Dog (by Dr. Joel DeHasse, behaviorist veterinarian)

Please Note: Even if the puppies are receiving a great amount of attention from their human owners the KEYWORD is STIMULI, i.e. a variety of experiences, sufficient exposure to a large number of people (including children) other animals, etc., etc.  All puppies go through various psychological stages of development during these critical first eight weeks. In the past I have often compared each week of a puppy's development to that of a human infant using a week-month ratio.

For example: Since a puppy is in utero for 9 weeks versus a infant's 9 months.  If we compare an infant's first 8-10 months of development to that of a puppy's first 8-10 weeks, we may also note many similarities.

Let's imagine an infant that has never been allowed to leave his sterile nursery environment and the only human contact he has ever known is that of his over- possessive mother. This child was not allowed to play with toys or even attempt to crawl or walk due to his mother's fear of potential accidents/ injury. Instead of allowing him to experience failure, his mother spends of all her time holding and rocking him!

Infant #2, on the other hand, is being raised by the Waltons! He has parents, grandparents, and a dozen siblings to contend with. By the time he is a few months old, he has learned to roll around the floor, pull the dog's tail, and get "kisses" from a kitten!

When these children turn 8-10 months of age--both are adopted into totally strange homes--which one will have an easier time adapting to his new situation, and which one may end up being traumatized for the rest of his life?

A good breeder understands the difference between (mentally) unhealthy "nurture" and proper socialization!

"To reduce the possibility of fearful responses as a puppy grows and matures, it is essential to expose young puppies to many stimuli (people, places and things) when they can most effectively socialize, localize, and habituate to these stimuli. Early handling and events that occur during the first 2 to 4 months of life, are critical factors in the social development of the dog. Dogs that receive insufficient exposure to people, other animals and new environments during this time may develop irreversible fears, leading to timidity or aggression." [Emphasis added]

Puppy Socialization

Full Study on the interplay between behavioral genetics and development:

Early Canid Domestication: The Farm-Fox Experiment by Lyudmila N. Trut (pdf)

Puppies need to be exposed to as much variety during their early stage of development as possible!

"A fox terrier puppy (male) raised in complete isolation and introduced to other dogs at 16 weeks displayed inhibited behavior and was attacked by the other puppies that were normally socialized. He was placed with other dogs also raised in isolation; the dogs lived alongside each other, without aggression but also without interaction (Fisher, 1955 in Scott and Fuller, 1965). Dogs raised in isolation and placed in contact with others of their species at 16 weeks are attacked and rejected."

"In conclusion, puppies demonstrate an investigation-attraction behavior towards the unfamiliar as soon as they are able to express this attraction (almost adult motor capacity), in other words at 3±˝ weeks. This attraction subsides in an almost linear manner after the fifth week until at least 9 weeks. The attraction recedes under the influence of fear of the unknown behavior which grows after 5 weeks; the puppy "recovers" from its initial fearful reaction instantaneously from 3 to 5 weeks (investigation behavior effect), and then it remains wary for longer periods as it grows older. At 12 weeks socialization requires active manipulation (mimicking play-fights), at 14 weeks socialization seems to be impossible."

Sirius Dog: Sensory, Emotional and Social Development of the Young Dog Part I

Here are some of the guidelines that we encourage ISSR breeders to follow:

1. During the first week of the puppy's life, try to hold each individual pup as often as possible. Place each one, individually, on a variety of surfaces such as a carpet, blanket, towel, glossy magazine, etc.

2. During the second week each pup needs to leave it's dam for short periods of time and be exposed to a variety of sounds and smells! Sometimes two pups will be removed together (in a small laundry basket) and taken to various rooms in the house. At other times responsible family members will carry* (or just hold) a pup while watching TV or working on the computer, etc., etc. (Each pup needs to feel secure while listening to a human heart beating. The imprinting is critical toward a proper future bonding with his new family! It is also important for the puppy to hear a variety of human voices! )

3. During the third week the puppy needs to be presented with small challenges that will help him to develop self esteem--confidence! Placing the puppy on grass (or on a shag carpet) for the first time and asking him to maneuver several feet for a treat works great! This is also a great time to encourage a lot of people to talk to, pet and play with the puppies--as a group as well as individually.

4. During the fourth week each puppy should be introduced to at least a dozen strangers that will hold him and play with him for short periods of time! Puppies should also experience many new surfaces and temperatures, such as walking inside of a DRY bathtub, on a wooden deck, over rocks, up a small step, etc., etc.  They should also be exposed to distant loud noises, like a vacuum cleaner, dishwasher, hair dryer, etc.

By the end of the fourth week they should only see their dam for short visits twice daily, during the weaning-- all other contact should be with their human family, visitors and friends.

5. During the fifth week each pup should spend individual time with a variety of strangers playing in as many new environments as the creative breeder can locate! This is a great time for walks in the woods (even in winter) or on the beach! Trips to the local school during recess or even a trip to an abandoned parking lot where the pup can experience new surfaces, smells and sounds!

Since the puppies have not attained full immunity yet, it is imperative that they are not exposed to places that are frequented by adult (especially stray) dogs! Doggie parks should be big No No's!

6. During the sixth week each pup should be exposed to more challenges! Encouraging him to play with a balloon (that will pop) is an excellent way to help him build confidence, by encouraging the puppy to overcome such obstacles! Motorized toys can also provide outstanding stimulus. The more challenging situations you can provide for each puppy the more confident he will become.

At Shiloh farms, I had a favorite obstacle path I would take pups on! It had an old large fallen tree that I would step on to cross over, but my pups had to figure out how to overcome this monster! If they detoured to the right, they would face a small ditch (often filled with about 2-3 inches of water), if they went to the left they could easily catch up with me, but if they did not go far enough to see the opening they might panic and try to climb over the log that was twice their height!

I would take note of those that outsmarted this "natural maze" versus those that would "bulldoze" their way through the water filled ditch, or attempt to climb it! If a pup panicked, I would return and then walk to the left to show him the escape path and praise him for his courage! A few days later we would walk this path again and compare reactions!

7. The seventh week is the most critical! Each puppy needs to experience strange visitation on a daily basis! Make sure that you ask your children to invite their friends over after school for puppy parties! Invite your neighbors for a barbeque, pool party, sledding, leaf raking--whatever works! Call in the local Boy Scout troop and offer to supply them with food if they agree to camp out in your yard! Be creative. Your puppy needs to receive proper imprinting NOW--in a safe controlled environment before you release him to his new family!

Turning on a small sprinkler while the pups are playing helps them to face and overcome such shocking experiences with ease! It also helps the breeder to better understand each of her puppies thresholds!

"In conclusion: behavioral patterns develop over successive phases, according to internal and external factors that interact in a complex and continuous manner. As Cyrulnik wrote, "the World of each animal is built around the double constraint of genetics and development".  (Dr. DeHasse, Sensory, Emotional and Social Development of the Young Dog).

Be sure that your next companion comes from a breeder that has received plenty of instructions and support (from top REBs!) regarding genetics, whelping and proper rearing and evaluating temperaments of the puppies being sold!

ISSR Litter Evaluation Report Manual ISSR Breeder Matrix
Puppy Producers: What Are They? Broken Hearted Breed Founder 1998
Broken Hearted Breed Founder: Cherry Blossom 1999 Broken Hearted Breed Founder: Brookville 2000
Broken Hearted Breed Founder: Frederick 2001 Broken Hearted Breed Founder Redux 2004
Broken Hearted Breed Founder: Cherry Blossom 2004 What is a Shiloh Shepherd™?

Real Questions Honest Answers from the Shiloh Shepherd ™ Breed Founder

This article, written by Tina M. Barber in June 2004 for the Shiloh Shepherd Learning Center, was first published in June 2004.

Other ISSR, Inc. Reports:

Breeding Related:
ISSR Registered Litters (by kennel) ISSR Litters born per year (Charts) ISSR Licensed Breeder Matrix
ROM Points Widely Used Studs  

Health Survey (2000) and Ongoing Genetic Task Force Database:

Importance of the health survey
(Summer 2000)

Health Survey 2000
(a word from the Breed founder)

Health Survey 2000 Preliminary Results
Health Survey 2000 Final Results
 (Fall SSDCA NEWSLETTER 2001, includes Dr. Padgett's report)
GTF Database
(Reported diseases from 2000 Health Survey)
Ongoing On-Line Health Survey


Littermate X-ray Program Methods of Hip Certification Shiloh Shepherd™ Hip Ratings


Litter Evaluation Program Manual (updated 2010!)

other articles of interest:


Real Questions Honest Answers Investigate Before You Invest

The ISSR at work, for the betterment of the Shiloh Shepherd™ Breed, since 1991.