How We Raise Our Puppies

As German Shepherd Breeders we always work hard to produce well adjusted puppies.

This extends beyond pedigree research, sound breeding practices, and health testing and into how we raise our puppies.

Everyone loves puppies, they are so cute and sweet, but did you know there are important developmental periods your puppy will go through before ever joining your household? Further, that your puppy’s early puppyhood experiences can affect it’s health and behavior throughout it’s life.

Puppy raising is an art and a science. We want to raise puppies who will have the best chance to grow into confident, stable, and resilient adult dogs, able to handle the stresses and challenges of a modern lifestyle. This takes both expertise and hard work.

In our desire to raise the most behaviorally sound, confident, and stable puppies possible we implemented the game changing Puppy Culture puppy raising, training, and socialization protocols almost five years ago and are extremely pleased with the results.

To learn more about Puppy Culture watch this video.

Here is an overview of the developmental stages each puppy goes through, and the Puppy Culture protocol during that period. Austerlitz Shepherds “bonuses” are protocols we have developed that specifically benefit the German Shepherd Dog and our clients, these grouped after the Puppy Culture summary.

This is only an overview, once a puppy is reserved  a Puppy Culture DVD or log in for video on demand, will be provided so you can watch Puppy Culture for yourself, follow along with our progress, and continue our work when your puppy joins your household.

Puppy Culture The Prenatal Period:

Did you know the health, happiness, and environment of your puppy’s mother AND father, affects their puppies?

The brain is very sensitive to perinatal programming, this means that even before a puppy is born, nature is trying to adapt that puppy to it’s environment.   Stress hormones in particular have powerful brain programming properties.  Puppies born of stressed parents have different brains, and bodies, than those born of happy and  well adjusted parents.

  • Less Bone Mass
  • Learning Deficits
  • Impaired Cell Proliferation
  • Hypomyelination (leads to learning deficits,problem behaviors).
  • Increased prenatal stress induced increase in stress hormones in offspring.
Even expectant mothers enjoy a fun game of scent work. Detecting odors is an excellent form of exercise for our females.

Since we want our puppies to have the best start possible, and since we just love and enjoy our dogs, we follow these Puppy Culture recommendations to ensure our sires and dams are happy, well adjusted, and not stressed out!

  • Enriched Environment: Toys, Love, Attention.
  • Exercise:  Appropriate for her stage of pregnancy
  • Problem Solving Games:  Training, puzzle toys, learning new tricks and behaviors all taught with positive reinforcement (training benefits are negated if taught with suppression or avoidance, since these trigger stress hormone production).
  • Therapeutic Chewing which studies show lower stress hormones and boost “Wellness” hormones.

Puppy Culture, The Neonatal Period: 0 – 14 Days:

“Newborn puppies look like sleeping loaves of fur. But there’s furious activity going on under their little hoods”

From day 3 – 16 healthy puppies are provided with Early Neurological Stimulation (ENS).  ENS also called the “Super Dog Program” takes advantage of early neurological stimulation to help “jump start” a puppy’s adrenal system.  The benefits of ENS include: stronger heart, greater endurance, stronger immune system, faster recovery from and tolerance for stress, among others.

ENS: (day 3 – 16)

Puppy Culture, Transitional Period: 14 – 21 Days.

” Did you know that puppies have developmental periods, and those developmental periods are defined by behavioral markers? It’s important for both breeders and puppy owners to be able to correctly identify these behavioral markers, because something that is extremely beneficial one week, could be very harmful in the next week, depending on what developmental period the puppy is in.

In this amazing week, we see the puppies transform from deaf, blind, helpless loaves of fur, to real little puppies who can hear, toddle, and play.”

During this time:

  • Puppies eyes open
  • Puppies learn to lap liquids
  • Puppies start toddling.

So we start:

  • Ensuring newly opened eyes are protected from bright light.
  • Offering a shallow pan with goat milk.
  • Enrich the puppy’s environment with age appropriate items, for the transitional period this is tactile items the puppies can explore by scent, sound, and texture.
  • Enriching the environment optimizes brain development and is continued until the puppies leave for their new homes.

AGSD Bonus: German Shepherds develop very quickly and have a strong desire to be clean. As early as 14 days they will attempt to move far away from their bed to void. So we introduce a small “toilet” area for the puppies at this age, and a small bed. This helps even these tiny puppies to define a resting area and a toilet area preserving their natural desire to be clean. Clean puppies are easier to house train later, and have fewer accidents. Every week we continue to build upon this house training plan.

 Critical Socialization Period: 3 to 12 Weeks.

“Did you know that the critical socialization period in dogs begins at just three weeks old, and is over when the puppies are 12 weeks old?

What does it take to socialize a puppy? Socialization is more than just exposure – it’s a rich blend of skills, positive experiences, and enrichment.”

At Austerlitz Shepherds we work diligently to take full advantage of the Critical Socialization Period, to help each puppy be the best it can be.  Puppies are ALWAYS home raised, by our experienced and loving puppy raisers.

Week by Week Guide:

Week 3.

The Enrichment Effect: Puppies receive an expertly enriched environment, the benefits of which will last a lifetime. This continues every week until puppies leave.

During this time: Puppy’s eyes open, they begin to toddle, and are introduced to solid foods.

Puppies begin receiving visitors as socialization starts.

Startle Recovery exercises prime puppies for confidence in the face of the challenges of a busy life.

Foundation exercises for the prevention of separation anxiety also start now.

AGSD Bonus: We know many of our puppies will pursue sport or working careers with their owners.  These environments expose dogs to a wide variety of unpredictable sounds.  We start Novel Sound Conditioning at 3 weeks of age first pairing surprising and novel sounds with meal preparation (to create a happy response to surprising and novel sounds) and then playing these sounds for an extended period of time to habituate the puppies to them.   This protocol starts in Week 3 and continues off and on and until the puppies leave for their new homes.  

Week 4.

Puppies are moved into a larger weaning pen, with age appropriate enrichment, to help them grow stronger in body and mind.

Puppies first weaning pen features a litterbox, play area, and resting area. This helps the puppies learn to keep their area clean.

Emotional Resiliency Exercises are done, giving the puppies the gift of “bounce back” from life challenges.

Novel surfaces and sounds are introduced, to help puppies become adaptive to change sights and sounds.

Puppies are removed from the litter for individual “cuddle” sessions, this helps prevent separation anxiety later

Problem solving games are introduced, these help puppies learn to handle life’s frustrations early.

In week 4 Lick Mats are introduced. This is a form of enrichment that optimizes mental development, soothes fussy puppies, and creates a love of problem solving.

We start teaching our puppies to come when called by “calling” the puppies to each meal.   This builds a very enthusiastic response to being called.

AGSD Bonus:  When we started crate conditioning our puppies four years ago we had no idea how well received our protocol would  be!  Our puppies and their families benefit tremendously from this protocol, and we are so happy to be teaching other breeders how to use our protocol to build a solid foundation of confidence and competence around the crate.   You can read an overview of our protocol here: 

  • Crates are introduced to the weaning pen (doors removed)
  • comfy beds are placed inside to encourage puppies to nap in crates.

Week 5.

Puppies learn to communicate with us in socially acceptable ways, such as Manding, instead of jumping up, biting, and grabbing.

Barrier challenges are introduced, to help puppy learn to problem solve and handle frustration.

Our puppy patio is opened to the puppies at 5 weeks, they can access it through a doggie door. The Puppy Patio allows the puppies to experience the outside world at their own pace. Meeting other resident dogs they don’t know, hearing lots of interesting sounds, and taking in the sights and smells.

We continue to offer new and unique items, toys, and challenges each day as puppies continue to learn to LOVE novelty and change.  Puppies  begin to have access to their safe Puppy Patio, so they can have more room for exercise, play, and taking in the sights and sounds outside while still being safe.

Clicker training starts and puppies start learning their core skills: Attention, Manding (asking politely), Come.

Fear starts: At five weeks puppies are for the first time capable of experiencing true fear. We expertly guide the puppies through their fear period, avoiding any experience that might cause lifelong fear problems, and building more emotional resilience as we go along.

More visitors!  We only allow puppy experts to interact with the puppies during these sensitive periods, so puppies learn confidence around a variety of novel people without the risk of an inexperienced person accidentally scaring or hurting a puppy.

Crate Training:  AGSD Bonus Lesson.

  • Puppies are fed in crates
  • Puppies are encouraged to run into their crates.

Week 6. The Curiosity Period!

We continue to expertly guide puppies with just the right amount of socialization. In Week 6 Puppy Parties are started. These hugely important socialization and training events are designed to expose puppies to just the right experiences at the right time.

Novel people of all shapes, ages, and sizes are introduced, our expert care ensures the puppies have positive responses during these important “first” meetings, because a scary meeting at this age can cause lifelong fear.

Puppies get to practice their training in real life settings, they get to Mand (ask politely) for petting (instead of jumping).

Puppies show off their enrichment seeking abilities and build confidence on novel object challenges.

Puppies learn to love strange and unusual footing, heights, and noises.

Session are kept short, puppies have naps and learn to relax when visitors come over, all skills they will need in their new homes.

But don’t think the puppy party is just for the puppies. Those fortunate puppy families who can attend also benefit, you will learn how to communicate and teach your puppy using marker training, how to prevent common undesired behaviors (like nipping or jumping up), and how to respond if they do occur. We discuss nutrition, crate training, house training, puppy training, and supplies. It’s a learning experience for all!

But Puppy Parties are not all we’re doing in these important (and busy weeks) we are also:

1. Teaching Come when called.
2. Introducing interactive toys, and climbing toys.
3. Outdoor time starts!
4. Some puppies start Scent Games
5. Puppies spend more time learning how to “dog” by playing and interacting with our puppy expert canine nannies and nannos (dogs who love and are skilled puppy raisers).

Crate Training:  AGSD Bonus Lesson

  • Puppies nap in crate with door open.
    Puppies eat in crate with door closed.

Car Training:  AGSD Bonus Lesson

  • Puppies play in the car, engine off.

Week 7:

Problem behavior prevention protocols are started.

We teach the puppies to LOVE having someone take their food, food bowl, toys, bones, and other items. This helps prevent resource guarding later.

AGSD Bonus:

In addition to the Puppy Culture training exercises in Week 7, puppies are also taught:

  • To sit on cue.
  • To come when called.
  • To give up a toy.
  • To target.

Crate Training:

  • Enter crate when asked.
  • Eat in crate with door closed.
  • Chew bone in crate with door closed.
  • Nap in crate with door closed.

Car Training:  AGSD Bonus Lesson

  • Puppies chew bones in the car with the engine running.

We hold another Puppy Party for Week 7.

Puppies get to show off their new skills!
Our puppy families get to practice their training skills!

More confidence building exercises are taught.

More surfaces, new objects, and games!

New people, New confidence games and exercises.

Mock “vet exams”

Nail trimming, ear cleaning, getting your temperature taken.

Week 8:

Fear Periods start. Fear periods are a normal part of puppy development, knowing how to deal with them, what to do, and most importantly what not to do, have lifelong implications for the adult dog and it’s family. With our expertise we are able to both recognize when a puppy is experiencing a fear period, to help them through the period, without allowing any trauma that might affect their temperament forever.

Puppy Party: Week 8

  • Training continues as does practice.
  • Puppies meet more new people.

Sit, Come, Crate on cue, hand targeting, are all continuing. Puppies continue to practice Manding (asking politely).

Crate training:  AGSD Bonus Lesson

  • Enter Crate when asked.
  • Eat in crate with door closed.
  • Chew bone in crate with door closed.
  • Sleep overnight in crate.

Car Training:  AGSD Bonus Lesson

  • Puppies have short car ride.

More work learning to love giving up: food, toys, bowls, and other resource guarding prevention is done.

Our Week 8 puppy party is designed to build on what the puppies learned at their first (Week 7) puppy party. We are careful and observant of any potential fear period, and we teach our families how to effectively help puppies through unsureness.

Week 8 Party skills include all previous skills and lessons plus:

  • Loose Leash Walking.
  • Attention under distraction.
  • Flirt play and other puppy safe play.
  • Body handling, nail trims, grooming.

Our Puppy Families also learn more about:

  • The first week at home.
  • House Training.
  • Biting and nipping prevention.
  • Core training skills.
  • Finding a safe and suitable puppy class.
  • Finding safe and suitable puppy playmates.
  • How to effectively and safely socialize.
  • How to use Environmental Enrichment to prevent problems.

Week 9.

Puppies continue to have their weaning pen expanded so they have enough room to exercise and avoid conflict with each other, new enrichment items and toys are added daily. Kibble dispensers are introduced: Kibble Nibbles, Wobblers, Squirrel Dudes and stuffed Kongs.  Puppies and dogs who get to work for their meals are calmer, have fewer behavior problems, and learn frustration tolerance.   You will receive a snuffle mat in your puppy pack to get you, and your puppy, started!

  • Training continues! All core skills are practiced, and puppies continue to have individual training sessions as well as group sessions.
  • Sit when asked.
  • Come when called.
  • Touch my hand.
  • Crate when asked.
  • Walk on a loose leash.
  • Attention.

New for week 9:

  • Down when asked.

Crate training: AGSD Bonus Lesson

  • Enter crate when asked.
  • Eat in crate with door closed.
  • Chew bone in crate with door closed.
  • Puppies continue to sleep overnight in crates.

Car Training:

  • Puppies ride in car to the vet.
F Litter on the way to the vet!

In preparation for going home puppies have:

  • Complete Veterinary exam. Of course we want our puppies to LOVE the vet, so we make sure they have a blast!
  • Puppies get to have fun meeting new people.
  • Puppies are taught to step onto scale.
  • Puppies practicing Manding (asking politely) for petting.
  • Puppies practice the vet exam skills (from Week 8 Puppy Party) for real!

Depending on what day of the week the puppies are born on, they will go home between their 9 week and 10 week birthday in most cases.