puppy with favorite toys early neurological stimulation ens training

When our puppies are 3 days old we begin using an Early Neurological Stimulation (ENS) Program. Why so early? We strive to produce happy, healthy puppies who grow into well-adjusted adult dogs. Well-adjusted dogs are less fearful, more focused, and respond appropriately to stress. To accomplish this goal, we raise our dogs using the proven ENS program.

What is Early Neurological Stimulation?

The ENS program was developed by the US Military as part of their “bio-sensor” or “super puppy” program, and further studied and popularized by Dr. Carmen Battaglia [see footnote 1].

Dogs are what’s known as an “altricial” species, meaning they are born in a state where they are born helpless. Puppies can’t see, hear, maintain their own body temperature, or even eliminate on their own at birth. They can slowly crawl very short distances, maybe up to a few feet at a time. Their helpless state continues until they are about 2-3 weeks old, depending on breed. (Compare this to “precocial” species, such as horses, that within minutes of birth can see, hear, eat, maintain their own body temperature, and run.)

At about 2-3 weeks old, puppies start to be able to hear, see, and move around a little better as well as to eliminate on their own.

But it’s the period between birth and this beginning of self-sufficiency that is critical for ENS.

3 day old puppies beginning early neurological stimulation training

‘Good’ stress?

Early Neurological Stimulation is a method of stimulating the nervous systems of the puppies during this time period. It’s based on the principle of eustress. Distress is bad stress—stress that is too overwhelming or lasts too long to be healthy. Eustress is good stress. It’s the same kind of stress that causes you to get stronger when you work out. Working out is stressful on the body, but builds the body, while distress is harmful to the body and causes damage of one kind or another.

ENS provides just the right amount of eustress on the nervous system to stimulate development. It’s like a gym workout for the puppies’ nervous system.

We have all heard stories of dogs who are aggressive around new people, scared of new places, or just scared of everything in general! ENS can help prevent these issues and create a more fulfilling relationship for dogs and owners.

ENS is done while the puppies are in their early developmental stage. The stage that follows early development is their socialization period, which is another critical stage to ensure puppies grow and adapt as optimally as possible. ENS helps prepares them for their socialization period, when they learn how to interact with and trust humans, other dogs, and other species. Using ENS, we ensure your puppies have the emotional development to handle and meet the challenges of socialization.

In other words, ENS is critical to preparing your puppies to meet and conquer their world!

If you breed dogs with good genetics, why do you need ENS?

Dogs are born with fixed genetics—their genetics don’t change over their lifetime. We breed dogs with the soundest genetics possible. However, epigenetics are changeable throughout an individual’s lifetime.

So if you look at genetics as the set of “recipes” for everything that creates the dog, epigenetics are how and when those recipes are used. Your “recipe book” may be fixed and unchangeable, but when and how you use them is not.

Another analogy is if your dog’s genetics were music written on a sheet of paper, that musical score would not change. But how an individual plays the music can change.

ENS takes advantage of a very specific early developmental window to work with your puppy’s epigenetics to ensure that your puppy’s early neurological development is optimized epigenetically.

ens training for very young puppies

How we integrate ENS into our puppy-rearing practices

We start introducing our puppies to positive touch before they are even born by rubbing on mom’s side during late pregnancy. Puppies are capable of sensing and responding to touch even in the womb. Research shows this touch results in the birth of more docile pups than mom’s who don’t get the extra loving. The ENS program involves way more than we can cover in one sitting. So we’re going to focus specifically on what we do during the first two weeks of the puppies’ lives.

Puppies start the Early Neurological Stimulation program when they are three days old. The ENS program involves five different exercises done with each puppy once a day. Puppies are tickled on the bottom of their paws and between their toes. They’re held straight with their tails down, held upside down with their tails up, laid on their backs, and placed on a cold washcloth. The program recommends staying in each position for 3-5 seconds. This is so the brief changes are enough to stimulate the puppies’ brains but not enough to stress them out too much. We want to produce enough eustress so that their neurological development is stimulated. But we don’t want to overdo it and cross into creating distress for the puppies.

early neurological stimulation training dr carmen battaglia

Why we use Early Neurological Stimulation for our puppies

We choose to use the ENS method developed by Dr. Battaglia because it helps produce dogs who have greater tolerance of stress throughout their lifetimes.  They also have more resistance to disease, a more responsive adrenal system, and a stronger heart rate and heartbeat. The methods we use are proven by science and experience to promote the best outcomes for our puppies.

We are passionate about producing puppies who have the best chance at the best life, and we believe the ENS program is critical for this process. Contact us for more information or to answer your questions!

1- Dr. Carmen Battaglia, “Early Neurological Stimulation & Puppy Development“ Presented at Tufts’ Canine and Feline Breeding and Genetics Conference, 2005