The Early Neurological Stimulation (ENS) method has gained much traction in recent years. Mainly, in the dog breeder’s community. So, if you’ve ever wondered what exactly Early Neurological Stimulation is and how it benefits your puppy, then keep on reading. In this guide, we’ll discuss everything about Early Neurological Stimulation, its benefits, cautions, and how the ENS puppy training works exactly. Let’s dive in!
What Is Early Neurological Stimulation In Dogs?
Early Neurological Stimulation was first developed by the US Military to improve the performance of future military dogs. The program created by the US Military was called “Bio Sensor” and it’s often referred to as the “Super Dog” Program. Today, it’s also known as Early Neurological Stimulation and many breeders utilize this method when rearing puppies.
Based on research, the US Military concluded that puppies experience their first rapid neurological development phase during the neonatal period. This is also the optimal time to conduct neurological stimulation exercises. That’s because during the neonatal period, puppies are extremely sensitive and receptive to stimulations.
So, what is Early Neurological Stimulation for puppies? To put it simply, ENS introduces puppies to mild forms of stimulations and stressors. These stimulations can kick start their neurological system and improve their natural abilities.
The ENS puppy training consists of different body handling exercises. The exercises are done during a puppy’s neonatal period, starting on day 3 from birth and lasting until day 16. During this developmental phase, puppies are very sensitive and helpless. Their eyes are still closed until day 10 and they start hearing things around 2 weeks old. Although they can’t see or hear yet, they can already sense touch.
Early Neurological Stimulation for puppies has been shown to improve their neurological development, along with a variety of other benefits for their overall development, emotional stability, and health.
In fact, some studies suggest that only 35% of a puppy’s performance is up to their genetics and up to 65% is determined by their environment. For this reason, it’s crucial that a puppy gets enough body handling, socialization, training, a good diet, and a safe living environment from birth.
Benefits Of Early Neurological Stimulation
ENS has been widely adopted by many dog breeders, as it has many different benefits for the puppies’ development. Probably one of the best benefits of ENS for puppies is early desensitization. ENS helps desensitize puppies to human touch and body handling, which is crucial for any dog’s proper development.
As ENS introduces puppies to mild forms of stress, it’s also been observed to help desensitize puppies to stress. This in turn can greatly affect how they react to different stressors later on in life. As a result, puppies can withstand stressful situations much better. They’re also less likely to react in an aggressive, overly anxious, or fearful manner.
Naturally, this doesn’t mean that dogs who have been introduced to ENS during their neonatal period do not respond to stress at all. Rather, they can tolerate stress better and react in a more appropriate manner.
In addition to that, it’s been observed that puppies who have been exposed to Early Neurological Stimulation during the neonatal period are better at problem solving and they have a more curious and active nature.
Moreover, research suggests that puppies who have been exposed to Early Neurological Stimulation training benefit from improved heart health, stronger immune system, and improved hormonal, pituitary, and adrenal systems.
The benefits of ENS for puppies are thought to be:
- Improved cardiovascular performance
- Stronger heartbeats
- Stronger adrenal glands
- Improved tolerance to stress
- Greater resistance to disease
Things To Consider
Of course, all of these benefits are observed and the scientific studies have reported mixed results. However, as ENS puppy training provides the much needed body handling, it certainly helps puppies get used to human contact.
Nevertheless, a crucial part of a puppy’s development is early socialization. Although ENS for puppies alone provides some form of socialization, it should be accompanied with other ways of socialization as well. These include hugging, stroking, meeting people of all ages, meeting other dogs, playing with littermates and toys, and so on.
Similarly, all puppies benefit from desensitization. Desensitization should also include sights and sounds, household objects, textures, and surfaces, and much more. This helps ensure that a puppy gets used to all sorts of noises and situations early on. As a result, they’re less likely to become fearful, anxious, or aggressive in new situations or when hearing new sounds.
Lastly, although ENS does have its many perks, it should only be done with extreme caution and care. Stimulation and stress should be kept at a minimum at all costs. What’s more, ENS exercises should only be done on puppies who otherwise don’t experience much stress in their life. Even though small amounts of stress can be beneficial to a puppy’s neurological development and health, excessive stress can lead to the exact opposite.
Early Neurological Stimulation For Puppies – Training & Exercises
The Early Neurological Stimulation method consists of 5 different body handling exercises. All of which should be done once a day from day 3 until day 16 from birth. All of the exercises should be done back to back, and only then should you move on to another puppy. Each stimulation exercise should last only about 3 to 5 seconds, not any longer.
As each exercise only lasts for 3 to 5 seconds, the whole ENS training routine will take just a few minutes per day.
The ENS puppy training program consists of 5 key exercises:
- Tactical stimulation
- Head held erect
- Head pointed down
- Supine position
- Thermal stimulation
Keep in mind that all of those exercises should be repeated only once per day. As we mentioned above, putting a puppy under too much stress can cause adverse results. The same goes for the ENS method. If a puppy receives too much stimulation during their neonatal period, it can do more harm than good.
Let’s take a closer look at each of the exercises and how they’re performed…
Tactical stimulation exercise uses a Q-tip to gently stimulate the puppy between the toes of one foot (any foot). For this exercise, you should hold the puppy in one hand and gently tickle between the toes with a Q-tip for about 3 to 5 seconds.
Although your pup might react to the tickling, it’s not necessary for them to react to the tickle. Above all, you should make sure that you only do the exercise for a limited amount of time, as even too much tickling can induce excessive stress on the puppy.
Head Held Erect
The head held erect exercise is done by holding the puppy straight up in both of your hands. With one hand you can support the puppy’s bottom, while the other hand supports their upper body and head. The puppy’s head should be directly above its tail, so your pup is in a vertical position.
Again, you should be very gentle and keep them in upright position for only 3 to 5 seconds.
Head Pointed Down
The head pointed down exercise is very much similar to the head held erect stimulation. However, you’ll be holding your pup upside down with their head towards the ground.
For this exercise, make sure you’re holding on to the puppy very firmly, yet gently, so they cannot fall out of your hands. You’ll also want to make sure that their whole body is in a vertical position, so be sure to support the puppy’s head and whole body.
The supine position is done by holding the puppy on its back. Hold the puppy in both of your hands with their face towards the ceiling. The puppy should lay horizontally in your palms while you support their head and the whole body.
Thermal stimulation introduces the puppy to a colder temperature than its normally exposed to. For this exercise, you first have to cool a clean, damp towel in the fridge for at least 5 minutes. Then, you’ll place the towel in your hand and place the puppy belly down on the cooled towel.
As your puppy is likely to notice the change in temperature, it’s completely normal if they start wiggling around. Don’t restrain your puppy, but make sure they’re safely in your hand and can’t fall to the ground while moving.
Is Mental Stimulation Tiring For Dogs?
Both physical and mental stimulation are crucial for any puppy or adult dog to function throughout their day-to-day lives. In fact, puppies and dogs who don’t get enough physical and mental stimulation may become anxious and exhibit unwanted behaviors, such as excessive barking or becoming destructive.
For this reason, it’s crucial that you provide your pup both plenty of physical exercise, but also stimulate their mind with training, puzzles, and fun games. Having said that, mental stimulation is definitely tiring for dogs. It’s even thought that mental stimulation can make dogs more tired than physical stimulation.
So, even though exercise is crucial for your pup’s physical and mental health, you should never neglect their mental needs. Dogs are intelligent animals and they need mental stimulation as much as they need physical stimulation.
Early Neurological Stimulation: Frequently Asked Questions
What Is Puppy Culture And ENS?
The Puppy Culture program is a comprehensive puppy rearing program that covers various lessons that breeders (or dog owners) should implement during the first 12 weeks of a puppy’s life. The training program covers a variety of topics, ranging from early socialization, basic manners, basic skills training, aggression prevention, grooming, household desensitization, to leash walking, potty training, crate training, and more.
The Puppy Culture program also includes Early Neurological Stimulation for puppies, which starts at 3 days old and finishes by 16 days of age. It is thought that ENS has many great benefits on the puppies’ neurological development, heart health, stress tolerance, and overall performance and emotional stability. That’s because ENS helps kick start a puppy’s neurological development earlier than it normally would.
Be sure to check out our in-depth guide on Puppy Culture to learn more about the program.
How Do You Stimulate A Newborn Puppy?
The Early Neurological Stimulation method consists of 5 different body handling exercises that should be done on puppies aged 3 to 16 days, once a day. These exercises introduce very mild forms of stress to the puppy for the duration of only 3 to 5 seconds per exercise. You should do each exercise just once and then immediately move on to another.
ENS for puppies includes 5 different body handling exercises, such as:
- Tactile stimulation – holding the puppy in one hand while gently tickling the toes with a Q-tip.
- Head held erect – holding the puppy in a vertical, upright position in both hands, one hand supporting the bottom and the other supporting the upper body and head.
- Head pointed down – holding the puppy vertically in both hands in downward direction with the head towards the ground.
- Supine position – holding the puppy horizontally belly up on both of your hands.
- Thermal stimulation – using a damp, cool towel and placing it over your palm, then placing the puppy on the cool towel with the belly touching the towel.
What Is The Superdog Program?
The “Super Dog” program a.k.a “Bio Sensor” program was initially developed by the US Military to improve the performance and health of future military working dogs. Today, the “Super Dog” program is, in fact, called the Early Neurological Stimulation method, and it’s widely used by dog breeders.
Early Neurological Stimulation: Final Thoughts
To conclude, the Early Neurological Stimulation method along with other forms of socialization and enrichment can improve the puppies’ neurological development, health, emotional stability, stress endurance, and performance. Although the scientific proof is inconclusive and ENS might not work the same on all puppies, it does come with benefits. For instance, body handling, which ENS essentially is, is a great way to introduce the puppy to human touch. Nevertheless, ENS should only be done on puppies who otherwise live a stress free life, as excessive, added stress can cause adverse reactions and hinder their neurological development.
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