John Paul Scott and John L. Fuller, in their 13-year study beginning in the 1950s at Bar Harbor, Maine, summarized in the classic book Genetics and the Social Behavior of the Dog (1965), set out to answer the question of what influence, if any, heredity had on behavior. Although they wanted to understand human behavior, they said, “Anyone who wishes to understand a human behavior trait or hereditary disease can usually find the corresponding condition in dogs with very little effort.”
One of their discoveries was that there were certain periods in a puppy’s early life where certain events must take place, for example, contact with humans or exposure to other dogs. If those events did not take place, then that opportunity was lost, and the puppy would not develop to its fullest potential. Those were called “critical periods.”
Clarence Pfaffenberger worked with the Guide Dogs for The Blind and later worked with Scott and Fuller. His book The New Knowledge of Dog Behavior (1963) chronicles his research on how to find the ideal guide dog puppy. He applied their work to his own and came up with additional findings.
In the 1960s, the US Army was trying to breed a dog that was genetically and behaviorally sound for use in the military. It was called The Bio-Sensor Project” but was later changed to “Superdog.” Dr. Michael W. Fox was involved in this project. In Understanding Your Dog, Dr. Fox talks about “how environmental influences early in life can have profound and enduring effects on behavior.”
Dr. Carmen Battaglia, although not a participant in the Bio-Sensor project, came up with a series of handling exercises based on Dr. Fox’s work which he now calls “Developing High Achievers,” formerly known as “Early Neurological Stimulation.”
He came up with a series of five exercises:
- Tactical stimulation (between toes)
- Head held erect
- Head pointed down
- Supine position
- Thermal stimulation
If these exercises are done correctly, puppies generally are more behaviorally sound than if they are not done and seem to have a beneficial effect on the puppy’s mental and emotional development although there have not been any scientific tests to prove this.
The next development in puppy socialization came from Dr. Ian Dunbar who both researched puppies and began what are now commonplace – puppy classes. These classes help puppies learn about playing and dog body language, BUT they are not a free-for-all where puppies can run around and do whatever they want.