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Early Neurological Stimulation (ENS) for Newborn Puppies

Early Neurological Stimulation (ENS) for Newborn Puppies

Puppy Care   /   Jan 13th, 2024   /   0 COMMENTS   /  A+ | a-

Early Neurological Stimulation for Newborn Puppies
Research article by Emery-n-Denise (Updated January 23, 2024)

Most people have always felt that the process socializing puppies is the responsibility of the owner. We encourage our new owners to take their puppy to neighborhood dog training classes and make sure they are exposed to other dogs, people, and a variety of situations. However, this should not occur until the puppy has had all of its booster vaccinations and rabies shots which will finish up at around 4 to 5 months of age.

Since the 1950's, research has shown that steps can be taken to encourage a stable temperament in puppies soon after the puppies are born. We as breeders do a lot to make sure our puppies get a great start on being more adaptable to many kinds of situations that they might encounter during their life. We start at the most critical time that a puppy begins to experience its life outside the mother's womb, during the first three weeks after birth.

The First Three Weeks in a Newborn Pups Life are Crucial:

Research has determined that the first three weeks of a puppy’s life are the most crucial for influencing the puppy's disposition and personality. During this stage of their life, the puppies are completely dependent on their momma and the breeder because their eyes are closed for the first 10 to 14 days, and their hearing starts at around 2 weeks of age. During the first 2 to 3 weeks after birth, a puppy adjusts and becomes more comfortable to the way they are touched and held. The puppy’s senses to stimulations such as warmth, cold and touch to their feet are greatly heightened due to their lack of sight and hearing. These heightened sensations can be very productive in allowing the puppy to accept human interaction. But the most important interaction with a newborn puppy is human touch. A puppy should be gently handled and stroked at least two times a day so they learn that human touch is a pleasant experience.

Early Neurological Stimulation (ENS):

In addition to daily handling of the puppies, some breeders (including us) use the Early Neurological Stimulation (ENS) techniques to enhance a pup’s acclamation to humans and balance its personality traits. In this procedure, a series of five maneuvers are conducted once daily starting on the third day after birth and continued through the 16th day. This period during a newborn pup’s life is believed to be a time of rapid neurological growth and development. Even though puppies are very immature during this time frame, they are still very sensitive to touch and handling which makes ENS an ideal way to enhance their personality and acclamation to humans.

ENS was developed by the US Military to improve the training and performance of military working dogs. Dr. Carmen Battaglia, an esteemed breeder, judge, seminar presenter, and AKC board member participated in the development of ENS and also as part of the AKC’s Breeding Better Dogs program.

During the 14-day procedure, the puppies are handled one at a time while performing a series of five maneuvers or stimulations. We start with one pup and stimulate it through each maneuver until completed from beginning to end before starting with the next pup. The ENS procedure involves the following maneuvers or stimulations for each pup, once per day:

1. Tactile stimulation – We hold the pup in one hand and gently stimulate (tickle) the pup between the toes on any one foot using a Q-tip. It is not necessary to see that the pup is feeling the tickle. The duration of this stimulation is 3-5 seconds.

2. Head held erect – Using both hands, we hold the pup perpendicular to the ground, (straight up), so that its head is directly above its tail in an upwards position. The duration of this maneuver is 3-5 seconds.

3. Head pointed down – Next, we hold the pup firmly with both hands with the head pointed straight downward towards the ground so that the tail is directly above the head. The duration of this maneuver is 3-5 seconds.

4. Supine position – In this maneuver, we hold the pup laying on its back in the palm of both hands with its face pointing up towards the ceiling and our hands are under the backside of the pup. The duration of this maneuver is 3-5 seconds.

5. Thermal stimulation The last procedure stimulates the pup with a slightly damp towel that has been cooled in the refrigerator for at least five minutes, and then placed flat on the floor. We place the pup on the towel with its belly and feet downward on the towel and without restraining the pup from moving if it chooses. The duration of this stimulation is 3-5 seconds.

It is extremely important not to repeat the exercises more than once each day and not extend the duration of each exercise beyond 3 to 5 seconds so that the puppy is not traumatized and its recovery time is quick. If these guidelines are not carefully followed, over stimulation of the neurological system will result which can have adverse results with the opposite effect of what ENS is supposed to achieve.

What ENS Achieves If Done Correctly:

When performed correctly, ENS is believed to have a very positive effect on the neurological system of the pup earlier than would be normally expected without ENS. Here are six positive effects of ENS that can result:

  1. The pup will be much more acclimated to human interaction and its relationship with humans as it grows older. This also allows the training process to start at an earlier age, as early as two months old in the home and 4 to 5 months old around other dogs.
  2. The pup will have a more balanced personality as it matures, meaning that it will not be overly hyper, or under active.
  3. The pup will be better suited as a service dog to humans such as: guide dogs, advance alert dogs, emotional support dogs, mobility assistance dogs, or PTSD support dogs.
  4. The pup will have better cardio vascular performance (heart rate) with stronger heart beats.
  5. The pup will have stronger adrenal glands which help to control stress, anxiety, and blood sugar levels.
  6. The pup will have a greater resistance to disease.


The ENS exercises are not a substitution for daily handling and stroking of young puppies. Emery-n-Denise’s Golden Puppies have been using the ENS procedure for many years and we have noticed marked improvements in our puppy’s temperament, ability to adjust to its environment, healthiness and longevity compared to years past before we started ENS, and other breeders of Golden Retrievers who do not use ENS.

We hope our article on ENS helps you to develop confidence in who we are, what we are about, and the priority we place on breeding high quality Goldens that will bring many years of a happy, healthy puppy to the individuals and families who adopt one of our pups. Thank you for spending a part of your days with us!

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