Why We Do It Different From Others
At Agape Standard Poodles, we aim to produce the best-rounded, versatile, and happy puppies we can. We delight in our puppies becoming service dogs, facility therapy dogs, obedience champions, agility contenders, and so much more! One of the ways we accomplish this is by setting out a protocol for proper handling. We have studied many highly recommended puppy protocols and have formulated our own with the knowledge we've gained from others. I call it the "Agape Puppy Protocol". New families are kept a part of our protocol and given details on what happens each day their puppy is growing in our home.
The Agape Puppy Protocol
First, our puppies do not stay in a kennel or room away from our home. They are raised in our home as part of our family. This not only prepares them for their new homes, but also makes sure we don't miss anything as they grow. The Agape Puppy Protocol begins at just a day old. We keep the time handled to less than a minute for each puppy. It is during this time that Early Neurological Stimulation begins. During week three, we focus on every part of the puppy’s body. More time is spent on each section, focusing on the puppy as a whole, as they age. By the time a puppy goes home, he will be used to it all! Puppies are also introduced to scents from days 7 to 16. This helps give us an idea of the stronger noses in the litter and has proven successful at scent work placement for service work (diabetic alert, etc).
As part of our protocol, we also begin introducing novelty items while the puppies are in the Nursery. Whelping box novelty item exposures are conducted in the whelping box in a gentle and safe manner. Children are not allowed during the initial introduction. The exposures are conducted from week 3 to week 4 and nothing is done in an unpredictable manner. Pups are not stressed or overstimulated during the exposures. The goal of these activities is to build trust and have fun. The puppies are curious and may engage as they please, never forced or manipulated around or on the items. It is all on the puppies’ terms, at free will. We do a few items each day, only when puppies are all tolerating the exposures nicely.
Once puppies are moved out of their whelping box and into a puppy pen, we begin environment exposure activities. We closely monitor the puppies for any stress and evaluate startle recovery when exhibited. We only move through the exposures when puppies are ready and when doing them for the first time, no children are allowed. Items are introduced from beginner to advanced levels and each item is assessed and worked at an appropriate pace. We do not ever force our puppies to participate. It is always done at free will. Once an item is mastered, it is still available for play. We start with items such as plush toys and advance to tunnels and balance boards. Their puppy pen is separated into two sections- a play area and a sleep/crate area with potty trays placed in the middle which helps with potty training.
The inside play area starts as a basic play area with few toys and eventually advances to a complete play gym and brain exercise center (as protocol advances). It also has an exterior door with a doggy door the puppies begin using around 4-5 weeks old. They have free will at using the doggy door after several days of supervised outside play in the outdoor puppy play area. The puppies are also allowed in and out of their individual crates at free will during the day. This begins the process of crate training for their new homes so it is not a scary of unfamiliar "prison", but instead, it feels safe and secure to them. Puppies are also exposed to grooming early. Electric toothbrushes are first used and then actual grooming clippers are introduced.
We feel that our strict and proven protocol has helped us with successful placement of our puppies, whether it be in family homes, therapy work, service work, and everything in between. It has also helped our puppies exhibit less stress when they go to new homes and begin life with their new families.
*This is an extremely condensed, Cliff-note version of our Protocol. We are happy to share more info, videos, pictures, etc. Just ask!