By Jerrie E. Wolfe - Rose Croft Cairn Terriers



This a typical group of puppies and adults at my house. Neither adult is the mother of these pups.


Photo by Beth Ann Daye

Sorry if some of you think I am a bit long winded, but this is a subject that is very dear to my heart. I would never want one of my babies to end up in rescue because it was uncontrollable, aggressive and poorly socialized with both humans and other dogs.

If anyone has questions or comments, please feel free to contact me. I will try my best to answer any questions promptly.

I am sure there are as many other methods for raising puppies, as there are owners.


I will begin with rearing. Please note that I have been rearing my dogs in this manner for years and this is how my dogs act and re-act naturally at this time. For those of you who decide to follow these methods, you will need to use more caution at first when you are introducing older dogs to the puppies. I strongly suggest that you begin with the Early Socialization methods described below first.

Dogs are very social animals and have a definite pack order. You MUST establish yourself as the pack leader and the rest of your "pack" will fall into an order of its own behind you.

The female that is in whelp is given special treatment and food for the length of gestation (as she would be given in a wild pack). As the date of whelping nears, enforce the fact that the litter will be born in a place of your choosing. At my house this is next to my bed.

As each pup is born it is weighed and any distinguishing marks or defects are recorded. Each puppy is weighed daily and the stimulation noted below are preformed at this time.

As soon as the bitch (Mom knows best) will tolerate other dogs to be close to the puppies, the older dogs and young adults are invited in to visit and observe the young one. I have noted that the younger females will take over and "baby sit" so that the dam can take breaks away from the litter. I also have had males take over these duties.

My puppies are seldom confined to exercise pens and are put outside in a "puppy play yard", as the weather permits, as soon as they are old enough to navigate on their own. 4-5 weeks old.

My puppy play yard consists of many obstacles, things to crawl over, under and through and many toys. This helps develop fine motor skills at a young age. The more stimulants at this time the better. None of this has to be elaborate, card board boxes, culverts, piles of rocks, lawn furniture, dens dug by previous litters, plastic kiddy wading pool, etc. Yes, it does look sort of like someone's junk pile, but the pups love it!

I allow my bitches to wean the pups on her schedule, not mine. She is fed the same food that I will be giving the puppies and the pups are allowed to start to eat as soon as they are able. My bitches have the wonderful instinctual habit of regurgitating for the puppies! She will eat her full and then re-deposit it for the pups. I leave it up to her judgment to when to discourage the pups from nursing. This too helps to establish the "listen to your elders" and pack order. When feeding time arrives, I whistle and call "puppy, puppy"; this starts the puppies learning to come when called.

There is another advantage of allowing the bitch to wean the puppies slowly - with the resurgence of breast feeding in humans it has been discovered that infants that are breast feed longer and adult food limited until the child is of the age to feed itself, that they develop fewer allergies and have fewer orthodontia problems. When applied to the dogs, the fewer "unnatural" foods introduced at an early age, fewer allergies and the prolonged nursing allows for development of facial muscles (same as in humans).

The other adult and older adolescent dogs are allowed to play in the same yard as the puppies. I do not interfere when an adult corrects a puppy. This is natural, they are simply showing the puppies that they are a higher rank than they are and the pups must "respect their elders". In the past 18 years I have had only one incident of a bitch being over zealous in her correction; She is the Alpha bitch here (aka trouble maker) and really laid into a puppy one day (not her own). I do believe that this had to do with jealousy on her part, as this puppy was receiving extra attention from his prospective owners.

Between the ages of 9-12 weeks, the pups start to develop their own pack order amongst themselves. You will hear quite a bit of "bickering" - allow the pups to settle their own "fights", just like you would do with a child. This is a good time to remove the adults (other than the mother) for a while, as they feel they also have a say in the argument and will gang up on the "underdog". Once the "pecking" order has been established amongst the pups, allow them to play with the other dogs in the household.

For those of you who have heard that adult males will kill puppies; this is a ridiculous statement! We are dealing with dogs (not domestic cats or rabbits, where the males have intentions of his own for killing off the young, i.e.: mating). The males play an important role in the development of social order. Males enjoy interacting with the pups and this teaches the pups that a male is nothing to fear. The male at one moment is playing and the next will give them a quick "grrr" to let them know that playtime is over.

This leads me to a real "pet peeve" of mine. Have you ever noticed that the bitch classes seldom have a squabble? That bitches seldom will spar, even when asked to? Yet, bring in the males and all holy heck breaks out?! Have you ever taken the time to think about why this is, other than the old adage that males are just more aggressive and need to be kept separate from the other dogs except when being used for breeding?

Does any of this make sense? If males are allowed to interact with each other from a very young age and allowed to settle their own differences, then they learn that not all other males are a threat! I am not suggesting that you take two unsocialized adult males and let them "duke" it out. But males raised in the manner outlined above do not develop the fear aggression displayed in the show ring or out on walks with their owners.

Ninety percent of the aggression we see Terriers is fear based, from poorly "dog socialized" puppies and inadvertently reinforced by the new owner. (See Early Socialization schedules below).

To reassure everyone: I do not just dump the pups outside and let them fend for themselves, I have been trying stress the point that we do not allow our dogs the opportunity to develop their instinctual skills by keeping our puppies locked in an exercise pen away from other dogs and only socialized with humans. If we locked our own children away in the house until they where 5 years old, it would be called child abuse. Ninety percent of what a child learns takes place within the first three years of life. This holds true with our dogs but happens more rapidly in the first 16 weeks of life.

(See Early Socialization schedules below).

I have seen few Cairns, even those that have been abused and have come through rescue, that have had trouble "bonding" with humans (them trying to become Alpha, yes - Bonding, no).

As for breeding for temperament: As with any aspect of breeding you should NOT breed for just one trait, but keep the entire dog in mind.

My advice here is not to judge the dog solely on his actions at dog shows, but take the time to visit the dog at home in his own environment and if possible in other kinds of situations. Watch him at a go-to-ground, agility or obedience trials, or out for walks and around other dogs in a non-show situation. Watch him while he is being groomed.

Also take in consideration how the dog was raised. A dog not socialized with other dogs does not have as stable a temperament as one that was.

The following are suggestions to get the most out of any dog (not just terriers). For those of you who cannot bring yourself to let your puppies intermix with the adults or those who only have one or two dogs, please try the following on your next litter. You WILL see a difference.


Early Socialization


Early Neurology; The stimulation as described below will give the puppies more tolerance to stress, improve the heart, immune system and adrenaline flow. This will effect the puppy for life. This early stimulation should be done daily from day 3 through day 16 of puppies' new life.

  1. Rub a Q-Tip on the pad of the feet (tickling effect).
  2. Hold puppy with the head upright and tail down.
  3. Reverse direction of the puppy with tail up.
  4. Hold puppy up off the floor in a level position.
  5. Put the puppies' feet down on a really cold damp towel. You could stroke each foot once or twice with an ice cube.

Do Each For A Maximum Of 4 To 5 Seconds Daily.

(From lecture by Dr. C. Battaglia) It Does Help! !

Other tips for stimulation: (taken from "How to Raise a Puppy you Can Live With" by Rutherford and Neil. They recommend:

1ST WEEK: Pick the puppy up each day, rub his softness against your check. Hold for about a minute. Support the puppy under his tummy.

2ND WEEK: (7 to 14 days) Hold the puppy in different positions briefly, turn him in a circle one day, to left the next, etc. including upside down as described above in #2 & 3. One day during this week put him in a cold room for about 2 minutes.

3RD WEEK: (15 to 21 days) the stress can be more specific. One day, pick the puppy up and give a momentary pinch to the ear, another day a momentary pinch between the toes, different foot each day.

4TH WEEK: (21 to 28 days) One stress event is sufficient for this week. The puppy is becoming very aware of all around him. Take the pup from his littermates and place him on a different floor surface than he has experienced before. Leave there for 3 or 4 minutes and watch his reaction to different objects in his line of vision and how he reacts to being alone.

This Is The Beginning Of The Socialization Period. A Few Minutes With Each Individual Pup Is Important. Pick Them Up, Talk To Them, and Stroke Them. This will imprint on the pup his place in the world of humans.

5TH WEEK: (29 to 35 days) give the pups mild auditory and visual stress. On one day, place a radio near the puppies at a loud but not blaring level. Five minutes twice in one day is sufficient. On another day, flick the room lights on and off for two to three minutes, a couple of times during the day. Or you can use flashlights. The pups need stimulation of people, sights, and sounds. Twice During This Week, At Least, Take Each Pup Away From The Pen Area And Littermates And Interact With Each Pup For Ten Minutes Or So. Gently Playing With Them Individually On The Floor Works. Bend Down To Their Level, Making Eye Contact And Facial Expressions. Get Your Face Close To Theirs.

6TH WEEK: (36 to 42 days) this is a Critical period for interacting with humans. Spend a total of twenty minutes with each puppy away from the litter this week, preferably in two ten-minute sessions, it is the best thing you can do to help the puppy begin to develop a well-adjusted personality. The pups two-way communication system is developing. The pups will run to you, climb on you, wanting to interact. How they are raised during this period of time will effect them for life.

7TH WEEK: (43 to 49 days) each individual session with each pup should be about ten minutes long. Call the puppy to you, get him to follow you, sit down on his level and gently play a bit. Talk to him and get him to look at you.

8TH WEEK: (50 to 56 days) This Is The Fearful Period. Pups are afraid of loud noises, movement, and confusion and are cautious of anything new in the environment. If the pup experiences something frightful or harmful during this period, he may be terrorized for life. But don't put the pup in seclusion during this period, let him have normal experiences. Also during this period the pup may be suspect of even normal things around him, as though he doesn't even trust his own judgement. Be calm, this period will pass in a week or two, and providing the pup has not had a frightening experience it will be back to normal by the end of the ninth week. Never Send A Puppy To A New Home Or Introduce New People & Dogs During This Period.

9th - 12th WEEKS: (57 to 84 days) the pup develops strong dominant and subordinate behavior among the littermates. They begin to learn the right behavior during this time. The pup has a very short attention span. The brain is ready for full functioning. Exposure to different environments and building of self-confidence is a primary consideration here. All puppies should receive their own special time alone with the breeder; otherwise the pups will begin bonding with each other, will lose their interest in people and will become more difficult to train. Fifteen to twenty minute visits to new places is sufficient several times a week or daily if possible. Do not isolate the pup during this period for great lengths of time. You must begin to build the dogs self-confidence. Use the word "NO" sparingly and only when it really demands it. If you don't want the pup into something, take it away, rather than continue correcting all the time. An excellent means of building self-confidence in a pup is to spend time alone with him, playing with him, grooming him and beginning to teach him behaviors that are important to you, such as to sit, come or walk with you. Interaction with adult dogs throughout this period helps build a sense of "pack order", and helps them overcome fear aggression of other dogs.

THREE TO SIX MONTHS STAGE: Chewing and biting begins, since the permanent set of teeth will be coming in. Be sure the pup has HIS own things to chew on and give correction for mouthing or biting you. Around Four Months Of Age, the pup will go through an avoidance period similar to the fear period experienced at eight weeks of age. He becomes very suspicious of anybody and anything new. Just keep things Normal for the pup during this period and exposure should be kept at a quiet minimum. Determining Pack Leadership happens during this period also. You must always keep your pup informed of the fact that you are Alpha at this period. He will remember this then for life and will be easier to live with. This is the period when males start to go through "testosterone poisoning" and will challenge you. Do NOT tolerate any misbehavior or dominance during this time.

NINE TO 12 MONTHS: Around 9 to 12 months, some pups will go through this fearful period again. Do NOT allow the pup to get away with shying away. If they are allowed to be shy and run AWAY from a situation, they will remain that way for life. Be Firm and Gentle; let them know you are there for them, but never allow them to back away. When they are hunching down and acting fearful, never say "It's ok, it won't hurt you, etc." All they will remember is that you said "It's Ok", and interpret that as "It's Ok To Act Fearful, And Pull Away." When encountering this behavior, tell them "NO, straighten up and act right." Hold them gently to the fearful situation and make them submit. They will soon find that their fears are unfounded and everything will be back to normal in a very short period of time. With Terriers, instead of shyness you will see Fearful Aggression. Again, DO NOT tolerate any misbehavior or dominance during this time.

For more complete information I highly recommend the book "HOW TO RAISE A PUPPY YOU CAN LIVE WITH", BY RUTHERFORD AND NEIL from THE ALPINE PUBLICATIONS, INC.; BOX 7027; Loveland, CO 80537; Phone (303) 667-2017

Statement of purpose: Just my opinions and there are exceptions to everything.

Disclaimer: Reader may download one copy for personal use, but any further dissemination of the article needs to be with express permission of the author.

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This page was last   March 30, 2002

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