The most critical learning period of a dog’s life is the first six months. During this period a puppy is
the most open to learning. This is when he learns the fastest, when he most readily masters new tasks and
when he adapts most readily to new environments. Our puppy headstart program is designed and structured
to maximize the opportunity provided by this age period. We give puppies a thorough behavior and exposure
base to fully prepare them to advance rapidly in any one of three careers. These career paths are gundog,
Urban Search and Rescue dog, or explosive detection dog. All of our headstart puppies go through the same
program, and all are equally well prepared for any of the three career paths.
Our puppy headstart program focuses on 4 basic facets of the learning process:
- Development of the learning process — Puppies learn and are thoroughly programmed to offer behaviors in order to "buy" rewards, such as treats or play or retrieving.
Development of self control — Puppies learn to inhibit and control reactive responses, and to sit quietly in scenarios of great temptation.
Programming of the core behavioral skills required of the 3 career paths. — Puppies are programmed on
(1) Calmness and steadiness in a high distraction environment
(2) Retrieving and delivery to hand
(3) Sniff and sit
(4) Hunting on rubble piles
(5) Whistle stops and directional casts
Development of desensitization and adaptation skills when faced with new and strange environments —
puppies learn to experience a number of new and strange environments in order to build their
adaptation and coping skills in the face of new and strange scenarios.
We give puppies a great deal of exposure and desensitization in the following areas:
(2) Cannon fire
(3) Combat noises
(4) Heavy equipment noise and vibration
(5) Emergency vehicles
(6) Multiple obstacles and terrains
(7) Unsteady footing on a variety of surfaces and heights
(9) Dark confined spaces
(10) Groups and crowds of people
(11) Urban areas
(12) Vehicle traffic
The headstart program begins at the age of 8 weeks and continues to the age of 16 weeks. The cost is
included in the price of the puppy.
Duckhill Kennel's Puppy Headstart Program in action: