Neonatology and Anxiety-impact on the development of dogs — ASN Events

Neonatology and Anxiety-impact on the development of dogs (#140)

Kersti Seksel 1
  1. SABS, Seaforth, NSW, Australia

What happens from the time of conception in the womb to 12 weeks of age affects the way the puppy develops not only physically but also mentally. The period is characterised by intense development and change within the central nervous system.


Early experiences affect the animal’s resiliency or coping capacity. The ability to cope with life’s stressors varies with genetic predisposition, learning from previous experiences and the current environment. Early identification of individuals who are not developing resilience allows early interventions to be implemented. Early intervention can alter brain development. Interventions may take the form of environmental management, behaviour modification and medication.


Environmental management involves creating a complex but stable and predictable environment for the puppy. Interaction with complex environments results in denser brain development. A stable environment allows the puppy to develop rules or expectations for the outcomes of interactions and so develop coping strategies.


Behaviour modification helps shape acceptable and desirable behaviour. More importantly, behaviour modification encourages and rewards calm, quiet behaviour and relaxation. This way the puppy learns coping strategies.


Medication is used to normalise brain neurotransmitter function and also to maximise neuronal connections through the release of brain neurotrophic factor. New connections are encouraged along desirable pathways.


Appropriate early interventions can affect brain development, thus helping more normal growth and behaviour to occur.