The first couple of months of a pups life is critical in imprinting who that pup will be as a dog for the rest of it's life. If you do not develop that pup along the lines of your end goals for the adult dog then you have wasted that chance of a fantastic individual that can fulfill it's genetic potential.
This is a vid of Bert at about 6 weeks of age, born here and raised as part of a pack of mixed breeds as well as other species such as poultry and horses. From the day they could walk, even if they were still a bit wobbly, they were allowed access to the outside environment and were supervised during interaction with the other dogs.
By this time the Bitch was happy for others to engage with her offspring and wear them out for her so she got some alone time.
Emmy the red dog in this vid is a rescue and has a great sense of fun and play engagement.
She is also what I woud term 'kind' in that she plays to the level of the 'opponent'. She could easily have won against young Bert here but she challenged him just enough to work at his maximum but not make him 'lose'.
This slow building of confidence is a crucial part of creating a 'brave' dog. Emmy herself was far from brave when she came to us and too scared to be 'kind'. Building a dogs confidence through creating a safe and engageing environment along with good boundaries and clear communication then allows a dog to reach it's potential. Even if there is prior damage from previous lifestyles.
This game play is only a small part of a dogs development but it is a crucial one. With this basis of 'wins' we can then build on that more complex skills and add more pressure as far as how dedicated the dog must work to still achieve a 'win'.
Trust is developed as well, that we will not break the dogs confidence by going too far too fast or by changing the rules and punishing the dog for a behaviour that was activley encouraged before.
Using grip development as a training tool is usually reserved for sport or service type dogs but every dog has a strong oral link for communication and appeasment of drive as well as anxiety. Building a 'need' for this game play then enables you to gain a strong reward system as well as directing a dogs bite into a game that is appropriate. Win win hey?
"Allowing" bite on an article (only one of your choosing) can then give a dog a go-to for when it needs to release energy or frustration with a situation that would alternately end up in a panic attack or anxious episode.
The next vid is of Emmy when we did the theatre job "ANNIE" for a local theatre group. She spent long hours in pressure situations and her time out in the change room was a great release valve for any anxiety that may have built.
The result was a dog that could perform in an environment that would have previously made her shut down.