Early Neurological Stimulation was supposedly developed in the 1970s in military Bio-Sensor program, which tested effects of various stimuli on puppy development. The purported goal was to find correlation between the ways the puppies are handled and improved performance when those puppies become adults used for military purposes. I say “supposedly” because although you will find references to ENS and Bio-Sensor program in various publications, they all quote Dr. Carmen Battaglia’s protocols from the later date, not the original military sources. Hard as I tried I was never able to find any source documentation of the Bio-Sensor experiments on canines.
Dr. Battaglia popularized the term Early Neurological Stimulation and linked it to several benefits. ENS is a series of five very short, specific exercises that puppies are subjected to once a day between 3rd and 16th day of life:
- Tactical stimulation- 3 to 5 seconds of “tickling” puppy’s toes with a Q-tip
- Head held erect 3 to 5 seconds
- Head pointed down for 3 to 5 seconds
- Supine position – gently holding puppy “belly up” for 3 to 5 seconds
- Thermal stimulation- placing a puppy on a cold, refrigerated towel for 3 to 5 seconds
Dr.Battaglia lists the following benefits:
- Improved cardio vascular performance (heart rate)
- Stronger heart beats
- Stronger adrenal glands
- More tolerance to stress
- Greater resistance to disease
Critics of ENS point to the lack of studies documenting the claimed benefits. However, studies conducted on laboratory mice and rats found physiological benefits of similar stimulation promoting network of neurons and synapses.
The only study specifically designed to evaluate Dr.Battaglia’s ENS protocol was published in 2011 by Adee Schoon of Global Training Center, a training program for mine detection dogs. In that study, puppies were divided into two groups: one exposed to ENS exercises, the other one not utilizing ENS. The puppies from both groups were then trained in a rich socialization program and evaluated at 10 weeks by trainers blinded to which puppy was raised with ENS protocol in addition to enriched socialization. No behavioral difference was observed between the ENS puppies and the controls. The conclusion was that Global Training Program’s rich socialization standard did not benefit additionally from ENS. The study did not evaluate the claims about physiological benefits.
I have used ENS since 2004 in all my litters. Even as the claimed benefits have not been proven, they have not been disproven either. Breeders who utilize ENS tend to believe in its efficacy. My personal feeling about it is that it probably works to some degree, even as some of the benefits might be exaggerated. It works for rats. It is easy to do. It takes very little time and most of all it involves handling puppies, a very good thing in my book, especially as it appropriately involves very short sessions and puppies go back to nursing immediately.
To read Dr.Carmen Battaglia’s paper on ENS click here