Early Learning Center

A space where young puppies receive early socialization, care, and attention.

Jean (l) Banks (r) 1

Early Learning Center

The Laura J. Niles Early Learning Center for puppies is an integral part of NEADS.

A solid foundation in socialization is essential to each puppy’s success as a Service Dog. The ELC is a transitional space, where puppies at the age of approximately eight weeks transition from the Nursery to their training position, whether with a Full-Time Puppy Raiser or in the Prison PUP Program.

At the Early Learning Center, staff work to housebreak the puppies and lay the groundwork for some beginning commands. Each puppy’s day is full of indoor and outdoor playtime with other puppies, one-on-one time with staff and volunteers, and socialization sessions.

During socialization sessions, puppies are exposed to different sounds, novel objects, surfaces, and environments. For example, in a socialization session, a puppy may listen to a tambourine, interact with a baby toy, and walk over a metal grate. As a puppy advances through its socialization sessions, it may watch traffic drive by, practice greeting new people nicely, and practice walking up and down an entire flight of stairs. Staff monitor how each puppy reacts to these situations to build a profile of each puppy. A puppy’s profile includes its strengths and weaknesses, which helps the trainers to make decisions about where to place the puppy for training.

Puppy health is another important aspect of the Early Learning Center. Puppies remain in the Early Learning Center for a minimum of seven days to make sure they are healthy and up-to-date on vaccines before they move into a training slot.

Every weekend, each puppy goes out with a volunteer called a Weekend Puppy Sitter. The Weekend Puppy Sitter exposes the puppy to a calm and relaxing home environment.

At the Early Learning Center, our puppies learn that:

  • Humans are friendly and fun
  • Loud noises are not scary
  • Unusual items are not frightening
  • It’s exciting to explore new places