How I Raise My Puppies, page 2
What I do with Puppies from Birth until They Leave Here
The First Two Weeks
During the first day I normally leave the family alone, letting all of them rest, just going in frequently to check that no pup is lost, cold or stressed. The pups will have figured out how to find mom, and are quiet. The bed has to be kept pretty warm for the babies since they cannot regulate their own temperature. If they get chilled, they’ll refuse to nurse and can die.
Even if it’s her first litter, mom by this time has developed a routine and is calm – and very proud of her family and so caught up with them that she doesn’t want to leave them even to go potty. She will, however, leave them for her ball session and revels in having lost all the weight that slowed her down. The exercise helps her uterus contract and expel any fluids left over from pregnancy.
Amazingly deflated Quinta the day after whelping the AA litter.
It’s not unusual to lose pups at birth or in the week after birth, when things that go wrong in development come to light after the pup is no longer nourished through the placenta but is breathing and eliminating. I keep close watch over them during that first critical week, weighing them each day to be sure that they are nursing properly and getting enough milk to grow.
Each night I pull their fleece bedding out on the floor and let the pups nurse while I change newspapers and put in new bedding. That way I can check that all are nursing well. I often put just the smallest pups, or the ones gaining least, on mom and observe them nursing as I change the bed. They may just be smaller boned and will grow to be smaller adults, but I give them extra attention just in case they should be the same size as the others but were crowed in the uterus, didn’t get enough nutrients and now are not able to compete for teats with the larger ones. The whelping bed has a hinged side that I let down to form a ramp when I change bedding.
Although the moms often lie down on the “old” pad and nurse the pups as I work, generally what happens is that they wander around and wake all the puppies, who squirm and try to move towards her and roll off the pad onto the (cooler) linoleum floor. All of this makes the pups mad. I eventually return all of them to the pad but I believe that a little stress early in life makes for a stronger, more resilient adult dog, so I don’t hurry to rescue them. When I began doing the early neurological stimulation on my litters I was pleased to see that the introduction mentioned my practice of stressing them a little each night as I change their bed. (See the link to the neurological stimulation page under Day 3.)
I have noticed the moms in my female line don’t rush to rescue them either. They’re there, they’re watching, they check on the pups, but they allow them to exercise their lungs and feet a bit. The very first mom in that line, the original Glory, was fascinating to watch. She would lie to the side of the whelping box and make them find her. As they matured, she’d go to the edge of the whelping room and make them track her across the newspaper-covered floor. When they moved outside, she’d make them work even harder. When she returned to the puppy yard, she’d go to them and touch them, check on them, wake them up, then go lie down a distance away and watch them acting like a disturbed ant bed, yelling their displeasure before finally putting their noses to the ground and searching for her. First to come got the best teats (the back ones produce more milk more easily/faster than the front teats); latecomers might not get their fill but they’d sure be faster off the mark the next time. She taught me a lot and since then I’ve never interfered with the moms as they begin teaching the pups, from the first week, to be go getters.
After I change the bedding, I weigh the pups as I put them back into the bed. Sometimes they’ll drop an ounce or two after the stress of birth. As long as they’re quiet and close to mom, I don’t worry. When they’re warm and happy, they’ll coo a bit under their breath. I love to hear that cooing because it tells me all is well with the world. If one is keening weakly or is way away from the others, I get worried and sit down to give it a nursing session alone, so I can tell if it just got a little chilled from getting away from mom or if there’s something wrong. Sometimes the mothers know there’s something wrong with one and push it away.
If there are more than six pups so that competition for nipples is fierce, each day I do 2 or 3 special nursing sessions for the smallest ones. Baby pups can get discouraged being bumped off a teat and can just give up, so I make sure they have a chance. I put a blanket on the floor of the whelping room, get mom to lie down, and lift out the pups who weigh the least and/or are gaining the least. I sit down beside mom and read a book to keep her happily settled until the last pup falls off the nipple, full as a tick, usually about 20 minutes.
2 – 3 Days
I take individual photos of the pups, especially the ones I didn’t get good birth photos of. It’s amazing to see them already trying to get up on their legs and walk rather than crawl even though they’re blind and have a very hard time with balance. As quickly as possible, I get these and the birth photos edited and on the website for people to enjoy, especially those who are getting one of the litter. I also get the diary started and on the website so they can follow the pups’ development. All these are posted in the “Current Litters” section of the website menu.
CC litter (my Lively is in the multicolored collar on the right).
As the pups begin showing personality and drives (usually after day 21), the diary entries help me track development with the buyers’ needs in mind. Who shows most natural use of the nose? Who is adventuresome, mellow, feisty, busy, laid back, likely to complain, eager for anything new and so on. If a pup exhibits a characteristic consistently, I use that, along with the temperament tests done at 7 weeks, to help determine the best pup for a person.
I begin the neurological stimulation exercises. They are done daily through day 16. See explanation and photos.
The pups usually doing great and fat as ticks. Most times I check on them, the pups are sprawled out, tummies full, contentedly asleep. The bed has to be kept pretty warm for the babies since they cannot regulate their own temperature. I have to make sure the heater for the whelping bed doesn’t make it too hot for mom, so I check the room frequently, monitoring temperature, turning on the heater for a little bit to make sure the pups are warm enough, then turning it off so mom doesn’t overheat.
The pups are much more efficient feeders, nursing strongly, starting to stand up on their legs and push with the hind legs to get a better grip on a nipple and to pull and push to stimulate the milk to flow, then gulping audibly as they drink.
Their ears, which were flat against their skull at birth, now stick out like handles on a sugar bowl.
The pups are more active, and stronger, which is obvious as I pick them up to put them on the scale to weigh. They thrash around, making it hard to get an accurate weight. Are they ever forceful at their nursing! They place a foot on either side of the teat and push hard while at the same time pull back and push in with their head to get the milk flowing as fast as possible. Then as they begin to get full, all the activity calms and they just drink contentedly.
I begin weekly nail trimming. Until they leave here, I use fingernail scissors rather than dog nail trimmers.
MM litter (all sables)
They are also trying to get up on their legs and walk, though balance is difficult since their eyes are still closed.
FF litter trying to walk.
Pigment is coming in on noses and foot pads but not yet on toenails.
The pups are growing so fast I have to enlarge their collars. The moms by this time usually consider that the pups are doing fine and begin to spend a little time out of the room, socializing with me and enjoying a break, though at the least puppy noise they’re down the hall in a flash.
Hopefully all have survived the critical first week and are vigorous, happy and fat. They’re beginning to pee and poop on their own, rather than needing mom to lick them to stimulate them to eliminate. Soon I start changing the fleece pad (and underlying newspapers) twice a day so that the bed stays nice and clean and smells clean.
I will now take another $500 deposit. I also mail a “Prepare for Puppy” packet with all kinds of advice on how to prepare their home for a puppy, equipment I recommend and possible registered names for the pups. I use the German system, which assigns a letter to each litter. All pups must have a registered name beginning with that letter and including my kennel name, Celhaus, at the beginning (Celhaus is German for “Cel’s house”). The call name need not begin with that letter, but the registered name must. For instance, “Lively” from my CC litter is registered as Celhaus Celebrate Life.
I also schedule the temperament tests now to be sure my testers, who live out of town, can fit us into their schedules. The tests are best done as soon as possible after the pups turn 49 days old, so that they’re old enough to handle being stressed by the testing but not so old that any environmental experiences would influence the expression of their genetic traits and drives. A good friend, Suzan, who is a former K9 handler and tested quite a few narcotics/police prospects, uses that test, adapted somewhat for what my pups generally go for – search & rescue, competition (obedience, rally, tracking, nosework, agility), service dogs, therapy dogs and so on – rather than police work. We try to schedule her test first because it is low key, designed to ask the pups to reach down deep inside and show drive without much encouragement from the human.
Two other friends, Janet & Bonnie, who are nationally known Search and Rescue handlers and instructors, try to come do their search and rescue test on most litters, especially if I have someone getting one of the pups for SAR. It has 23 different tests as opposed to the 10 of the adapted police/narcotics test. The SAR test includes a lot more interaction between pup and tester, and is a lot more fun for the pups, who by this time are highly socialized and used to doing lots of things with people. If Janet & Bonnie are unable to make it, Suzan will add some of the SAR tests to her testing.
We try to do the tests on a Saturday and Sunday so that it is easy for puppy buyers to come, watch the testing, talk to the testers, and, especially pet people, begin to understand why I will perhaps give them a choice between two pups but not one that they had their eyes on that is actually a high drive working prospect..
Some litters have all doubled their birth weight by the seventh day, though in other litters it may take up to day 10 to accomplish that if they were quite large at birth, say 19 – 20 ounces rather than the usual 16 ounces and/or it’s a very large litter.
Most pups are so fat they have rolls on their necks. I begin weighing them every two to three days instead of daily unless the smaller pups in a large litter aren’t yet able to hold their own in the competition for a nipple. As long as I still need to give them special nursing sessions, I continue weighing daily.
They begin to roll over about now.
Their eyelids are becoming defined but usually none are beginning to open.
Tiny slits begin to show where the eyelids will open. They’re also often lying more like real dogs do, on their chests rather than flat on their sides.
11 – 12 Days
Eyes begin to open. Often in the morning the slits admit just a little light, but by evening the openings are large enough that I can see the shine of the eyes.
Quinta with the CC litter.
They’re much stronger, pushing themselves up on their forelegs and trying to figure out how to manage the back ones and begin walking.
Some of the pups’ ears are losing the “sugar bowl handle look,” getting larger and beginning to fold over. Some litters are later starting this than others, and all litters have pups whose ears grow slower than their siblings’.
CC litter, a solid black.
I begin to find pups sprawled on their backs, sleeping in utter abandon. Previously they slept on their sides, either flat or curled.
Mom begins to spend more and more time away from the pups; on a bed in the room or, if the weather is nice, in the closed, private potty area connected to the whelping room.
About this time I begin to notice them sniffing me quite intensely when I pick them up.
Eyes on some will be almost totally open; other’s eyes are usually at least half open. They begin to get up on their legs in a primitive walk when they want to move a distance, rather than a crawl.
If I still have smaller pups not able to compete for nipples with their larger siblings, I offer them some of the raw meat diet, putting a bit on my finger and rubbing it on their lips. Eating the raw meat diet is a great equalizer, and I don’t have to worry about them being pushed away from nursing if I can get them eating on their own. If they show interest, I continue offering it on my finger until they open their mouths, at which time I place a tiny bit on their tongue. They often immediately swallow it and look for more. By the third bite they’re often reaching for it with their mouths open. I feed them until they lose interest. I repeat this a couple of times a day, separate from their special nursing sessions. By the time I introduce raw meat to the entire litter, they’re racing first to the bowls and getting their fill while the others are wondering what that stuff is. I then discontinue their special nursing sessions but continue to keep an eye on them.