How I Raise My Puppies, page 4
What I do with Puppies from Birth until They Leave Here
28 – 41 Days Old
28 Days Old
Mom needs relief from nursing, so now I begin soaking a cup of puppy kibble in hot water to soften it so I can add it in tiny spoonfuls among the cubes of the pups’ raw meat diet. I also put kibble on the bottom of the bowl in which I put meat cubes to thaw. That way the thawing meat will moisten the kibble and make it more attractive to the pups. The pups don’t eat much of it either at first, but mom is always happy to clean up the leftovers.
I quietly go around the corner to my computer when the pups come in to play. After wandering around the living room and kitchen, they will usually find me in my office, which is a tiny room originally designed to be a dining room, open to both the kitchen and living room. Some will find me as I type quietly. Some will hear my voice as I talk to the ones who found me, and come. Often they will crash beside me as I work on the computer, or find mom on the dog rug on the other side of my chair and nurse contentedly. Some complain. Others find Mercy’s, Lovely’s or Hesed’s crates in the living room and crash beside them. I leave them to sleep for a while, then put them back in their living quarters.
They’re too squirmy for me to hold and trim nails, so I often recruit visitors to help me.
Their ears have been hanging down, but now are just beginning to lift up from the base, though with most of the ear flapped over. But it’s a nice beginning. They’ll be up soon! Occasionally one will even have an ear coming up already, while a couple of others will have them nicely beginning to come up from the base and still others won’t even be trying to get them up.
Ears 27 – 30 days, GG litter.
29 Days Old
I begin doubling up the big fleece pad in the whelping bed (whether they’re still inside in the whelping room or outside in the puppy house) to help them start getting the idea to go off the bed to potty on newspapers rather than just move a foot or two and pee, still on the pad.
As I kneel changing papers, some will decide to grab my pant legs and shake them, in the process not caring that they also get my leg, so when they won’t quit, they get another impulse control lesson. Those little teeth are very sharp. Ouch!!!
I continue bringing them into the house and quietly adjourning to my computer as they play. The mob of pups usually locates me and then heads off to explore. Afterwards, with winter litters, when I carry a pair to the room I often turn around to find that others have quietly followed me nearly all the way back.
31 Days Old
At about this time I exchange their Velcro collars, which they’re outgrowing, for “real” collars. Until the NN litter, very few collar colors were available so I sewed rickrack strips by hand onto the collars. So, the “white” puppy in the litter might have a red collar onto which white rickrack had been sewn, the “yellow” pup might have a blue collar with yellow rickrack, or the “gold” pup might have a green collar onto which metallic gold rickrack had been sewn. The “blue,” “pink” and other pups will have plain collars of those colors. If I have two litters at the same time, I may resort to two-color rickrack collars when the seconds litter is born, and then sew the two colors onto a collar when they reach this age. For instance, “Red-White” would have strips of both colors of rickrack sewn on its black collar, while “Pink-Green” would have those two colors sewn on.
Now when I clean the whelping room (winter litters) or puppy house (summer litters), I have pups biting at my ankle and the back of my leg, crunching down as hard as they can, so when they won’t quit I begin giving them “no bite!” lessons. When they won’t respond to my removing them from my body and placing them elsewhere, but persist in biting hard, I will put my hand over the top of their muzzle and press with thumb and forefinger on either side of their muzzle, pushing the lips against the teeth where the nerves are, so that it hurts, saying at the same time “No bite!” I then release the pressure and, if they quit biting, quietly say “Good no bite.” If they reattach, I repeat, pushing harder until they say “Ouch!” Generally that does it, but if one persists, I press REALLY hard on those nerves above the teeth until they finally yell, detach, and wander off. After they settled down and have reflected on their sins, I reach over and gave them a little quiet attention to make sure they understand the lesson: biting is not acceptable but when you make the right decision you’ll always be rewarded.
This is the first of many lessons on impulse control these pups will get before they leave here, because babies always go with drives rather than think first. They have to learn that they CAN choose not to go with the drive to chase and possess, but to control it when it’s inappropriate. You don’t want to kill drives – these after all are working dogs – but to channel them into the proper use. That work begins now and will continue probably until they’re a year old, which is when pups finally become “civilized.”
Kisses, no bite lessons, HH litter.
33 Days Old I start noticing several pairs of puppies playing pretty roughly. One will grab the other by loose skin, usually the nape of the neck or over the ribs, bite down and tug. The other will yell and try to get away or, depending on where it was being held, turn around and bite back. These tussles aren’t long-lived, but they are noisy!
Wrestling 27-34 days, GG litter.
At approximately this age I do a special session where I introduce them for the first time to a variety of soft toys and balls. I have a total stranger come play with them one at a time in the living room. I take photos and we both take copious notes about how the puppies react to all these new experiences. Follow the links to see the diary entries and photos from some recent litters. I included the latest litter (NN) plus recent litters from whom I kept puppies so, if you wish, you can see how they turned out by going to their pages. From the GG litter I kept GloryToo; from the ii litter I kept Spirit; from the JJ litter I kept Mercy and from the LL litter I kept Lovely.
They continue to grab anything that moves and bite hard. I occasionally crate mom so I can work on this (she would destroy any toys small enough for them). I will substitute a toy for my body part and then praise them for focusing on the toy, showing them this is a proper way to go with the drives.
34 Days Old
I often time the pups’ indoor playtimes just before a meal. I have their meal ready and, while they’re diverted with toys, sneak out and put it in the puppy house. When they tire out, I start lifting pups out the doggie door onto the deck. When the last one is out, I race out the human door and call them after me down the ramp to the ground and then to the puppy house. First ones to follow are the first ones to get put into the puppy house where their meal awaits them – a nice reward for following.
About this time the pups, when they go out the doggie door onto the deck after an indoor play session, will begin attempting to go down the steps, which are straight out the door, rather than use the ramp, which angles off to the right of the deck. Occasionally one will make it down two steps and then get hung up, front feet on one step and butt firmly plopped on the one above, usually yelling like crazy as the others race down the ramp and start playing on the ground. If the pup absolutely won’t move, mom and I (already on the ground of course) will walk to the bottom of the steps so he’ll want to come to us. If he still won’t try to move I send her up the steps to the landing and then call her back down. As she walks down past him he’ll usually finally unstick and, with great dramatics, make his way down step by step. When he gets to the ground I praise him, pick him up, hug him and take him to the puppy house to join the others, who are eating by then. Most figure it out undramatically. They’ve been going up the steps for a few days, but down is scary especially when your eyes don’t yet have much depth perception.
Learning to go down steps, FF litter with great-grandmother Jubilee.
Ears continue to work on coming up.
Ears: thirty-four-day-old FF litter.
4 Weeks Old – winter litters
If it’s a winter litter and we have a nice day, I carry them out the front door to an area under the big metal roof over my mobile home, where the snow doesn’t blow and the sun’s glare is blocked. They usually have a great time exploring. I always try to take photos of their first trip outside.
NN litter, 31 days old,first time outdoors
I take them outside as often as possible until I can begin moving them outdoors.
If the forecast shows several nice days in a row, I’ll prepare to move them outside by running the heater in the “baby” puppy house for a couple of days until it’s thoroughly warm, including the floor. Then I set it up as I described for summer litters in week 3. In winter, I have a heavy layer of straw in the transition area and just outside its opening to the outdoors, to insulate them from the cold ground. I first put them out for a few hours in the middle (warmest part) of the day, then bring them back into the house. Of course I check frequently to be sure all are warm and no one has explored so far that she can’t find her way back into the puppy house. I gradually lengthen the time they spend outdoors until they tell me the whelping room is too cramped and they want to stay outside all the time.
Visitors often opt to play with the puppies outside in the “baby puppy” pen.
4 week old puppies with visitors, playing outside, EE litter.
If the weather is bad, we bring them inside to play with visitors. Notice how their eyes are starting to turn brown.
4 week old puppies with visitors, playing inside, CC litter.
They really give great, prolonged eye contact now.
4 week old puppies, intense eye contact, GG litter.
It’s time to schedule all their excursions. Once they’re five weeks old, they begin visiting two nursing homes, a senior daycare and the children’s library. I normally go to the children’s library on Friday afternoons with a big dog for the Reading Dog program. That’s a program where kids who are having trouble reading get to read to a therapy dog, which helps them learn they can read, and enjoy reading, because the nonjudgmental dog was so interested in them as they read. When I have a litter of pups, we schedule a Puppy Playtime instead.
I call each place, schedule our visit, then begin recruiting volunteers to help me. For the first visit I need two people to come to the house and help me load pups, since getting them from the puppy yard to the car is a lot like herding a group of cats – puppies heading everywhere but no two in the same direction, or else attached to our pant legs tugging vigorously. I need several people to help us potty pups once we get there as none of the places have an enclosed outdoor area; then they help during the visit. At the nursing homes and senior daycare they keep the pups close to the assembled people so they can enjoy watching them play, hold pups in people’s laps so they can pet them, clean up an occasional potty, and generally make it a fun time for the elderly. The children’s library visit is done in a room but generally involves about 30 kids from babes in arms up, and parents/grandparents who are more interested in taking photos with their cell phones than making sure the kids don’t hurt the pups, so my helpers keep quite busy making sure kids don’t play roughly with the puppy toys and hit the pups with them, or try to pick them up, or step on them and so on. At all the visits I’m busy taking photos so I try to stay in one place. If I try to help with pups, all of them leave the people and come to “Grandma,” so I try to stay quiet and let my helpers do the visiting.
These excursions, while an awful lot of work, are great for the pups. They learn to ride in crates in the car, explore new environments, get exposed to the strange noises and smells in nursing homes as well as people in wheelchairs, using walkers and walking erratically. I have two crates behind the front seat, up on a support so the dogs can watch the world go by; and two more in back on the floor. I always try to rotate pups so everyone gets a turn riding in the “high” crates since they can see so much more.
The children’s library visit is loud, very busy and noisy as they meet excited little people. By the time we finish their visits – sometimes people want us to come a second time so a litter may do six visits – the pups are pretty unflappable and ready to leap into their new homes, ready for adventure. Buyers often tell me that, when they sign up for puppy kindergarten, the instructors aren’t real enthusiastic about a German Shepherd puppy, saying most hide under the owner’s chair and won’t come out to play or learn for the first couple of sessions. Then my pup bounces into the room, saying, “What are we doing and when do we start?” and the instructors are surprised and thrilled.
35 Days Old
They now get four meals a day of raw meat diet and kibble mixed together. A big litter will get 3/4 pound raw meat cubes per meal (instead of the pound they got when only eating raw meat) and 1.5 cups soaked kibble for each meal rather than just one cup (less meat and kibble for small litters). At night I set out their breakfast so the meat is thawed and kibble is soaked – all ready for the early morning feeding. Then in the morning I fix the three meals of the day so they’ll be thawed on time, putting 1.5 cups kibble in the bottom of the bowls into which I place the frozen meat.
Ten to fourteen days after the first worming, I worm the puppies again. Since they’re doing so well, I only weigh them when I worm them (to be sure I give the correct dose of wormer) or when I’m taking photos, since I mention weights in the dairy entry then. They usually weigh 5 – 6 pounds by now.
By now they seem to be all teeth, the little monsters, so I no longer pre-soften their kibble. Let them crunch on dry kibble rather than my body parts! For a few days I will add some hot water to the kibble just before serving to make a little gravy, though not enough to soften the kibble.
They’re old enough to move to the “big puppy” pen now, which will allow me to begin leaving mom away from them during the day to begin the weaning process and also give her a break from the demands of nursing. I start removing her for a couple of hours and then gradually lengthen the time. She’ll still be in with them all night. That increased absence will start her drying-up process and also prepare the pups for her being away from them most of the time starting next week, when they’re 6 weeks old.
This yard is much larger, a good 180′ long by 40′ wide, and includes a heated puppy house, a transition area and a three-sided lounging area open to the south. Unlike the baby puppy house, this puppy house has an insulated window that seems to encourage the pups to go outside. For winter litters I put a deep layer of straw in both the transition area and the lounging area. I have an old wire open-mesh set of steps off one end of the transition/lounge area, whose roof is level and makes a great above-ground play area, and two gentle ramps off the other end to provide some unstable footing experiences for the pups.
Big puppy pen, looking towards puppy house from midway in pen.
Other photos of big puppy pen
Close to the puppy house, so they’ll quickly discover it, I pile several of the big cardboard boxes that my dogfood comes in (from chewy.com). Pups this age have to work to climb up on them so it encourages them to develop balance and to learn to climb. At first I just have one level, but once they figure out how to get on top of those, I add another layer. Puppies love to play king of the mountain on them. If the boxes get wet and collapse, I just replace them with dry ones.
Soon the pups get brave and begin exploring farther away from the puppy house. At the far end of the puppy yard they will discover an obstacle course. The MM litter got to experience a brand new one that friends helped me construct when the old one I’d had for years began falling apart. The new one consists of four platforms (two are 4′ x 4′ x 3′ high, while the others are 2′ x 2′ x 18″ high) and various horizontal and angled ramps connecting them in a variety of ways. The high platforms, with a ramp to the ground on one end and a kiddie slide (1′ high by 2′ wide and 4′ long) on the other, are connected by a swinging bridge. Roughly parallel to the high platforms are the lower platforms connected by strips of plywood, with several ramps going to the ground. Everything except the swinging bridge and slide is covered with agility matting to provide traction. Sometimes I put one of my agility tunnels under the high platforms, or a toddler trampoline, for even more adventures. I also have an old large kiddie pool that’s all bent and wrinkled, which I put in the area. It collects rain water or water from the sprinkler and the pups love to pounce and splash and run through the pool, making all kinds of noise. My litters of pups always have fun playing even more exciting, high-up games of “king of the mountain,” chase, keep away and all kinds of other puppy games. By the time they leave here, they are agile and fearless, ready to learn agility equipment and all kinds of search and rescue maneuvers.
Obstacle course, MM litter.
More obstacle course photos.
I let the pups out of the puppy yard when mom has her daily ball session, opening the gate and inviting them to follow us into the main area. They usually come – and attack me as I move. Some will grab a shoelace and tug, while others attack the top of one shoe and still others grab the toe of the other shoe. Ouch! I can feel their teeth through my tennis shoes (muck boots in winter), so I get out my puppy drag, which is a piece of rope with gunny sacks attached. I fasten the end of the rope around my waist and the whole thing moves enticingly as I walk, distracting the pups so they focus on biting and tugging on it instead of me. The only down side is that when pups are attached to the drag, it gets pretty heavy and makes it hard for me to move. Some will put their entire bodies on it and ride it as I move around dragging it behind me. Meanwhile I’m moving around, trying to get to mom’s ball when she drops it for another throw before a pup gets it and runs off with it. I, for one, get a lot of exercise! I had to go way back to my 2004 litters to find any photos of the puppy drag; I sure can’t carry my camera while I drag pups around so I had to find some taken by a visitor.
Puppy drag, P & Q litters at 5 weeks (the puppy on the right is my Quinta).
More puppy drag photos of P & Q litters
Although it means more work for me, this encourages the pups to explore a new part of my two acres. Soon they chase mom way out as she races after her ball. Often they’ll lose sight of her and begin exploring under the trees, in the shelterbelt, or in the open throwing area, catching sight of her returning with the ball and following her back to me, then taking off again.
When I’m done throwing the ball, I do poop detail. I use a shovel, bucket and spatula, and drag the shovel behind me as I walk. The pups usually show interest at some point in the shovel and follow it for a bit, though seldom try to step on or attack it – yet. Soon they begin attacking it, often riding it like they’re now doing the burlap sacks, all the while singing to it. But now they still target my pant leg and tug as hard as they can, making me drag them around when I can’t get them to disengage or transfer to the drag. When I finish poop detail, I always have a very tired bunch of pups who follow me into the back yard and then gladly go through the gate into their pen.
They continue to receive frequent visits. Usually we bring them indoors so we can use the toys they’ve already played with on their visits to the nursing homes – which I don’t want to get dirty by taking outside for playtimes.
I mail to the puppy buyers the “Nearly Time” packet, which includes the temperament testing schedule and a list of local motels so they can make plans to come watch the tests and then leave with their puppy; hints on crate and potty training; as well as reminders to sign up for puppy kindergarten classes, finish puppy proofing their homes, remember from the “Prepare for Puppy” packet the best ways to introduce the pup to children and pets already in the home; and make needed arrangements and plan where the pup will sleep and how they will race it outside to potty those first few nights until it learns the new routine and begins to sleep all night.
This week they have their first experience of riding in the car in wire crates, and visiting a nursing home. The pups usually yell the entire way the trip. So many residents want to see the pups each time I bring them that they pack the activity room completely full. I always bring a variety of toys new to the pups – soft toys, tug toys, balls and so on. The pups have a great time playing tug; often we have 3 or 4 tugging on the same toy.
One toy I take is a plastic fire engine. Another is a 6″ diameter Wiggly Giggly ball that makes a very weird noise as it rolls. I also have a Wiggly Giggly dumbbell that makes strange noises. I have a VERY long caterpillar stuffed toy and a big fat red crab toy, which they love to bite and put their bodies on. One interesting toy is a big stuffed monkey that makes very weird groaning noises; the pups enjoy biting it as people made it groan. I also have a stretch kitty tug toy that they enjoy. Another is a large stuffed duck that quacks when squeezed. One always-popular toy is a flat “dairy cow” that crinkles and squeaks. I have other similar “flat” stuffed toys with squeakies – a fox and a coon – and no matter which I take, they’re always popular with the pups and make fantastic tug toys. I have a battery operated Weazel Ball, which rolls erratically. The Weazel Ball originally had a “weasel” attached by a tiny plastic thread which was supposed to make the weasel look like it was rolling around the ball, but the thread was so flimsy I knew it would break at the first puppy tug, so I removed it. I now use it when the puppies are first introduced to toys and they love it.
All the seniors enjoy watching the pups play and snuggling them on their laps, even if only for short periods as the pups usually want down to run and play. We stay until the last pup crashes in a heap, which is usually 45 – 50 minutes. Generally they’re very quiet, even asleep, on the trip home.
I try to visit two places this week, and the other two next week. If the temperament test isn’t until late in the 7th week, I often take them back to one or two places since people always want to see the puppies again. The seniors really enjoy noticing the differences between the pups on their first and second visits.
Visits to Westview Healthcare Center (a local nursing home), DD litter.
More Westview visit photos: DD, FF, KK litter and MM litters.
Visit to Daybreak (a senior daycare), NN litter
More Daybreak visit photos, NN litter.
People continue to come play with (and socialize) the pups. I usually bring out some of the toys we’ve already used on the nursing home or library visits and, since I don’t want to get them dirty as I use them on visits with litter, we bring the pups inside.
People visit five-week-old AA litter.
More photos of AA litter
People visit five-week-old HH litter.
37 Days Old
Now, when I do poop detail in the puppy yard, I lift the pups out over the bottom gate into the back yard with mom; otherwise they’re attacking the shovel or my pants and shoes. Moms still clean up fresh poops when they see them but not the old ones, which I have to pick up. I built all my gates in two pieces, the bottom part 14 – 18″ high, so that the pups can’t get out while mom can go in and out as she wishes or I can keep them out while I work in the puppy yard (or in deep snow years, so all the dogs and I can go everywhere we want by jumping/stepping over the bottom gate that’s frozen to the ground).
By this time most of the pups will go out the house doggie door onto the deck on their own, but some still need help since they have to go up from the floor to negotiate the doggie door. The puppies already out the doggie door are now were coming in the doggie door as I try to lift others out, so we have a little rodeo. I push the last one out and lunge for the people door to get out before they came back in. Whew, made it!
By now the puppies will follow me back to the obstacle course. They race ahead and begin walking up the nearly horizontal ramps, having a great time running up and down, jumping off, climbing back on and so forth. They navigate the swinging bridge on their own but I still have to lift them onto the slide. That will soon come, though.
38 Days Old
Often several pups will have their ears almost up by this time.
They are wild enough by now that mom begs to be away from them. They no longer quietly approach her to nurse but make a wild rush and grab a nipple–not at all popular with mom as it hurts! She is beginning to teach them some manners but their drives at this age overwhelm their good sense so they’re not learning very well. After enough times of being hurled to the ground and growled at, they’ll begin to get the idea. This is the beginning of their very important education in dog manners.
Meanwhile, she generally stands to nurse them.
More photos: FF litter
They are now eating enough kibble that mom will no longer clean up their poop, which means my work increases AND that they will be just fine with mom away for extended periods. They’ll have a bowl of dry kibble in the puppy house at all times so they won’t starve. Several times during the day I crate all the other big dogs, open the top gate into the puppy yard, and give mom a chance to go check on the pups or stay away if she wishes. When I’m ready for bed I put mom in the puppy house with the pups and leave her with them all night. In the morning sometimes I catch her growling at the pups as she waits at the gate to leave, a sign she’s starting to wean them.
39 Days Old
I’ve been carrying them two at a time up the steps to come inside, but now I begin teaching the pups to come inside on their own, since they pop out of the doggie door as soon as I lift them through and turn to get others. I show them to find the ramp and go up it to come into the house by pausing at the bottom of the ramp, calling them until they gather at my feet then slowly walking up it myself (they’ve just been going down it) and getting them to follow me up onto the deck. I then go inside the house through the (people) door, lift the doggie door flap and call. Some will come in right away, so I lead them into the living room and show them the toys, then try to sneak back and get the others inside. Sometimes it works; other times those pups follow me, go out the doggie door and race down the ramp as I’m trying to get others up. If that happens I just go inside and leave them to figure it out, which they do pretty quickly, the ones who did it the first time remembering the great toys awaiting them in the living room. Soon they’re having a great time going outside to play (and hopefully potty), coming back inside to check in with me, then play some more – sometimes inside, sometimes outside.
Sometimes pups will bring me a toy, which I praise enthusiastically because booty drive (desire to possess the toy) is much stronger now that retrieve drive (bring toy to give to you). Other times they try but are intercepted just as they get to me by another pup who grabs the toy and initiates a tug battle.
By now the pups are braving one of the steeper ramps up to a higher horizontal area of the obstacle course, usually quite proud of themselves, going down and back up. If they haven’t yet figured out the slide, I help by lifting them onto the landing and slowly luring or lifting them to the top of the slide, praising enthusiastically as they unintentionally slide to the bottom. They usually think that was okay; in fact they’ll often try to climb back up it so they can slide down again, so I again lift them onto the landing and put them down the slide, praising all the time. I often see the pups playing on the obstacle course, having a great time, since the area where I throw the ball for the big dogs is adjacent to the puppy yard where the obstacle course is.
40 Days Old
More ears should be completely up. Usually only one is up on any given pup, while others are working their way up and some are still down.
When I bring the pups into the house, I put one of my “scary sounds” desensitizing CD’s in the CD player in my office. The CD’s have sounds of fireworks, thunderstorms, crowds, vehicle noises, crying babies and so on. Of course, my pups are exposed to normal household sounds, and I never worry about dropping food bowls or garbage can lids around them, but I play these CD’s often to expose them to a lot of different noises. I always have to laugh when I play these tapes. The pups don’t seem to pay attention to most of the noises – crowds at sports events, firecrackers, thunder and so on, but my big dogs will bark at the vehicle honks and doorbells. When the tape plays a crying, screaming baby, puppies often race into my office, barking at first, looking all over for the baby. Screaming babies drive me crazy so I sympathize, and on the tape it seems to go on forever. When the tape plays barking dogs, the pups often jump up and run down the hallway to get away from the “mean dog,” and I often hear little barks from them. They generally aren’t too crazy about the growling dog noses either, coming and looking at me and all around, woofing a little.
About this time, I introduce them to seriously searching for food, using some training treats left over from the big dogs’ nosework training. I use what we affectionately call “doggie crack” because the dogs love it so, Natural Balance Beef Roll, cut into small chunks. Or, if I’ve had time to make liver treats (recipes included in various puppy mailings), I use some of them. Other times I use some of the CharleeBear liver treats that I use on therapy dog visits because they’re dry and don’t make a mess. Still other times I use shredded cheese.
Unlike the early exposure to treats in the little collapsible pool, where we lifted them into the pool and showed them the treats, I now scatter pieces on the kitchen floor, sometimes before I let them inside and definitely without saying anything, waiting to see when the pups begin to use their noses. They blunder around and then suddenly a pup will look like someone hooked it with a fishing line, whipping around to see what it just walked over, sniffing loudly and then pouncing on the treat. That attracts the other pups and they, too, stumble over food when their noses happen to be down and inhaling. It doesn’t take long before they’re searching for a piece of food, eating it, then searching for more. As they clean up the pieces, I scatter more, dropping them from waist height so they spread out around the pups.
Meanwhile, I have begun preparing them to be on a dry-food-only diet when they leave here by reducing the raw meat to 1/2# in each of their 4 meals (that’s for a large litter; less of course for smaller litters) and increasing the kibble. Mom also is cut back to 1/2# raw meat added to her three meals per day, since she’s not nursing as much.