How I Raise My Puppies, page 5
What I do with Puppies from Birth until They Leave Here
42 Days until they Leave and Conclusion
42 Days Old
Once the pups are eagerly searching for treats on the floor, I make the exercise more difficult, using a small kiddie pool. I put it on the floor in the living room and scatter treats in it. I then bring the pups inside – all of them now climbing the steps to come into the doggie door. They head to the living room for their toys and see the pool. Soon they smell the treats and climb in, the girls usually much more gracefully than the boys. As they search for treats, I add some empty plastic NuVet supplement jars without lids (all my dogs get NuJointDS and NuVetPlus daily; the jars are about 6.5″ tall and 3″ in diameter) to make the search harder, alternately scattering treats, then more jars, until the pups have to push the jars aside in their quest for the treats. When they leave the pool and begin playing with toys and racing up and down the hall, I quietly add more treats and then observe who checks out the pool the next time they race past it. I’m looking for hunt drive, the more intense the better.
I do this from now on: every time the pups come inside the pool will be waiting. I continue watching for the ones with the greatest desire to use their noses, and also for persistence in searching. Some will eat a little and then go play. Others stay until they’re sure no food is left, often working determinedly to get a treat that has gotten into one of the jars. Some check the pool every time they go into the room; some only when the others are rooting around inside it. Some are so determined to get the food that they fling jars out into the room as they search. I note who does what in the daily diary entry. If this is a persistent and consistent behavior, I begin watching that pups as a SAR, nosework or tracking prospect.
When people come to visit I warn them to stay off to the side because it’s a stampede as the pups compete to get to the treats first and to get the most treats. They won’t even notice people until they’ve finished their search. Meanwhile, we laugh and laugh and laugh.
If the weather is nice, I move the searching outside, using the large old beaten up 6′ diameter kiddie pool in the far end of the “big puppy” yard by the obstacle course. At first the pool is one more experience of unstable footing, but then one day I secretly scatter treats in it and then innocently wander with the pups to that general area. I notice who first catches the scent, who first figures out how to climb into the pool, who searches most intensely. Soon they’re racing ahead of me, making flying leaps into the pool and searching intently anytime I happen to face in that general direction. I have the pool upside down so the curled over edge creates a little trough – a great place to put treats. Pups soon learn to go around the entire perimeter with their noses in the crack, searching. Sometimes there are treats, sometimes not. Visitors love to come play with the pups on the obstacle course and every so often sneak over to put treats in the nearby pool; in fact, they often bring new treats so the pups have a variety of smells to search for.
Outdoor pool search, MM litter
A friend who is a vet tech comes several days before the temperament test to microchip the pups. I prepay the microchip registration fee in order to encourage puppy buyers to quickly get the microchip registered in their name in case of accident of theft, since a microchip is legal proof that the pup belongs to them. As the breeder who orders the microchips, I’m associated with that microchip number until the new owners register it in their names, a simple online process when it’s prepaid.
I now have to survive a bunch of piranhas when I let them out of the puppy yard to come into the house. They are awful! They attack my pant legs and bite down hard on my ankle and will not be dissuaded. We now have VERY serious “No Bite! Kisses” lessons, and I immediately press their lips hard against their gums until they “give” and realize it’s absolutely unacceptable. Eventually they’ll quit competing with each other to get close to me and begin to understand what “no bite” means and we have some nice cuddles – until the next excitement. I work hard on this lesson until they leave – and show their new owners how to correct, and to do it hard enough that they break through the drive to the brain. It takes several weeks to channel working drives but we don’t want to kill them either.
I no longer leave mom in with them all night but will let her in with them regularly throughout the day and last thing at night, leaving the top part of the puppy yard gate open so she can leave them when she’s had enough. To prepare for hours without mom, I fix the pups a big supper, then at bedtime I go out, consolidate what was left into one bowl and put it in a corner of the puppy house away from their fleece pads so they have plenty of room to cuddle up and sleep on the pads if they desire. Mom will sleep in her crate at night so she doesn’t go out and call the puppies, disturbing them.
I continue to turn on the noise CD when I bring them in, gradually playing it at louder and louder volume. They’re getting used to all the different noises and no longer show much reaction.
The pups do two more visits this week, one of them usually to the children’s library. By this time it’s hard to get them from the puppy yard to the car as we usually have one, if not more, pups attached to our pant legs. When we arrive, several library staff members help my volunteers carry the pups to a potty area and keep them from running into the street. You just about need a person per pup at this age. We give them time to potty and then carry them inside the library and into the children’s theater, where families are already impatiently waiting. The puppies always love the head children’s librarian, Michelle, because she wears long skirts. They head for her and explore the skirt and, amazingly, legs under it!
The library visit is a hoot: they invite all the young children who frequent the library to come for puppy playtime. The pups got some great kid socialization and mob scene experience. The theater has a stage, a floor area and big deep steps rising up where the children sit at other times to watch performances; when we come, they climb up and down the steps, followed by puppies. The steps are about 3′ deep and 6″ high, a struggle for puppies to climb but they want to chase those children and eventually manage. These photos are so popular I used some from five litters.
Children’s library visit, ii litter
Sheridan Manor visits, LL litter
The pups play very hard now. They’re stronger, more agile and have more endurance. When they “help” me do poop detail, they often take the shovel away from me. I continue to expose them to all the new things I can think of.
Pups playing 6 – 7 weeks, HH litter.
By now the pups are pretty consistently leaving the sleeping area in the puppy house and going outside to poop; in fact, they now usually try to poop on the edges of the fence, leaving their play area nearly totally clean. They’ll still pee occasionally on the newspapers in the puppy house, but that’s lessening. By the time they leave here they’ll be practically housebroken. They can’t physically “hold it” until four months of age when the sphincter muscles mature, but they’ll sure let people know they’d like to go outside because they’ve had all this practice (and encouragement) in keeping their “home” clean.
Their eyes are turning brown, indicating the eyes are maturing and the pups are seeing much better. However, they still can’t see very far and now I observe them running into things – their legs can propel them faster than their eyes can tell what’s ahead. It’s really funny. Soon they’ll get much better eye-foot coordination, and better coordination overall.
On the Monday before the weekend’s temperament test, I take the pups to the vet for their health check and first vaccination. The vet squirts a little cheese on the table to divert them while she takes their temperature and gives the shot, and it’s always interesting to see the pups’ reactions. Some don’t notice it because they are so busy flirting with Dr. Cindy and me; I have to practically put their noses down in it before they notice. Others show much more interest, even beginning to sniff as we lifted them on the table.
I like to do the shots as close as possible to when they leave here, but also several days ahead of the tests to be sure any reaction to the vaccination is over and doesn’t have them “down” for the testing, preventing their showing the drives they actually have.
I worm the puppies for the third time, using the “official” weights from the vet visit.
44 Days Old
Mom has been avoiding the pups when she needs a break by sitting on the roof of the transition area. By now, though, the pups begin noticing where she is and figuring out how to climb one of the ramps to the top. The ramps are narrower than anything else they’ve navigated so they have to pay attention to where they put their feet. Mom soon begins trying to hide back in the obstacle course area. She’ll then run to the gate when she sees me, begging to get away from them. I frequently check out the window so I can go out immediately when she wants out.
It usually takes them longer to figure out how to go down the ramps and I often hear yelling. The first time I race out to be sure they’re okay, only to see them just fine, just “stuck” on top. I then leave them to figure it out and soon they manage to make their way down, though not gracefully. As I check on them throughout the day, I usually see several on the roof, but they don’t make any more noise so it’s obvious they’ve learned another skill.
Once they learn to go up and down, it becomes a great play area. I often see them playing chase up one ramp, across the roof, and down another or the open metal steps.
46 Days Old
This is about the time that the pups figure out how to climb over the 14″ high bottom gate from the back yard into the puppy yard while I’m doing poop detail in the puppy yard. Now I have to close the top part of the gate to keep them out while I work.
48 Days Old
By now, when I have the pool in the living room at the doorway from the kitchen, nearly all the pups choose to hop into the pool, race across its 4′ diameter and hop out rather than go around it, even though there’s plenty of room. It has become quite a game.
7 Weeks Old
We continue to welcome visitors to help socialize the pups.
Puppy customers are invited to come the day before the temperament tests and play with the pups until I cut off visiting at 7 p.m. so the pups can eat and rest. That afternoon I often schedule a visit to a nursing home – or another puppy playtime at the children’s library – if people will be here early enough and want to observe the pups in those situations.
We usually begin the temperament test at 9 a.m. I invite people to meet at my house at 8:30 and follow me to the test site, which is a place the pups have never been. We have a designated area from which they can watch and they need to be both physically and verbally quiet during the test since these pups are so voice oriented they’ll leave the tester to go visit if they hear or see someone. I bring one pup at a time into the strange area, hand it to the tester and disappear. The police/narcotics test has 10 tests and is usually done the first day, while the Search & Rescue test has 23. People are usually mesmerized by the testing and are able to understand why some pups are working prospects and others will do better as pets. They are welcome to talk to the testers after we’re done.
After the first day’s test, everyone heads to get some lunch while I take the puppies home, feed them and let them take a nap. Then people can come to the house and play with the puppies for a couple of hours, after which I send them away so the puppies can rest up for the next day’s test. Usually all of us will go to supper together and have a great time talking dogs.
The next morning we do the other test, after which we adjourn to my house to decide who gets which puppy. I have two waiting lists – working and pet – and we decide on the working homes first, studying both the testers’ evaluation sheets and what I’ve observed as the pups developed (and noted in the diary). If a person is unable to come for the testing, when I get to their name on the list I will call them, go over the test results, and we will decide on their pup. Then I go to the next person on the list.
I really like doing the temperament tests because I often see things about a pup, as it relates to a stranger in a strange place without “Grandma,” that I never noticed before. Sometimes a pup draws confidence from the group and/or from me and never shows any stress no matter how hectic or challenging the places I take it are, but then will stress when alone in the strange place with the stranger. Other pups don’t like to compete and seem to have lower drives in the group situation but turn on and show lots of drive alone with the tester. The testing really does provide another piece of the puzzle of a pup’s strengths and weaknesses.
After we have decided the working placements, we go down the list of pet people. I usually offer a person a choice of two pups, pointing out why I think either will fit well with their family situation (no high-prey-drive pups for people with toddlers, for instance) and together we decide who they will take.
After all is decided, we do the paperwork. I go over the contract in detail, make sure everyone understands everything, then we sign it – they get a copy and I keep a copy. Then we go over the “Going Home” packet with all the advice on socializing, beginning training, keeping the puppy healthy, potty training, crate training and so on. I send them with 10# of Holistic Select Large/Giant Breed Puppy kibble; of course in earlier mailings I urged them to order a bag so they had plenty.
I recommend that people stay overnight and leave their pup here, then come by to pick it up when they’re ready to hit the road the next morning. That way they get one last night of peaceful sleep, and the pup generally gets to its new home in time to explore and become comfortable before bedtime. If someone must get on the road, I get them on their way right after the paperwork is finished, and then we bring the puppies in and let the remaining people play until the puppies crash.
If Any Pups Remain
If pups are waiting for me to fly them to their new homes (which can’t be done until they’re 8 weeks old), waiting for their new owners to come, or are not yet sold, I begin socializing them individually. I take one on my regular day to visit the nursing home instead of taking an adult therapy dog. I love to leash train pups on nursing home visits because it gives them a reason to pay attention and walk with me, plus the residents really enjoy watching. If I have more than one pup, I recruit a friend to handle the other one. If any pups have stayed locally, I urge their owners to bring them on nursing home visits for leash work and socializing. The nursing homes love our continued visits. We work on leash training as we enter the nursing home, turn them loose to play in the activity room while seniors watch, then walk them down the halls for a little more leash work before heading to the car and home.
Older pups visit nursing home, CC litter at 10 weeks (my Lively is the one without a collar)
I quit taking them to the nursing homes when they turn 4 months because they get too busy to enjoy sitting still to visit.
I also take the pups on individual walks. I continue inviting people to visit or will take the pup to their home and let it meet their dogs as long as they’re good with babies.
Visiting other dogs, MM litter
I continue to give them new experiences to develop their personalities, challenge them and develop confidence until they leave.
KK litter with tunnel, etc., in background.
I also begin their clicker training. I set a new object in front of them and use positive reinforcement (click then treat) to mark each time they do something with it – first sniff at or show interest, next touch it, then climb on it, and so on. I have a mental picture of what I want (“I want the pup to put both feet on the tub.” or “I want the pup to pick up this new object.”), but I give it no commands, only clicking and treating each little try until it accomplishes what I want, at which time we have a big party. This early training is called “shaping” and produces a dog who enjoys learning and is free and confident enough that it will try different behaviors as it tries to figure out what you want. It’s how I start all my dogs for whatever venue I want to pursue with them – agility, nosework, obedience, rally and so on.
If they remain much after 8 weeks of age I find they want to bond intensely to me, which tends to make them adapt less easily to their new homes. These pups will often stress at the change where the younger ones didn’t. So I hire a couple of teenage girls who are very active in the 4H dog program and who also train in adult obedience and agility classes to come, take each pup individually, and work with it on leash training as well as clicker training. Usually the girls take a pup outside in the front yard while I remain in the house. They work first at getting it to enjoy being with them without “Grandma” around, then alternate playing with them, working on retrieve (the pups all love to chase but some don’t want to bring the toy back and give it to you), and shaping behaviors. The girls keep me busy finding different things for them to teach the pup to touch, pick up, climb or find. Everybody has a ball!
If I have pups this age in the spring and summer, my friend Laurie, who is the local 4H dog project leader, will often pick up a pup and take it with her to 4H training. This is fantastic socializing. The kids pass the pup around to whoever might not be working their dog at the moment, fight over it during breaks, work on its leash walking, share it with parents who are watching, practice their clicker techniques on it, take it for walks and keep it very busy. Laurie will either drop off the pup on her way home or I’ll go pick it up. Either way, it’s asleep in its crate as soon as the car starts.
I worm the puppies every 10 – 14 days until they leave.
I mail support materials to the puppy owners. Each packet contains a description of puppy development at that age, listing its needs, what it is now able to do, what training and socializing the owner should be doing at this age, when vaccinations will be due, what appropriate corrections for this age are, and anything else that might be helpful. I mail the packet the week before the pups turn the following ages:
3 Months (covers development from 3 to 4 months)
4 Months (covers development from 4 to 6 months)
6 Months (covers development from 6 to 9 months)
9 Months (covers development from 9 to 12 months)
12 Months (covers development from 12 to 18 months)
18 Months (covers development from 18 to 24 months)
To see puppies at later ages, check out the “Past Litters” page for each litter. You might also enjoy the “Favorite Photos” pages for each of my dogs (in the Breeding Males, Breeding Females and Retired sections of the website menu). I put the best photos of them there from birth to now.
I follow my pups very closely the first 2 years to be sure they’re doing well in their homes. Then I follow them ALL their lives, checking when I don’t hear from someone to be sure my pup is okay, always offering help and advice. I will take one of my pups back at any age for any reason.
I post updates and photos on that litter’s page on my website (“Past Liters” section of the website menu) as soon as people send them, and often email them asking for updates and photos if I haven’t heard from them for a while. I send everyone a Christmas card with news of what’s going on with my dogs – especially the parents of their pup – again asking for updates. As the pups age, I always want to be informed of any illnesses or conditions they may develop, and when they die, what was the cause. I keep track of all this and am always willing to share any health info on related pups if someone is trying to figure out what may be wrong with theirs or if the vet asks if anything similar has happened in a related dog. I truly want to produce healthy pups who live to a grand old age, something hard in our too-popular breed where so many people can make money by selling pups without going to the expense and effort to do any health screenings on parents to be sure they don’t double up on a condition. I love this breed and try to produce GOOD German Shepherds – a dream I’ve had since I was about 3 years old. There’s nothing like a German Shepherd!!!!!