While preparing for our litter, we rummaged through all the old magazine articles and books. Learned scholars have devoted a lot of study and time writing lists for breeders to consult when faced with the daunting task of raising puppies. The one thing I know about the process of breeding, whelping and raising the litter is that it is messy, time-consuming, expensive and only slightly rewarding. Some breeders actually cry when each puppy leaves to begin its life in a new family. When the time comes for our puppies to leave the nest we are telling each buyer that we are moving and will send our new address. The bottom line of our simple contract, written in bold, red letters states emphatically, “NO GIVE BACKS!”
One night, shortly after the puppies were whelped, I chanced upon a very well intentioned list outlining the various stages of development and the role the breeder should play. As I perused its points, my sleep deprived mind began to fill in the blank spaces between the bullet points. My guide to raising puppies is far less scholarly, but far more accurate.
Raising Puppies Timeline
- Puppies spend 90% of time sleeping – you are awake 90% of the time making sure the puppies are breathing.
- Puppies spend 10% of time eating – you don’t have time to feed yourself because you are concerned with the puppies nursing and the bitche’s ability to produce enough milk for the litter.
- Susceptible to heat/cold – you lay awake sweating in the summer heat, with a rug over the air conditioning register in the puppy room, so you can maintain a constant temperature of 90 degrees
- Need stimulation for urination/defecation – you receive a nice full tongue face-washing from the mother and later your co-workers ask you if you know where that faint poop odor is coming from.
- Weight should double by end of week – one puppy weighs one pound less and one weight two pounds more than this sage wisdom and you re-weigh it after calibrating your scale three times.
- Chart weight daily (2 x daily first 2 days) – you spent $50.00 on a new computer program to do all this for you but didn’t read the manual so now you have to make a chart by hand and you didn’t get that far in math.
- Examine puppies daily – as show breeders you look at the puppies hourly trying to ascertain if any are showable and any will win Montgomery.
- Keep dam on fluids for first 24 hours (i.e.. chicken broth, etc.) – you tell her that!!
- Make sure bitch eats, drinks, and relieves herself — once her mothering instincts kick in, you may have to force her to leave the puppies to do these things. – you build a cover for the whelping box to be sure she stays in there instead of running outside to play Frisbee.
- Teeth begin to erupt – you now wear only old t-shirts and jeans around them. Anything where snagging is not an issue
- Puppies stand up and start walking – the need for better means of puppy containment is approaching.
- Defecate/urinate without stimulation – your bitch says good-bye to clean-up duties and hands the job off to you!
- Start giving specific stresses when handling (i.e.. pinch an ear or toe gently) – puppies are particularly adept at pinching, biting and chewing on your fingers, feet and pulling hair.
- Give puppies a dirty shirt of yours to play with – start getting them accustomed to your underwear and shoes, too. They’ll need this to make a big hit in their new homes.
- Start weekly grooming sessions (brush, trim nails, look at teeth, etc.) – good luck getting them to stand still for this one.
- Begin to eat food – things get really messy, really fast.
- Begin to bark, wag tails, bite, paw, bare teeth, growl and chase – expect a visit from animal control when the barking can be heard from the corner of your block.
- Keep mom with them a lot! Things can get overwhelming at this age and Mom will add stability for them – Mom is nowhere to be found and you are now completely overwhelmed at the prospect of raising these puppies on your own!
- Offer small amounts of food that is the consistency of cooked oatmeal (puppy food mixed with water and mashed up in a blender) – you realize your blender doesn’t function and spend $75.00 on a new one.
- Dominance order starts – it becomes clear you are at the bottom of the pecking order and completely dominated by the puppies and their constant demands.
- Rapid growth/development – actually they can’t grow up fast enough.
- Make sure other people start coming to see pups – try to get your friends to come see the puppies so you can sneak away and get something done.
- Begin weaning – your bitch is happy to help with this one and seems to disappear around dinner time.
- Play radio at normal volume near pups for 5 minutes at a time – if you’re smart, you play the radio or TV really loud all the time. It helps cover the sound of barking and fighting coming from the puppies’ room.
- Will investigate anything – will also climb out of the box or ex-pen they have been living in and wreak havoc on your once habitable home.
- Can’t respond yet to name – so this is where it starts!
- First fear period – these puppies are eight weeks old and you have had no calls from buyers. You begin to fear they will never find homes.
- Starts learning name – over the years we have had many puppies go to new homes thinking their name is “No-No”.
- Develops strong dominant and subordinate behavior among littermates – you are completely subordinate to the demands of screaming, barking, biting puppies.
- Begins to learn right behavior – they learn that when they bark you come, when they fight you come, when they whine you come. It’s the right behavior!
- Short attention span – you find that you can only concentrate on the immediate needs of the litter. You forget birthdays, anniversaries or when you need to be at work.
- Starts focusing attention on owner rather than other puppies – your complete attention is focused on them! Your family puts take-out places on speed-dial.
- Separate littermates – a lofty goal. Unfortunately, you only have a small guest bedroom for the growing puppies so you opt for stacking crates and bungee cords.
- Start house training – not the best time for new carpet.
- Safe to ship puppies by air – Thank God!!