XX Litter Enrichment Experiences 2

XX Litter Week 4
Enrichment Experiences

For today’s enrichment exercise, I took two cardboard boxes and, to be sure Mr. X didn’t somehow upend one and get trapped inside, cut two openings in the sides.  I spread out the flaps so that they might attract some puppy teeth.  One box contained some brown packing paper, so I put it out, too. I also put down a small piece of firewood so he could investigate the texture of the bark.  He liked that. 

As soon as I put the things on the floor, he left Lovely and headed to investigate – definitely new behavior.  He checked out the firewood and paper first, then suddenly headed towards Lovley’s bowl of kibble, first time I’ve seen him show interest in that, too.  When I changed flannel and papers today, there were no yellow spots (from pee) and I haven’t seen him in that far part of the room before, so I consider this significant exploratory behavior and it makes me feel those ears may be open tonight or tomorrow.  I chuckled when he paused and considered tugging on the towel under Lovely’s food and water bowls.

He then wandered back to the paper.  I picked him up and put in him one box.  It was funny to watch him come to the opening towards me but decide to turn around and eventually go out the back opening.  He came around the box to me and I put him in a second time, and that time he came out the front opening.  He verbalized a bit, definitely saying he was frustrated by the confinement in the box.  I try to give the pups occasional frustration exercises to teach them about “real life,” that things won’t always be easy in the beginning and that they have brains to figure out how to get what they want. 

I then put him in the other box, which I had placed at the entrance to the whelping bed.  Lovely had by that time moved to the whelping bed and I got some neat photos of her watching him figure out how to leave the box and go to her.

Since Mr. X showed interest in Lovely’s food, I decided to see if he was ready to start eating on his own.  When I introduce them to eating, I start them on the raw meat diet because the moms will still clean up their poop when they eat meat – very important while they’re still in the whelping room.  I divided 1/4 pound of the raw meat diet into small pieces and put it in a puppy bowl, which is low sided with a raised center so the pups can investigate food without totally crawling into it.  I put out enough meat that there are tiny bites all along the edges of the circular bowl, so that wherever Mr. X approaches (or falls into) the bowl, he would encounter a food reward. 

I knew Mr. X wouldn’t eat that much meat, but I haven’t found a small bowl that is only about 1” tall.  Everything I had or could find at the pet food store had rims too high for a pup, so I had to use my regular puppy bowl – and didn’t want him to approach it where there was no meat and be discouraged.  I was impressed when he started eating as soon as I put him down close to the bowl.  I even got two photos of him taking a big bite of meat!  Usually at first they just suck at it and end up pressing it into the bowl, but not this boy.  Very nice!

Lovely is getting ½# raw meat diet at each of her three meals, so I gave her 3/8# for her lunch and used the other 1/8# for Mr. X, adding another 1/8# I had.  He didn’t eat quite 1/8#.  Lovely was thrilled to clean up what he didn’t finish.

I did the same thing at supper, this time just making sure he was in the vicinity of the bowl but not putting him close.  By the time I turned from the doorway, he was eating away.  He didn’t eat quite as much tonight.

Years ago, I read a book by a guy who trains Navy Seal dogs and also breeds working dogs.  He talked about always making the puppies search for their food rather than setting it right in front of them each time.  With my next litter, the HH litter, I tried doing that instead of putting some of the raw meat into each pup’s mouth as I used to do when introducing meat.  On the temperament test at 7 weeks, all those pups showed intense desire to use their noses, so I decided to continue the practice.  The pups sometimes start eating on their own a few days later with this method, so in a big litter the moms don’t get relief as soon as before, but I think it encourages the pups from the very beginning to make an effort and be proactive, rather than passively accepting being fed. 

Today is “feel funny under your feet day” for enrichment experiences.  I put down a small plastic bottle and a larger jar that will roll nicely, a muffin tin, an egg carton, a scrunched-up piece of aluminum foil, one of the containers from the Lady Godiva chocolates gift box, a muffin tin, a food tray and a plastic tray that gives if Mr. X walks across it. The area closest to the bed was quite full of new things!  Each time I entered the room, I moved objects to different places, to stimulate Mr. X to notice something if he hadn’t already.  It’s not important that I see pups investigating things.  The important thing is that they get used to their environment constantly changing, and it becomes normal to change their idea of where they’re going or what they’re going to do.  I want my pups to leap, with enthusiasm, into each new experience in life.

The last time I made rolls, I had used the foil to cover the rolls for the first half of their baking time, and then kept it in case I had a use for it again. It’s possible it retained a slight scent of the rolls. Mr. X is the first pup who has ever acted like he was picking up on the butter or yeast aroma.  Good boy!

It did make taking photos difficult.  I lost track of how many times I picked him and put him around other obstacles, then scooted away and tried to focus the camera so I could get other photos.

to page 3 of the Enrichment Experiences photos
to page 4 of the Enrichment Experiences photos
back to page1 of the Enrichment Experiences photos
to XX litter diary
XX litter background information
XX litter pedigree