How I Raise My Puppies 3: 14 – 27 Days Old

How I Raise My Puppies, page 3
What I do with Puppies from Birth until They Leave Here

14 – 27 Days Old

14 Days
Eyes are completely open now and they’re beginning to walk around. The puppies look at me when I pick them up. They seem to be trying to figure out their world. Of course, they can only see vague shapes and the contrast between light and dark at the moment, but their world has vastly enlarged. I close the window curtain, so they won’t have to deal with any bright light. Their eyes are blue and bothered by light; they won’t be comfortable in bright areas until their eyes turn brown, usually at 5 weeks or so. They search for darker places.

When I trim toenails now, it takes a long time because they’re very squirmy.

They usually weigh 3 – 3.5 pounds at 2 weeks of age.

It’s time now to take down the pig rail, since they can see, are mobile and are big enough that mom won’t lie on top of them or, if she does, they’re strong enough to yell and move out from under her. Amazing how much room removing that 4″ rail on all four sides of the box gives them!

I just had to use the photos from the NN litter because Mr. Brown was so cute looking over the board where GloryToo enters and leaves the bed.

More photos: NN litter

Their faces are growing. Their little Roman noses are really noticeable from a side view. Their ears are growing in preparation for opening on the 21st day.

Roman noses. All MM litter.

I usually take another set of photos as soon as their eyes are completely open. I place a sheet, covered by an afghan, on the floor of the whelping room to provide them traction as well as a new tactile and odor experience. They definitely check out the afghan! I take one out at a time for photos and then weigh them before putting them back into the whelping bed. They aren’t too happy with the camera flashes but take the experience in their stride, first sniffing, then walking, though often times doing more circling than moving in a certain direction. Most of the pups show a really good reverse gear; it seems easier than forward for them at this age. When they do move out they already show some nice reach and drive.

Starting to walk, MM litter.

More photos: GG, HH, JJ, LL, MM and NN litters.

Succeeding pups sniff more and more as I put each one out, obviously smelling their littermates and wondering where they are.

Sniffing, FF litter

More photos: DD, GG, JJ and LL litters.

Several will catch my scent as I kneel off to the side and some will actually come to find me.

Finding me, MM litter.

More photos: BB, GG litter and MM litters.

They are also beginning to sit like real dogs! They still scrunch down a little but having their eyes open helps balance immensely and soon they’ll sit nice and straight.

Sit like real dogs, DD litter.

More photos: GG, ii and MM litters.

They begin examining each other and their mother, exploring the whole different view of the world that comes with open eyes, even if it is just a vague impression. They’re definitely more interested in each other. I will often catch looking as if they’re trying to figure out what the other is.

DD litter with Joyful.

More photos: BB, CC, DD, GG and MM litters.

Noticing each other, beginning to play, eighteen-day-old CC litter.

More photos: fourteen-day-old MM litter and twenty-day-old FF litter.

15 – 18 Days
I see the first tail wag.

The larger the litter, the earlier I begin offering the raw meat diet to the pups. Some won’t be interested, but others will be, gathering around the bowl, lifting their heads and sniffing. I use two low-sided bowls which have a raised center so the pups can investigate food without crawling in it. They always begin by trying to suck in the meat as they do milk. Soon, though, they begin reaching forward, mouth open, taking a bite and chewing before swallowing. Once they begin eating I place a bowl of water in the whelping bed for them.

I leave them in peace to investigate if they so desire for about 15 minutes and then put mom in to finish the meat and clean up both puppies and floor coverings. Then I do the bedding/newspaper change.

Several 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. Those pups all showed great desire to use their noses on the temperament tests, so I decided to continue the practice. They start eating on their own a few days later with this method, so the moms don’t get relief as soon as they did 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.

Sables begin to show a dark stripe along their backs. Sables are born light and continue to darken until about age 2, and it happens in stages. They start with a black triangle about halfway down the tail, which becomes a stripe down the back, which gradually widens until the body is a shade darker. Then they’ll begin another tail triangle and ever-widening stripe, and another and another.

The black and tans, in contrast, are born very dark and lighten up as they get older, with the tan (initially barely visible on their undersides and feet) advancing to replace a lot of the black.

If both parents carry the black recessive, it’s possible that some of the pups will be blacks. Until this age it’s very hard to be sure if a pup is a black or a bicolor (mostly black with tan just on the lower legs/feet, like Rottweilers or Dobermans). By now, if it’s a bicolor, faint tan hairs should be appearing under the tail and on the feet.

Sable stripes vs black & tans. Lively with fifteen-day-old GG litter.

More photos: Quinta with eighteen-day-old CC litter; twenty-seven-day old FF litter pups; FF litter at 34 days with great-grandmother, Jubilee, mother, Lively, and grandmother, Quinta;  and thirty-seven-day-old FF litter pups. 

Their coats are much thicker now, especially on pups born in late fall or winter. By the time they can regulate their body temperature, on day 21, they’ll be even fuzzier.

GG litter

More photos: BB and FF litters and my Lively from the CC litter

Often, when I change their bedding, I now notice that the wet papers were along the edges of the bed rather than all over. That means that the pups are beginning to move away from the sleeping area to pee, trying to keep the main area clean. The fleece wicks the moisture down to the papers so that the actual fleece stays dry.

16 Days
The pups begin to notice me when I walk into the room, moving around in the bed and giving pretty credible barks. Occasionally one will raise her snout into the air and give a big hoot, which always startles me and makes me laugh. Already such personalities!

DD litter

More photos: all GG litter

Now I often see very short but decided interactions between a couple of pups, with one grabbing a bit of its sibling’s skin and giving a tiny shake. They might even wrestle with each other, very short-lived sessions that will become more intense and prolonged as they get older.

More serious interaction between pups, CC litter with my Lively on the right.

More photos: DD litter

All these “big dog” things – sitting up, wagging tails, wrestling, responding to petting – show that with the opening of the eyes a big developmental change occurred. They are beginning to be more fun. Personalities will begin to emerge now, though we wait for the huge change at about 21 days when all the neurological systems are mature and hooked up – when they can hear, learn and control their body temperature.

At this age, don’t give any significance to who sleeps as opposed to who shows ambition in the photos; it just depends on what part of their eat/sleep pattern they happen to be when I get the camera out. I only start looking for patterns after their neurological system is all hooked up. Then I use my daily diary entries, looking for a pup to consistently show certain behaviors, to give me an indication of who will have a lot of working drive and who might be more easy-going and less intense.

They are now strong, especially their hind legs. They stand so as to better knead the breast as they nurse as mom lies there. They are incredibly more efficient at nursing, soon getting full and settling to cuddle.

MM litter

More photos: GG and MM litters

About this time I enlarge their living area. I have been expecting to find a pup out in the room when I enter. When it does, it’s a sign to put down the wall that forms a ramp and open up the room for them. It’s always interesting to see just which pup will first refuse to let go of a teat as mom steps out of the whelping box over the 8″ high board that forms one side, and get carried out into the room before it lets go. I will go in to check on the pups and here comes one to greet me.

I put up a 12″ high board from the corner of the whelping box to the end of the room towards the door. That defines a nice open space for the pups to begin to explore and ensures they can’t get lost by turning a corner. They are often quite interested in all the goings on as I position the second board on the low side of the whelping bed, and then the 12″ high board. Sometimes they watch my contortions as I screw everything securely in place. I put down newspapers in their new area, then put down a rug that covers the ramp and blankets on the floor to provide traction. Usually then some will walk down the ramp and onto the floor and sprawl out, seeming to enjoy the coolness of the enlarged space. They soon move out to enjoy all of their more-than-double new space. In a few days, once they’re comfortable negotiating the slight incline that the wall of the whelping box makes to the floor, and can find their way back into the whelping box, they’ll be ready for the entire room.

They still can’t regulate their temperature so I put the little heater just on the other side of the big board at the corner of the whelping bed. That way they have a warm area if they need it but can’t capsize the heater..

Room half opened, LL litter.

Once they begin moving out of the whelping bed into the room, the cleaning begins!!! I swear the puppies choose to pee or poop so that they mess up a part of four different newspapers where they join! And pick the spot that will soil at least two of the blankets on top of the papers. The washing machine will go practically non-stop until they’re old enough to move outdoors to the puppy house and puppy yard.

I check frequently that first day to make sure the heater is keeping the enlarged area warm but not heating the room too much. When I check after about 30 minutes, I usually find a pup or two asleep in the new area while the rest are still in the whelping bed. A later check often shows all of the pups stretched out in the new area, totally content. Moms like the bigger space, too, and begin nursing the pups there.

17 Days
Now, when I change papers, I often have pups draped over the back of my legs as I kneel. They see movement, notice each other, and I begin seeing attempts to play. Moms begin to spend extended time – 30 minutes or so – away from the pups.

18 Days
When I enter the whelping room, the ones on the floor wake when I turn on the light and step in, moving towards me, tails wagging. Mom usually heads outside to potty and nose around while I clean the room. When she returns, she checks everyone to see who needs cleaning, and the pups will begin trying to nurse as she stands. They aren’t quite big enough for that but they sure try! They also pursue her, trying to convince her to stand still.

Trying to nurse while mom stands, FF litter

They are definitely wrestling now, taking a BIG bite of another one’s leg or loose skin and shaking, and even giving some little growls. They’re now all giving hoots and trills and beginning barks–so funny!!!!

Barks, DD litter.

More photos:  BB & CC litters

They’re eating well.

EE litter

More photos:  EE litter

Each time I clean the room, I lie down to visit with the pups. Some are usually very happy to spend time with me, even giving quite a few kisses and then investigating my hair. Others came, visit and go back to nurse or are more interested in attempting to play with each other. Over time, though, all begin to look forward to the chance to interact with me.

19 Days
About this time, when I see them walking along the perimeter of their area as if looking for more room, I open up the rest of the room for them. I spread papers and sheets on the floor of the rest of the room and move the plank barrier to enclose a space by the doggie door just large enough for a small bed for mom. The pups very quickly spread out into the whole room and begin to try to run.

It’s impossible to get a photo of the whole room but you can get an idea from the photos of the room set up for whelping.

I put a 2′ x 4′ piece of the fleece bedding by the door to help hold newspapers/sheets steady as mom jumps in and out over the puppy barrier that keeps them from coming out when I enter the room. The pups tend to hang out with her by the door, often nursing there, so they’ll be happy to have a piece of their thick bed there now.

I seldom find any pups in the whelping bed when I check them. Now if I can get them to leave the fleece and go potty on the newspapers, we’ll really be accomplishing things. The washing machine would get a break!

All my dogs don’t get along so I rotate groups out throughout the day. Each time mom rotates out for her exercise/potty times out during the day, I now offer meat to the pups. Instead of feeding her each of her five raw meat meals at certain times, I put it in the puppy bowls and set it down for the pups while she is out of the room during a rotation – and she gets to finish what was left when her “free time” is over. They’re now beginning to be quite interested in the meat. I make sure that I put down more than the pups will eat so that she still gets enough to produce lots of milk.

They’re barking now as I enter the room, something I find so funny since their ears are still closed and they can’t hear.

Each time I clean their room several pups will visit with me, and they seem to be taking turns.

I feel the first teeth. So far they haven’t realized what they can do with them and are still giving kisses, but watch out when they start using them.

HH litter

More photos: HH and KK litters

20 Days
For the last several days, even though I know they can’t hear yet, I’ve been giving my cheerful, high-pitched “Puppy, Puppy, Puppy” call as I enter the room with the meat. Too much of a habit, I guess, though who knows what vibrations they may pick up. I’m not getting any response yet other unless any happen to be awake and facing my way so as to see movement as I enter, but when the ears open I’ll see a definite one.

21 Days
With most litters, when I check ears first thing this morning, they’re not yet open, though the parts of the ear are more sharply defined as if they are ready to “crack” open. It’s almost magical how the pups change when neurologically their bodies are mature – I can hardly wait.

If the pups are awake when I go in with the food, so that they see me come in, they head towards me and look for the bowls I carry. The ones who are awake are quite verbal in greeting me with little trills and barks.

When I go in to pick up the bowls and bring back their mother, they’re like an anthill, all over the place, vocalizing excitedly as they head for either mom or me. It’s really hard to change their bedding at these times because, even though she lies down to nurse them, they don’t nurse that long (having tummies full of meat) and I usually am not finished changing newspapers before they come barreling out. I often have to change some papers AGAIN as they pee on the clean ones. All I seem to do is pick up puppies and move them away for the area I’m trying to clean, and of course they head right back to visit and get in the way. Eventually I’m able to get the floor covered with clean newspapers and the sheet down to cover them. I quit using blankets, even though they give better traction, since the pups were saying they were too warm. The sheets, though slicker, are cooler and they really like that.

All at the daytime sessions seem to be equally social. Some seem more persistent at seeking attention one time, and the next time are the first to head for a sleeping spot, so I don’t notice any one pup being super interested in interaction all the time. Evenings are more peaceful and I’m able to observe the pups better.

After I finish cleaning the room, I again lie down to visit with them. They love to cuddle and are now also sprawling beside me, flat on their backs, enjoying tummy rubs. They also now wag their tails wildly as they greet me. They now climb over my legs if they’re in their way and also try to climb into my lap when I sit on the floor.

I now have to watch for adventuresome pups who manage to climb over the 12″ board blocking off the private area for mom, next to the doggie door out to her private yard. I don’t want pups going out the doggie door and getting lost, especially in cold or wet weather. Once they figure out how to climb over the board, however, it’s safer to take it down and begin watching the explorers. I check the room frequently and count pups. If I’m missing any, I go outside and check the little closed yard, carrying pups back inside and putting them in the puppy room if necessary.

Only when I find puppy poop in the little yard while all pups are in the room will I begin to relax. I then know some have figured out how to go out the doggie door and down the ramp AND they found their way back to the ramp and up to the doggie door, which sometimes is hard on the little ones since they have to make a turn to enter it after they’ve wandered around in the yard. From doggie door to the ground is a good four feet and the wood frame surrounding the ramp to keep anyone from falling off makes it a dark “tunnel.” Smart puppies!

22 Days
Ears are open if they weren’t open yesterday They can now learn and are eager to explore their new world. And, boy, are they trying out their voices now that they can hear! Barks, hoots, trills, chuckles, what a noisy bunch they are. Ears continue to grow larger and mostly flap over.

They are now so large that it’s hard for all to nurse at the same time. I often see the moms sitting to nurse them.

Quinta with the EE litter.

More photos: Lively with the FF litter.

Now that their immature neurological systems are complete – all circuits hooked up – they can hear, regulate their temperature, learn and move around pretty steadily, the mothers know they are no longer fragile and will really welcome visitors so they can show them off. Before this, only people whom mom knows and likes were allowed to come handle the pups.

I don’t have to be so careful about avoiding drafts and monitoring the temperature of their room; they’re getting heavier coats in preparation for keeping themselves warm.

They now begin thoroughly exploring their world. It’s exciting to see, because they’ll seem to change by the hour as they interact with things they didn’t notice before. I begin to see what they’ll really be like as far as personality. Drives will start coming in a little later.

I take them into the living room for the first time. I lay down a couple of old blankets and carry them – two at a time because they’re now pretty heavy (usually 4 – 5 pounds) – putting them on the blanket and going back for more. Some immediately move out to explore, others sit as if frozen for a while looking around before moving, some yell their displeasure. Moms usually head outside for a break but eventually soon came in and stretch out to nurse the pups on the blankets, which reassures them that all is well. Soon all will explore. I try to get photos of this adventure, sometimes lucking out and catching them mouth wrestling.

One reason I begin them eating raw meat is that the moms continue to clean up the poop, which they don’t when pups eat cereal or soaked kibble. I try not to start adding soaked kibble to their meat until they’re ready to move outside because they make a terrible mess in a small area. Since they’re drinking water after meat meals, they’re peeing then as well as after nursing, I’ll be changing papers every time I go into the room to keep them in a clean, non-smelly environment.

I now go in first thing in the morning and change the sheets and newspapers on the floor as soon as their greetings and associated potties are done. Later, when it’s mom’s time to be out, I feed them, and after I that clean the whole room including the whelping bed. Doing the floor this way, twice close together, keeps the room smelling much better since most of their pees are on the floor. After their second and third meals I change the sheet/newspapers again; then last thing at night, after they’ve played with me and each other, pottied, and are beginning to crash, I change the entire room and bed. All I seem to be doing right now is cleaning and washing…

I’m now seeing some real attempts to wrestle and play with each other. So fun to watch! They’re also exploring me, mouthing my fingers in a totally different way than in the beginning, which was strictly the nursing instinct as they blindly hoped that the finger was mom’s nipple.

Wrestling at 24 days, DD litter.

More photos:  DD and NN litters

Cleaning the room each time takes forever. They climb on me as I kneel to change papers, sit on the rugs I’m trying to remove so I have to keep lifting them off and try to grab the rug before another body gets on it (a hopeless battle), and as I walk around, they follow me and watch my slippers.

BB litter

More photos: DD litter and my Lively from the CC litter

They have now begun sitting in front of me and giving me extended eye contact, even with other pups jostling them. Some want to get into my lap in order to closely look me in the eyes. They also have begun doing it to visitors, too. It’s so exciting to see!

Extended eye contact, DD litter

More photos from DD litter

When they realize they have teeth they will begin attaching them to everything that moves. That makes for a lot of fun as I introduce squeaky toys. At first the sudden squeaks really throw them for a loop as they don’t associate biting the toy with the noise that happens.

Biting/pouncing on things, GG litter.

More photos:  AA, FF and GG litters 

Right now, when they play with each other, they pretty gently put their mouths around another’s nose or leg or a fold of skin, but they’re already beginning to do the “kill the prey” head shake when they attach to something. They also begin giving me kisses, seriously licking me in a real caress.

23 Days
When I clean the room, I have “help” nearly the entire time. They visit, drape themselves over my legs, sit in front of me watching me or begun exploring my face and hair.

When I put down the bowls, they now get up and head for the meat. They’re definitely getting the idea!

When I try to change papers, I’m now mobbed by puppies. Often one will be persistent in possessing my lap. They are now chewing on my fingers and sometimes chomping on my hand. They have noticed that they have teeth and think I’m a good object upon which to try them out – and they already have some pretty good jaw pressure. We now begin “No bite! Kisses instead!” lessons. I mark each time they gently “taste” or kiss me with a quietly crooned “Good kisses.” If they begin to use teeth, I remove them from my body part with a quiet, “No bite” and invite them to “Give kisses” instead. No need for corrections at this age, but I really build the “kisses” foundation.

Ears continue to try to come up, on some pups more than others. Generally the first pups to get their ears up have inherited smaller ears and lighter ear “leather.” If a pup inherited genes for large ears or ear leather that’s thick and heavy, it will take longer to get them up. Many times the heavy-boned pups will be slow to start holding up their ears as their body is busy building bone rather than strengthening the cartilage in the ear leather.

CC litter

More photos:  BB litter, CC, DD, HH and KK litters.

24 Days
They’re now grabbing my pant leg or sleeve and giving a tentative shake, or grabbing the edge of the sheets on the floor.

They’re much steadier on their feet, finally learning how to keep their hind legs under them and move at the same time. Since they don’t need the extra traction, most of the floor is now just covered with newspaper with no sheets on top, except for the small fleece pieces I place by the doggie door and at the door where mom jumps over the low barrier into the puppy area.

It is much harder to trim toenails as they often thrash and yell.

I introduce them to the puppy adventure box. The puppy adventure box consists of a pvc pipe frame from which a variety of articles are hung. Pieces of garden hose and small-diameter pvc pipe, paint brushes, metal paint cans, a set of keys, flowerpots, plastic cups and other items move and make a variety of noises, inviting puppies to chase, grab, bite, push through and generally have fun with them. The idea is to stimulate the puppies, get their brains working, and desensitize them to moving things, things touching them all over, and various noises.

Puppy adventure box, JJ litter

More puppy adventure box photos, JJ litter

If I remember (sometimes I forget this early), I bring out a little foldable kiddie pool to use to introduce the pups to searching for food. It’s interesting to see what they’ll do at this age. I use salmon treats that I make for agility training. They’re definitely smelly, and soft so young pups can easily eat them. I crumble pieces in the little pool, lift a couple of the pups into it and see what they’ll do. After the pairs have had a chance to smell the treats, I then put all of them in. It’s only maybe 2′ in diameter so when all are in it they can’t see the treats and begin using their noses to find them. I lift them out to play and watch to see if anyone is interested enough in the treats to go back. Usually one or two will decide to get back in the pool. It’s a struggle, but they eventually make it. After a bit they’ll decide to get out, which is harder to do as the walls don’t tilt outward. If one protests a lot and just can’t push up hard enough with her rear, I give her a tiny boost.

KK litter

More photos:  KK litter

When people come to visit, we bring the pups into the living room and begin offering toys. Everybody gets a kick out of watching the outdoor puppies race to beat us inside to the toys they know will be spread out for them – or the still-living-inside puppies tear down the hallway from the puppy room to the living room to play and socialize.

They’re starting to grab the edge of the newspaper sections and tug. Soon they’ll be shredding them.

I worm the pups for the first time. They generally weigh 6 to 7 pounds. They won’t hold still on the scale, so I have to swing each pup back and forth in the air a few times in order to make it just dizzy enough to hold still long enough for the scale to settle on a weight.

I worm pups every 10 – 14 days from the time they’re three weeks old until they leave. All puppies are born with roundworms; it’s the nature of the parasite. Encysted worms in mom are activated by the pregnancy hormones and migrate through the placenta into the developing puppies. When a dog finishes the rapid growth stage, around nine months of age, the worms encyst and become dormant. Until that time, puppies are vulnerable. It’s impossible to keep the yard where the baby puppies are totally clean of poop, and they aren’t developed or experienced enough to notice a poop and avoid it rather than run through it, plus puppies explore their world by mouth so they are very prone to ingest roundworm eggs in the soil or other parts of the environment and are impossible to keep worm-free.

Once they leave here, individual puppies’ living quarters are much more easily kept clean, plus they’re rapidly learning to poop when taken outside and the owners can pick up the poop immediately, thus they have less exposure to worms and need not be wormed as frequently. Regular wormings throughout young puppyhood (I recommend monthly until they’re about nine months old) keep the worm population minimal and unable to harm the pup, but it’s impossible to totally eliminate the roundworms.

Of course, if you live in an area where heartworm is a danger, the monthly heartworm preventative dose also kills worms. You start the pup on heartworm preventative just as it turns four months old. Heartgard kills roundworms, but I prefer to use Iverhart because it also kills tapeworms and hookworms. Hookworms aren’t normally much of a problem in our area but tapeworm shows up occasionally. If your pup is ever exposed to fleas, tapeworm is a danger since fleas are its carrier. We normally don’t have a lot of flea problems in Wyoming, though after an unusually mild winter we may see more.

25 Days
A bowl of kibble (Holistic Select Large Breed Puppy) is now available to the pups at all times. They need to start crunching food rather than me with their teeth, all of which are now erupted. I put it in a corner so they won’t walk through it much, though they seem to delight in trying to climb into the bowl to eat.

Also, for their meat meals, I start using the big puppy bowls, which have a wider diameter and higher lips, since after a feeding the floor looks like they had played in the meat instead of eating–footprints all over the sheet.

R litter

By now a couple of pups have fallen into the water bowl as they tried to run, so I change to a larger diameter, higher edged metal bowl.

27 Days Old
Black pigment on noses, foot pads and toenails is now in.

As I change papers, I now often notice a pup intensely watching me. They have begun chewing on one of my shoes, cleaning or chewing on my ears, and giving lots of kisses. They still cuddle a lot but now intersperse the cuddling with play.

As I get ready to leave, one will often race up to me and give a big bark like he’s going to attack me. It’s hilarious!!!!!

3 Weeks Old – spring or summer litter
Depending on the weather, when a litter turns three weeks old in March, April or May, I begin moving pups to the “baby” puppy pen for the day. I have an insulated puppy house with a doggie door into what I call a transition area, a long enclosed area with an opening to the outdoors at the far end. This way the pups can explore a little bit without getting out in the weather and/or the bright sunlight, which still hurts their eyes. I have an old big (5′ x 5′) whelping box in the puppy house, half of which is covered to keep it draft free in cool weather. One wall of the bed has an opening into the rest of the puppy house, an area about 5′ x 4′ with the doggie door to the transition area at the far end so they easily see it when they leave the bed. I tie up the flap on the doggie door so that they can easily go in and out of the puppy house, which they gradually begin to do. Once they’ve learned to go in and out, I untie the flap to keep from losing heat in the puppy house – or to keep it cool in hot weather.

Baby puppy pen, looking toward the puppy from close and shortly farther away distances.

More photos of baby puppy pen

I lay newspapers in the whelping bed plus a big fleece pad that covers the back half. It is large enough for initial nursing sessions and of course smells like home. Within a day or two mom will primarily nurse them outside but at the beginning I try to make everything as close to what they’re used to, to lessen the big stress that moving outdoors brings. They soon won’t want to come back to the whelping room at night – they’ll love 20′ x 80′ puppy yard with the trees and plants and sticks and bugs and birds and everything to watch – and lots of room to run and play.

If it’s hot, I prop open the puppy house door, which opens to the east and thus, besides being protected from the wind, will be in shade so the light won’t bother the puppies’ eyes and they can see their new world and be encouraged to explore. I also have a big fan I use if necessary (and of course a heater). I have a water bowl close to the doggie door plus a larger one outside under a lilac bush so it stays cool (as well as a big five-gallon one for mom a distance away).

About midmorning, when it’s comfortably warm outside (or early morning if it’s hot summer), I carry them out two at a time. Mom usually goes back and forth with me as I carry pups and seems to be counting them. When the last one is in the puppy house, she’ll settle down happily to nurse them. That always seems to assure them that the new place is okay.

Each time I take a new pair of pups out, the previous ones are usually exploring farther inside the puppy house. By the time I have all the pups out, the first ones are generally exploring the transition area or even outside. I leave mom in with them for a couple of hours and let them become comfortable with their new area, then I take her out and feed them in the puppy house. After they eat, I put mom back in with them and leave them alone, though if anyone yells I run out to be sure all is okay. A meal and a nap usually complete the process of becoming comfortable in the new area. I leave them out all day, unless a storm moves in or a wind comes up to make it too chilly. Then I bring them inside for the night.

After a day or so, if the pups really like the puppy house and aren’t moving outside to explore and play as I’d like, when I carry them out to the puppy yard I won’t put them inside the puppy house but instead will set them on the ground just outside the transition area in an effort to encourage them to begin exploring. The first ones are usually still outside, sniffing around, when I carry out the last pair, but it isn’t long until they find they way inside and crash on the fleece pad.

Usually by the third day outside, I find puppies waiting for me at the gate when I go out with meals. They bounce around me as I step into the yard and I have a hard time finding an empty piece of ground on which to put each foot as I work my way to the puppy house. Then I have a terrible time clearing a space to put the bowls down as they jump up and down and tell me to hurry, hurry, we’re hungry. I quickly call mom to follow me out, close the puppy house door and leave them to eat.

They need to learn to go out the doggie door from the puppy house into the transition area, outside and then back inside before they can graduate to the big puppy yard, because for some reason its transition area doesn’t seem as logical to the pups. It’s in the baby puppy yard that they learn how to go out and then come back into the shelter of the warm, dry house.

After a couple of days they let me know in no uncertain terms that they don’t want to go back to the small, BORING puppy room in the house, so I begin leaving them out all the time, though I will bring them inside my house at least once a day – more often if we have company – to play and socialize. At times I leave mom with them so she can begin teaching them to go down the hall, out the doggie door, down the puppy ramp off the deck and to the ground, where they’ll usually potty.

At other times, I crate mom and put out a selection of toys for them to play with. I let them play in the house about 10 minutes and then head down the hall, calling them, encouraging them to come outside and potty. At first I may have to lead (sometimes carry) them back up the ramp and lift them through the doggie door to go back inside the house, but they soon learn the routine, at which time, after praising them for pottying, I go back inside and leave them to decide when they want to come inside.

I actually have two puppy pens with heated houses, doggie doors and transition areas. Both insulated puppy houses have a doggie door into a transition area.

The “baby puppy” yard is just outside my bedroom window so in case the puppies get lost or scared, I hear them and can quickly go check that all is well. It is closer also to my perimeter fence, and one time during a severe drought a coon managed to climb over both fences in an effort to get to the puppy food inside the house. That’s when I built the other puppy pen. Now the puppies stay in the “baby puppy” pen/house area only as long as their mother is with them during the night. When they get old enough (around 5 weeks) that mom isn’t always with them, I move them to the “big puppy” pen. I can no longer hear them cry, but no varmint is going to get through 5 fences and assorted dogs who can go outside at will all night.

3 week old FF litter

More photos: FF & GG litters


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