Welcome to Part III of the series on Puppy Whelping and Rearing! In Part I, we talked about getting mom ready with good nutrition, the timing of breeding, finding quality puppy owners and the necessary whelping supplies you will need. In Part II, we talked about the pregnancy, getting ready for the big day, the things to expect and what to watch for, along with what to do once whelping starts, and ensuring the puppies’ health.
Now that the puppies are here, it is time to make sure that each of the puppies has a quality home lined up. As we mentioned at the beginning of Part I, it is ALWAYS important to look for responsible puppy owners during the planning of the breeding, at the time of breeding and when the first ultrasound is completed and pregnancy is determined. You want to make sure you have plenty of time to screen the new owners to insure each puppy is going to a good home. You want enough time to ask the right questions, help educate the prospective owners on how to feed, socialize, train and prepare for a new puppy. Puppies are certainly cute, but trying to find good homes for them after they are ready to go will make you a day late and a dollar short! You may find yourself desperate to place puppies and will not have the time do to what is needed to properly place them into quality homes. A good breeder is always there if needed. Not just at the time of placement, but throughout the puppy’s life. A good breeder needs to be on call for any questions, concerns or resources. If you haven’t taken the time to establish a good relationship with your new puppy owners, you will lose this opportunity!
The Perfect Food for Puppies
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As mentioned in last month’s newsletter, Part II, mother’s milk is the perfect food for puppies. It is important to encourage and make sure all puppies are nursing frequently during the first 2 days. This helps to shrink the uterus naturally, expel any retained afterbirth and encourage the regular milk (white and thick) to come in after the colostrum (more watery, but necessary to help the puppies’ immunity). Feeding the mother a diet high in fat (lamb, chicken with skin, fattier parts of beef and pork) helps this process. It is also important to offer her whole milk yogurt, goat’s milk and eggs. This is a rich formula that helps bring down the mother’s milk, offers calcium and gives the lactating mother energy. Feed her frequent meals throughout the day. Her need for calories goes up dramatically during lactation. She will need 3 to 4 times the amount of food regularly fed!
Environmental stimulus is important. Puppies are unable to maintain their own body heat for the first few days, so make sure the whelping area is warm and that the mother keeps them close.
While the puppies’ eyes will not open for 14-16 days, they also do not hear for the same period of time. Do get the puppies used to noise, I keep a radio or TV on, I talk to them as often as possible and even run the vacuum! You want to get them used to noise and human voices. I handle the puppies very gently several times each day so they are comfortable and secure with human touch. I start trimming nails when the puppies are young and try to do this task weekly until they go to their new homes. Their mother will appreciate this practice as well!
When the puppies are able to see and hear well, they are already used to noise, including human voices, running water, doors opening and closing and even the louder noises like the vacuum. I keep toys of various textures, colors and shapes in the whelping box. I also keep the whelping box near a window so they can get sunshine and are used to daylight and nighttime. It is so IMPORTANT to raise your litter indoors, preferably in your bedroom! Lastly, it is important to keep littermates together until 9 weeks of age. Several skills are learned up to this age, including bite inhibition, learn leadership and gain confidence. Puppies that leave their littermates too soon often are nervous, bark more frequently, bite more, and are less responsive to training! All of these things mentioned are the critical parts of beginning socialization and are so important for their development.
Warning: Do not attempt to wean the puppies until they are four weeks old. Before the puppies are four weeks old, they simply cannot digest or assimilate whole foods other than goat’s milk, cultured yogurt and eggs! If you try to feed puppies whole foods prior to 4 weeks, it can result in allergies later on in life and causes a weakened immune system. Additionally, if you start feeding the puppies food, their mother will often discontinue cleaning up after them!
Once the puppies are four weeks of age, I begin to supplement with foods. I generally start with a mixture of goat’s milk, plain whole fat yogurt and eggs. You can use fresh goat’s milk, cartons from the grocery store, or condensed canned goat’s milk. The advantage of canned goat’s milk is that it is fortified with Vitamin D. Canned goat’s milk is condensed so be sure to mix it with equal amounts of water! I mix two cups of goat’s milk to a ½ cup of yogurt and add two eggs to this amount. Add one teaspoon of Berte’s Probiotic Powder, one teaspoon of Berte’s Daily Blend and one capsule of EPA fish oil capsules per ten lbs of the total weight of the puppies. For example, if you have six puppies, all weighing approximately 3 pounds, add 3 fish oil capsules. Mix it well and serve. Serve twice daily.
Should the puppies develop loose stools, I have found it helpful to add instant cream of wheat (prepared with hot water to make gruel) to the milk snack. This small amount of fiber will help firm the stools.
The probiotics are to help keep stools firm with the change of diet by providing the good flora and fauna needed for digestion. The Berte’s Daily Blend contains vitamin C, vitamin E, B vitamins, vitamins A and D and also some kelp and alfalfa.
After a day or so of feeding this mixture, I add some ground meat to the mixture. You can use hamburger, ground pork, chicken or turkey. I also use green tripe at this stage. After the puppies have ‘mastered’ eating these foods (a day or so) you can begin to give them cut up chicken wings or backs in the evening. Pork neck bones are also a popular choice.
By five weeks, they should be ready for four meals a day. If they are still nursing (and I hope so, I let mine nurse until they are ready to go home), monitor the amounts closely. For moms with more milk, a less weaning diet is needed. For moms reluctant to nurse or have less milk, more food will be needed.
These four meals include:
The raw meaty bones can slowly get larger as the puppy grows. Cut the bones into smaller pieces until that point. I generally feed four meals a day until the puppies are about 4 – 5 months of age and then reduce the number of meals to 3 meals per day (one raw meaty bones, one muscle meat and organ meat and one goats milk, egg and yogurt snack). Puppies generally need to eat 5% to 10% of their body weight daily, but this can increase or decrease, depending on their growth stage and activity levels.
You can find more detailed information on feeding puppies and additional recipes, in my book, “Raw and Natural Nutrition for Dogs”.
Puppies start teething about 4 months of age and this can be a painful time. Please pay attention to your puppy’s teeth, and understand that when large teeth erupt they can lose their appetite, yet they and certainly continue their need for raw bones, toys and natural chewies. Good choices for chewies at this stage are bully sticks, dried esophagus and dried ligaments. Allowing your puppies to chew on these delights will certainly help their teething process!
Socialization and Training!
Be sure to encourage all your new puppy owners to enroll their new little charges into a good puppy kindergarten class and to follow up with regular positive motivational training classes! These classes are just as important for the new puppy owner because they will learn the good skills necessary to communicate well with their new puppy and it allows the puppy to get the socialization skills it needs, as well as learning how to ride great in a car! Socialization is crucial for puppies and is of primary importance between the ages of eight and fourteen weeks. Socialization during this time makes a lasting impact and helps form a healthy, well-behaved and adjusted puppy. Simple commands such as ‘sit’, ‘down’, ‘stand’ and ‘come’ are the easiest skills to train at this age.
Book Recommendation for Understanding Dog Behavior
I recommend the book, “Culture Clash” by Jean Donaldson, to help you better understand your puppy. She helps you understand how puppies and dogs think, and stop us from a shared ‘error’ of trying to relate ‘human’ motivation to dogs. Dogs are much more straightforward than people are and work well in a ‘safe’, positive environment that is consistent! Dogs do not feel ‘guilt’, nor do they use retribution, but can cower if our behavior is inconsistent or over bearing. Dogs need quiet, simple commands and work best with motivational techniques such as using food and lots of verbal praise! Please, please avoid ‘dominance’ techniques. Dogs do not understand this and it only teaches them fear and force. Dogs are quite willing to learn and do what we ask as long as we reward the good and learn how to handle unwanted behavior using distractions and other non-threatening techniques.
Lastly, as a breeder, you need to be available throughout the life of each of your puppies. It is important that the breeder is there to offer advice on training, veterinarian care, house training, and that you always encourage all your puppy owners to enroll their charges in training classes, remind to keep the nails short, help with feeding and diet questions and continue to be present and available for them should any questions or needs arise! Breeders are responsible for every puppy they raise. This means from their birth to when they leave to start their new journey in life and throughout their life!
Happy Holidays to Everyone! Here is to Good Health and Happiness for You and Your Dogs !
Please don’t forget, my book, “Raw and Natural Nutrition for Dogs.” It makes a great holiday gift for any of your dog loving friends! Sharing good nutrition advice is one of the best gifts you can give any dog owner . . . and most importantly, the best gift they can give their dog!