Our puppies are born in our home. They are whelped in the "Princess Bedroom" set up specifically to pamper our hard working mama dogs and located across the hall from our bedroom. This allows us to tag-team our 24/7 puppy watch, and have quick access to each other should we need assistance. Mom and pups have a whelping box and I have a bed in the room so that I can stay with them full time.
At three weeks, we set up puppy play pens, both in our large kitchen and downstairs in the living room. This allows pups to get acclimated to the sights and sounds of a busy household.
By five weeks, pups are living underfoot the majority of the day and sleeping in their playpen at night. By allowing the pups to play loose and interact with us, they develop many skills that they would not if they were sitting in a whelping box or x-pen full time.
At birth, we put various colored ribbons on the pups which help us to track each as an individual. We keep growth charts and diaries of behaviors starting from the very beginning. At about two weeks, pups graduate into tiny collars, with colors corresponding to their original ribbons. By about four weeks, we can usually identify pups immediately on sight, however, we keep their collars on them so that they are easily identified in photos and by those who visit.
We begin handling our pups from day one. In addition to many hugs and kisses, we begin by utilizing the "Bio Sensor" program developed for Early Neurological Stimulation . In addition, toenails are clipped starting at 3 days.
During the first two weeks, pups sleep the majority of the time and do not have the ability to see or hear. By day 14, eyes will be open and ears should be as well. At this stage, we will add new smells to the whelping box. The puppies' nervous systems undergo' rapid development during this time and teeth begin to develop. They will begin to explore their environment to a greater extent and we encourage them to crawl to us for lots of stroking and attention.
At three weeks , pups are now fully aware of their environment and become quite playful. They will begin to initiate interaction and will enjoy lots of visual stimulation. Toys are introduced at this time. Pups also begin to interact with one another to a greater degree on day 21, with face wrestling and by knocking each other down. We also allow our first, select humans to visit during this time. Introducing their first food on day 21 as well, their "gruel" is offered on a rubber spatula, and we begin to introduce the clicker at feeding time. Whether our puppies are later trained with a clicker or not, when the clicker is introduced with those first tastes of "big dog food". we have found that it has become a valuable tool for clear communication and behavior modification as they become young adults.
By week four, pups are highly interactive. They bark, use body language and are extremely playful. At this point, they are eating at least one meal per day. Trips out of their playpen are commonplace and, if weather permits, they begin their first outdoor field trips. At this age, they are blank slates and we assist in developing their fine motor skills by introducing many new surfaces for them to walk on, climb over, and wade through. During this week, we introduce mild auditory and visual stressors. We also lay the foundation that helps them make the connection between people and rewards.
At week five, there is another big change. Pups begin to exhibit individual personality traits, a pack order begins to emerge, and their dam is interacting with them differently as well, teaching appropriate social skills and setting limits. Pups are quite physically active at this point and have developed coordination and depth perception. They are allowed supervised romps through the house. They are highly inquisitive at this point and we begin to set up small obstacle courses with a variety of levels, surfaces, and textures both inside and out. At this age, we normally invite children and elderly adults to come play with the puppies. It is our goal for our puppies to have been exposed to at least 100 different people before they go to their new homes.
By six weeks, pups have undergone rapid development and are essentially little dogs. At this stage, the dam's relationship with them has changed and pups seek most of their interaction from us. By now, pups are eating full meals, going outside to explore, are supremely confident on all types of footing, and with various noises and environments. We handle their feet, collars, ears, etc while we hand-feed a portion of their meals. They choose to make eye contact (and are rewarded for that!) to initiate interaction and are exceedingly demanding for attention. At this stage, we have many visitors (often daily) and also take pups for rides in the car into town. We usually take a field trip to a local herding facility where they are introduced to sheep and ducks. We introduce them to the sherpa bag if they'll be flying home and also have them spend short periods in a crate. At this age, pups are introduced to other dogs. We also set up challenges at this age... tests that are designed to evaluate individual problem solving ability as well as scenting ability, endurance, tenacity, resiliency etc.
Day 49 brings our formal puppy evaluations. Pups are evaluated stacked and moving. At this time, we administer a Puppy Aptitude Test as well as several other tests that we have customized to help us evaluate the various working drives. We begin to crate them individually at night. Pups also have their first vet visit and are microchipped and responses are noted. Each of these evaluations help us to determine how to match puppies to homes,
Since we have now determined where each pup will go, we work to socialize the pup in ways that will help it to most easily fit into the new household. We also begin to imprint training behaviors. Pups are socialized individually and rewarded for sitting squarely, making eye contact, asking to go outside etc. They are encouraged to carry items and are taught to "trade". Ball and tug drives are developed further. Pups are encouraged to jump or scale small obstacles and are rewarded for being adventuresome. They are bathed and brushed. They are introduced to walking on lead and travel with us for small errands. By the time the new owner arrives to pick them up, they are fully ready for their new lives.
Each dam varies in her attentiveness to the pups and desire to spend time with them. Some are highly interested in interacting with pups until they go home, others are quick to reprimand pups once teeth erupt. In general, our girls are good mothers and are with pups full time until about three weeks. From 3-5 weeks, they enjoy some private time but visit frequently for nursing and play sessions. By about 6-7 weeks, they are weaning pups and are only visiting for short play interactions. We allow the dam to interact with them as she sees fit. The old adage "Mother Knows Best" holds true in this case.
We Wean our pups on a completely raw diet. We have found that our raw fed pups grow more proportionately, are more "together" at a younger age ie. better motor skills, and are extremely food motivated adults, making training that much easier.
At 21 days, we begin to offer our pups a "Gruel" once a day. This consists of goats milk, baby cereal (like for human babies), egg yolk, organic yogurt, honey and vitamin C (crystals).
At 4 weeks, we add baby food beef, lamb and chicken (yes, again, human baby food), and also baby food veggies which are wonderful since they're already pureed. They are offered this twice daily, assuming they are still nursing.
By 5 weeks, we start adding canned salmon and ground whole chicken or pheasant in place of the baby food, plus a larger variety of real fruits and veggies as well as cottage cheese and apple cider vinegar. We replace the baby cereal with a 12 grain mixture. At this point, mom is sometimes starting to want to wean the pups, so the frequency of feeding is based on her willingness to allow them to nurse.
At 6 weeks, we introduce a greater variety of meats, such as Beef, Elk and Venison, as well as some chicken or turkey necks. At this age, they usually will eat the meat off the bones, but will not be able to eat whole chicken backs or wings until about 7 weeks. By 7 weeks, the pups are eating just as our adult dogs would (See BARF Diet). Mom has usually weaned them by now so they are offered four meals per day.
We always allow mom to nurse pups as long as she is willing. We feel that mother's milk is the ideal diet for a growing puppy and never "force wean".
We try to introduce new foods to the pups one at a time to ensure that they don't encounter digestive problems. It also helps up to pinpoint foods that the pups don't like.
If a pup will be fed kibble when it goes to its new home, we recommend that the owner ship us a bag of what they'll be feeding so that we can incorporate it into that pup's diet. This is to avoid any additional stress when they arrive at their new home. We also send each pup home with some of our food, so that the changeover is not so dramatic.
Pups are wormed with Pyrantel Pamoate at 3 and 5 weeks, with fecal floats done at 5 and 7 weeks. It is rare that we encounter pups with worms, but we would rather be better safe than sorry. It is to your advantage to have the pup wormed again once he is home as fecal floats are prone to false negatives.
Puppies will be examined by a veterinarian at 7 weeks. Hearts are listened to at this time and pups are microchipped. Once the pup is deemed healthy, it is issued an International Health Certificate which will allow it to travel.
Per your contract, you should also have your pup examined by your veterinarian shortly after he arrives home. This will give you peace of mind that he has arrived home healthy.
By the time you take your puppy home, we will have had many conversations about what to expect once your puppy gets there. Most often, by the time you found us, you have experience raising puppies. However, will will still offer suggestions in terms of feeding, training, veterinary care etc. We ask that you keep in touch with us, and we will offer you and support that you may require throughout the lifetime of your dog.