"When the Man waked up he said, 'What is Wild Dog doing here?' And the Woman said, 'His name is not Wild Dog any more, but the First Friend, because he will be our friend for always and always and always.'" - Rudyard Kipling
Lola - is it time yet???
Whelping is a time intensive activity. It starts a week before the puppies are actually born as the mother dog starts sleeping in her "whelping box" and I start monitoring her temperature. About 24 hours or so before dams go into labor their temperature drops so that gives me a "heads up" that's its time to go on "puppy watch." Puppies are born in a whelping box (baby pool works great) in our quiet living room which is kept at an even temperature of 80 degrees to avoid the puppies getting chilled. I am right there to help out if needed. Both Zoe and Lola have been wonderful mothers and needed little help. After each pup is born and has some time with mom to get cleaned up I examine each puppy (ususally while mommy is busy with the next one). I check it over for any obvious problems, weigh, and color code each of them with a yarn collar. This enables me to keep track of who is who and record milestones for each one. Once everyone is born I name them according to the alphabet. "A" litter gets names that begin with "A", "B" litter names that begin with "B", and so on. The first few hours I keep them on newspaper.The new family is checked every 1-2 hours the first 24 hours to make sure everyone is doing well. I keep a whelping log until they go to their new homes. This documents Zoe's temps, the whelping, the puppies' daily weights, milestones, worming intervals, shots, vet checks, etc.
About 6 hours after birth I change the bedding to an absorbant blanket. This gives the puppies traction and allows the puppies to start developing their little leg muscles right away. The bedding is changed frequently to keep the puppies clean and dry. I use a floor lamp with a 100 watt bulb to direct heat over the box for additional warmth and a heating pad in the corner under the bedding for them to keep warm when mommy takes "mommy breaks".
The first week the puppies spend 90% of the time sleeping and 10% of the time eating. I examine and weigh them daily to make sure everyone is getting enough "nipple time" and gaining at a steady rate. Tails are docked and dew claws removed at 3 days by my vet, Dr. Burkhardt at Roanoke Island Animal Clinic in Manteo, NC.
The next few weeks the puppies eat and grow. Even at this young age we handle them daily. Mommy is never far away, watching closely who has her babies. We move them into the family room at 3 weeks to accustom them to household noise. They continued to be handled, cudddled, and talked to several times a day to socialize them so they will imprint with humans and start bonding right away. The whelping box is kept immaculately clean and changed frequently. Once they start to move around and are eating they graduate to a combination crate/ play area that has clean bedding for them to sleep and a play/potty area. Puppies start to discriminate where to potty as early as 3 weeks and don't like to soil their sleeping area if they can help it.
Teeth erupt about 3 weeks and I start introducing puppy mush at 4 weeks (Life's Abundance puppy kibble soaked in milk replacer and mashed with a Nuvet vitamin). They are wormed at regular intervals starting at 2 weeks. They get weekly grooming sessions (brush, bath if needed, trim nails, look at teeth, etc). I actually start cutting nails weekly at 1 week to get them used to being handled and to keep them from scratching mommy's tummy.
From 3 weeks on they have daily play time/cuddle time with us, have toys available and learn to play with littermates. They hear the radio for 5 minutes at a time several times a day. I gradually increase puppy mush and decrease nursing time as we work towards weaning. First puppy shots and second vet visit for wellness check-up at 6-7 weeks. Ready to go to new lifelong homes at 8 weeks.
Lola with 3 day old puppies
sleep/play area with separate potty area
The puppies have graduated from the "whelping box" to the puppy pen. Puppies don't like to potty where they sleep so providing a sleeping/play area with a separate potty area helps to get them started on house training early.
chow down, puppy style
4 1/2 weeks. Puppies have graduated to the puppy dish and are advancing on puppy mush. Mommy is only nursing three times a day now. Everybody is over 2 lbs!