Bye Bye Whelping Pen!

Puppies are now three weeks old!  Once again, the past seven days have been packed with change and new developments.

The first big change is that we said a sad farewell to wee Zola.  She just wasn’t strong enough and this week brought an end to her struggle.  To be honest, I am surprised she survived as long as she did.  I kept hoping she would turn around and do just fine.  It’s not uncommon for a puppy to be born smaller and then catch up.  But she just kept falling further behind in size and development.

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Zola and Finch were actually born almost at the same time, and perhaps were twins.  It’s possible that neither received sufficient nutrition to thrive.  Zola didn’t start nursing until nearly 2 hours after she was born, and after much work on my part to get her going.  Even with daily extra feedings, she was still nearly a full pound smaller than her big sister Lark when she passed.

So now there are five.  As hard as it is to lose the weaker ones, in the big picture it is for the best.  The remaining pups will have more access to milk, and to individual attention.  All five are strong, busy, happy puppies that I am really getting excited about.  And a smaller litter means more time for each pup as they grow.

I have to say, I feel incredibly privileged to be experiencing such wonder, and they continue to fill me with awe. The magnitude of the responsibility I bear ranges from daunting to overwhelming, so I try not to think too much about it.  I watch their little faces as they study me, trying to figure me out.  Trusting, curious, loving.

Wren comes charging when she hears my voice, and Griffon often sits and just studies me as I move about the pen.  These two are clearly the most motion sensitive and aware at this point.  But the others are starting to show similar behaviours.  Lark has taken to chewing on my socks.

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Three week old puppies getting too big and busy for the whelping box

Their personalities are showing more clearly, mostly in keeping with what I saw last week but with a few shifts.  This week Raven is quiet and watchful.  Cooper continues to be the snuggler of the group.  Griffon has quieted down somewhat, while Lark is becoming more bold and interactive.  Wren remains a going concern, charging about the pen while barking her wee lungs out.  At least I always know where she is when she wanders off and gets lost!

The next big change is that we ditched the whelping box.  I had planned to keep them in it longer, but the pups made it clear that they were ready for more freedom.

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Puppies making it clear where they prefer to be!

I had a busy week with work and the farm, and so held off moving them downstairs until this weekend.  Instead I opened up the x-pen and turned the back third of my office into the puppy zone.  My intention had been to create a play area for while I am supervising, and then to popping them back in their box otherwise.  But in short order, they made that space their own!  There was no putting them back into that 3′ x 3′ whelping box.  And so they now sleep on a proper dog bed with mamma.

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I really like the design of my box, which has no floor (as suggested by a fellow breeder).  This way to clean I just tip it up onto one side, pick up the blankets and underlying hospital pads, put clean ones down ones, and set it back down.  Voilà!  Clean pen in 3 minutes.  Also, blankets are pinned in place by the weight of the box, so never scrunch up and bury puppies.  I will likely paint, or sand, stain, and varnish this structure this summer.  I didn’t want it off-gassing around newborns so left the wood unfinished for this whelping.  

Of course keeping the puppies upstairs has meant traipsing visitors through the, um, less organized part of my house.  I am highly motivated to move them into public viewing as soon as possible!

And visitors we have had!  I am actually having trouble finding the time to set up their downstairs pen because the few spare moments I have each day are now being taken up with people coming to see the babies.  But it’s all good!  Well socialized pups are far more important than an orderly house.

Now is the hour to introduce puppies to new smells, sights, and sounds. At three weeks of age, they have lots of curiosity, and no fear.  As a result, it is a perfect time to introduce many new things.  So every day they meet a new person, or new object.  Or both.

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It’s also important to make noise, especially loud startling noises.  Puppies at this age bounce back at pretty much everything.  So every time I walk into the room I drop a stack of books on the floor, slam the door, cough, shout, bang pots, you name it.  The rest of my dogs think I’m a bit nuts.  Fortunately none of them are bothered by loud sudden noises either.

This week we also started litter box training.  Emphasis on started.  I’ll let you know how that goes…

Finally, every night I end my day by curling up with puppies while watching Puppy Culture, Puppy Peaks, or my Handling360/Agility Nation, or Fenzi on-line classes (yes, I’m obsessed with learning!).   What better way to dream big!

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