Thursday, March 8, 2012

What I've learned....

It’s hard to believe that 9 years ago we had our first litter. I’ve learned so many things since then…..

Never underestimate what a bitch will do. Some nest, some dig, some hide and some just are more than happy to whelp puppies in the vet’s bathroom. Some stand up, some lay down. Some don’t want your help and some go what the f is that??? Be prepared for the best and worst with each litter.

Always, always, always, have your vet in the loop on what’s going on. The best laid plans can go horribly wrong. Stuck puppies, bitches whelping days early, vet’s significant other having a stroke, back up vet had parvo case in clinic day before, 2am emergency sections, training husbands and boyfriends in what to do. Have a trustworthy, reliable vet who you can talk to and can talk you through it all.

Know your dog. What is her personality and what is out of the ordinary for them. Don’t second guess yourself, go with your gut. Use of whelping devises is great but many times fail and it’s left up to you to pick up the pieces.

Never count your eggs before they hatch. Ultrasounds are not near as good as an xray for counting skulls and spines, and the keen eye of a well-seasoned vet. If she says 12 then jokes 13, take her very seriously. Look at the x-rays, measure skulls to pelvis, note the position of the pups. Do your x-ray with the bitch on her back!!!!! You will be able to tell where they are laying, where they are in the horns, who’s twisted, who’s too big to go through the pelvis and what to anticipate. Though at some point, besides knowing counts, it would be awesome for color x-rays to determine colors and sex.

Though you can spend lots of money on expensive whelping supplies, sometimes the best is the tried, true and inexpensive. I use a childs wading pool, human heating pad and a plant warming mat. Thought about a nice whelping box once. Actually had one, hated it. Puppies got in corners, under the rails, got lost because of the size(though totally recommended for type and size of dog). Was okay to clean but boy were those puppies hard on the thing. Storing and keeping intact for next litter was also a pain. Pool, kids 4’ wading pool. Sides are slanted so mom learns to slide down the side and not lay on a puppy. Circular so no puppies get lost in a corner. Easy to clean-it’s plastic, you bleach it. Once puppies are old enough to climb out, then it’s time to turn them into the puppy pen. And if it’s old or what not, just use it in the yard for the dogs during the summer for its intended purpose—a wading pool.

You can scrub, you can put papers down, special fleece or fake lamb wool, litter pans and pee pads, but puppy pee(and poo) will get everywhere, especially once mom stops cleaning up after them. Wood floors suck for puppies-they are slippery, can’t be bleached or disinfected. Poo gets in the cracks. Carpet, definite no, unless you have figured out a flooring to go over it that will be water(pee) proof. And still can’t disinfect as it goes down in to the pad and subflooring. Vinyl-to me that or concrete are the best. Also always layer-even if you have something over the top of the main flooring, add another layer of something. Our puppy pen(used from 4 weeks till they go home) consists of a base of vinyl remenant, with a tarp underneath, all over my permanent vinyl floor. For the first few days/weeks, the puppies are given rugs or pads to walk on. Make sure you have firm footing. Puppies are uncoordinated. Slipping is not good for undeveloped joints and bones. Until they are confident on their feet, have their rears and fronts under them, make sure they can grip, have toys and objects to climb over. Also it's set up so I can add crates to the pen, boxes to climb on, things to get into.

Litter boxes are the world’s greatest invention. Going on our 4th litter with a litter box. In a matter of days they figure out where to go, though sometimes the boys do miss the mark-front feet in, rear feet out, oops. And yes, sometimes you have a puppy like, um, Charlie, who thinks that’s the ultimate spot to snooze. But they keep themselves cleaner, they house break easier, clean-up is a breeze and the smell is so not there. We use a mix of wood shavings(same as we use in the Chick Chalet/Chateau Quack/Horse Stalls) and alfalfa pellets. Now at times there are little wood shavings all over, but usually that’s just when a frap occurs and they run around and through it. Reminder though, paper shreds aren’t the best litter, it sometimes turns them into paper shredding monsters. A recent phone book incident comes to mind.

Feeding is best left up to mom. As the human doctors say, mom’s milk is the best. Granted there are times when you have to step up and help, but the studies show, the longer a pup is kept with its mother and allowed access to mom’s milk, the healthier puppies are. Just like a baby, I start with simple easy to digest foods first. Goat’s milk with rice cereal in a slurry for the first week or so. Then slowly we add in raw ground turkey. I love to use products like Honest Kitchen and Sojo’s for puppies. First off they don’t start stinking as quickly and mom is still happy to clean up after the monsters. If we option for transitioning the pups to kibble, it’s soaked in water and goat’s milk and not given till 5 weeks or older. Otherwise, we go to a raw diet and start in with wings and necks-nice for the babies to chew on, rather than my fingers.

What else have I learned? Spring and summer puppies are much easier to deal with then winter puppies.

Having a fun babysitter is always a great addition to the house-Uncle Eddie or Auntie Pete are great at their job.

Oh, don’t let them near the Pomeranian until they are much older(say 6 mos). Tango lets them know in no uncertain terms, she is not a squeaky toy, not a soft squishy ball and that when played with, it’s not a squeak you hear but the evil snarking of a pom gone gremlin. She has instilled a fear of little dogs in many a grown cardigan.

Same goes for the EBB---I have no idea what Lace does to puppies. Poor Shaker and Bear. Granted she is in charge, but she also is like one of those evil head mistresses you see in the movies. Do not piss her off! She will slap your paws with a ruler.

Plug each and every hole in the fence, especially leading to the pasture. Puppies love nothing more than finding the smelliest, freshest pile of doo to play in. Duck ponds are equally fun.

Learning to walk around puppies is an acquired skill. 12 sets of four paws can trip up the most talented circus high wire act. After they leave, you have learn to walk on your own two feet again.

In the end, happy content puppies are made with dedication, hard work and a little luck. Okay, lots of luck and great forever homes.

Later gators....

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