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How Our Puppies are Raised:
Table of Contents
The first 12 weeks shape the dog that your puppy will become. What happens - or should happen - during that time is called Socialization. Socialization involves handling, exposure to environmental variables and training, each aspect of which, when provided at the proper time in the puppy's development, help to build a confident, self-assured, loving, independent and happy puppy. (Note: Independent does not mean aloof or uncuddly. An independent poodle will cuddle with you because he likes to, not because he's afraid to be off your lap.)

Note: If you hear squeaking while reading this page it's because a video clip shown farther down the page has loaded. I've coded it to play automatically in hopes that by the time you get there it will have finished downloading.

This page covers the first eight weeks of puppy development and how the puppies live in our house during that time. The following 4 - 8 weeks (from eight to sixteen weeks) is also very important and you'll need to know what kinds of things your dog should be learning during that time. We will provide that information for you.

Our dogs are pampered pets that live in our home and share our lives. They are never left outside, in kennels or out-buildings.

Ani, Skidget, Molly & Panama being couch potoodles.
The First Two Weeks
Days 1 - 14
When one of our females is ready to give birth, the "nursery crate"  is set up for her and she is allowed to enter and leave it at will. She will not be confined to the crate until she is due to whelp and then only at night. (I'll be sleeping on the couch right next to it). 

Some females dig (in their bedding, on the couch or floor), look for hiding or nesting places or vomit when they are going into labor. Some, like Ani, give absolutely no sign until we suddenly see that a puppy is being born. (These are the ones we stay awake for!)

When the pups are ready to come the mother will choose the spot. Molly always insists on having her pups on one of the couches and hates it when I move them to the crate. Wherever the puppies are born, they are moved to the crate afterwards.

Ani sniffs around checking out the accomodations
After each pup is born it is dried and weighed and tagged with a stretchy colored collar then returned, post haste, to it's mom. Most of the puppies will weigh something between 4 ounces and 6 ounces.  
Here's Molly still on the couch with a litter of pups less than an hour old. The little light colored one is Dixie.
For the first three days the mother will leave the puppies only to pee and it's amazing how long she can wait to do that. She is fed in the crate. My job is to make sure the pups are all warm and are all eating. The only time I handle the pups during the first 3 days is to weigh them which I do while mom is outside peeing, when I also change their bedding.

Puppies this age have their eyes and ears closed. They can only move (in a funny creeping fashion) toward a heat source or food source. They are extremely vulnerable to temperature changes and need to be kept very warm and dry.

On the fourth day most of the mothers will come out of the crate for a few minutes, eat with the other dogs, spend a couple of minutes on my lap and return to the pups. Each day they will spend a little more time outside of the crate but the vast majority of the time they will be in with the puppies and far less interested in the rest of us than usual.

The fourth day is also when the puppies start "training" although it's not very intensive. Each puppy is held (for seconds) on it's back, and then with it's head pointed toward the ground. Their toes are tickled with Q-tips. These early stress exercises help a puppy to learn to "bounce back" from stress and makes them better able to withstand stress during later life. And of course, while I have them in my hands I have to pet and kiss them.


The Third Week
Days 14 - 21

Around the 14 or 15th day the puppies eyes will open. By the end of this week they will have "usable" vision and will be able to hear.

Here are three puppies from the litter of July 04 (Harley & Panama's) on day 14.
 Eyes wide open.
 Eyes half open.
 Eyes still closed.
 (This is our Emma.)

The Fourth Week
Days 21 - 28
The Fun Begins!

The puppies make an amazing transition right at the three week mark. Now that all their senses are fully functioning they suddenly become aware of the world outside of themselves. They seem to realize what is "me" and what is "other". 

They start trying out the mother's food and will begin venturing out of the crate. This is when the fun really begins. The puppies make a grand mess stepping and rolling in mom's food, getting it all over each other, licking it from each other. Once the puppies are interested in solid food, puppy food is left for them and mom is fed separately.  (The mother will be fed many times a day at this phase to enable her to meet the great demands of feeding hungry youngin's without depleting her own health.)

This bunch born 11/05/04 are three weeks old in this picture and have managed to track mom down outside of the crate. They're walking is still a little wobbly at this point but they can get around pretty quickly. Note the closed door. The big dogs play all around the crate of the puppies while they're in it but they're not allowed free access to the puppies for interactive play quite yet. (Molly decided this and it varies some with each mother and each litter but the puppies and dogs are never allowed together if I'm not watching.)
Below are two video clips of 4 week old puppies (day 28). If you have a dial-up connection they may not be worth waiting for but on a cable connection they're pretty fast. If clicking the play button doesn't do anything they are probably still downloading. (The darkest of the light colored puppies is Skidget. This litter was born 2/8/03)

The Fifth Week
Days 28 - 35
This is pretty amazing!

The puppies are loads of fun at this time but more importantly for you is that this is their most important potty training week. Around the four week mark mom is getting the puppies ready to start weaning (which will take weeks) and stops cleaning up all their messes. They are eating semi-solid food daily and are peeing and pooping with no help from her. They also still sleep quite a bit which means that I can watch them all the time when they are awake. They are moved to the "puppy garden" at this time. The puppy garden is a pen in our playroom made out of garden lattice. It's 4 feet square and contains a litter pan, a crate, a creep feeder, food & water and toys.
Because the pups are too little to climb into a real litter box and we want to make it easy for them, their first litter box is a pretty flat pan from the bottom of another crate.

(Note: The litter shown here is not what we use any more. This was gray, the new litter is pine colored.)

The crate on the right with the hole showing at the front is the creep feeder. Since the mom is in and out so often we put food for the puppies in here where they can get it but she can't.

When the puppies fall asleep I put them all in the crate and close the door. By closing the door I know they'll cry to come out when they wake up and I'll hear them. As soon as I do I let them out of the crate, but not out of the pen. I'll ask who has to pee and I'll set each one in the litter pan. Any pup that pees or poops in the litter pan gets an immediate treat of a lick of baby food chicken from my finger. This is the first treat they've had and it makes them crazy. They want more but they only get more by using the litter pan which they do almost immediately. It is extremely rare for me to have to clean up messes in the puppy garden. I think three things combine to make this true: 1) Their mom has just stopped cleaning them up so they seem open to a new directive. 2) Their natural inclination not to soil the "den" kicks in and this is about as large a space as that could be effective in and 3) Because they sleep so much I'm able to watch them all the time they're awake. It seems that almost immediately they are trained to use the litter box when they are in the pen. The next trick is to get them to use a litter box when they have freedom in a much larger area.
This pose can only mean one thing!

At 4 weeks and 5 days these two pups have it mastered.

Video Clips: You can see a video clips of a litter of puppies using the box on request or the above puppy (in the yellow collar) use it as a matter of course, while playing.

By this age the puppies want to come out into the room and play with me and the other dogs and we'll let them do that. Once they're little minds have connected the treat with the use of the litter box they will be trying to use it more and we can give them the freedom to graduate to using the box in a more open space. The door on the puppy garden is left open so they can get back in to use the litter box and they are introduced to another litter box outside the pen, at the other end of the room.

The fifth week is also when I introduce the puppies to the noisy clippers. I start trimming faces and feet at this age. After this, you may see pictures of a puppy with one trimmed foot or a half trimmed face. The goal in this early grooming is not the grooming itself (which is really not needed yet) but it is to get them used to the clippers which seems to happen best at this age. 

This is also the week when I introduce the puppies to some of our favorite puppy enrichment paraphernalia and some scary toys that will make the puppies very brave. (I'm searching for the video clips of these.)


Five to Seven Weeks

By the time the puppies are five weeks old they are doing all the things we've already covered and being awake more to do them longer. I'm busy all the time. When they're awake I'm either playing with them, watching that they use the litter box or training them. Between five and six weeks is when they'll learn to answer to their names. Around six weeks is when they start clicker training and learn to sit. When they're asleep I'll be mopping floors, changing bedding, doing laundry and trying to keep the other dogs bathed, brushed and contented. (Everyone has to have lap time every day!) During this phase I rarely answer the phone before hearing who's on it. We do not have time for telemarketers!

At six weeks they get their first vaccination.

at Six Weeks

We also take field trips at this age (unless it's cold out). Since they are not fully vaccinated we pick places to go where there aren't usually dogs but there are people to fuss over the puppies. Our favorite place is Lowe's. I drop a throw rug into the shopping cart and load my pups in then we walk around looking at all the things we'd buy if we had more time to use or install them. We rarely get very far before someone stops to fuss over the pups. Before too long the pups are tired and we head back home.

Twice a day, most days, the puppies will take naps individually in their own crates or travel bags.  (In the case when two puppies are going to the same home, they will nap together.)

puppy dormitory

This gets them used to sleeping in a crate alone although at my house they are never entirely alone - and they know that. It also gets them used to the container - either crate or travel bag - they'll be going home in. Most of our puppies will fly to get to their new home, either alone or with the new puppy parent who flies in to pick them up. We like to make sure they are cozy and comfortable in whatever they'll be traveling in and sleeping in when they get to your house.

Words don't do them justice at this point but fortunately we have video clips!

At eight to ten weeks of age the puppies will leave me and go home with you. I will send them with everything they need to make a smooth transition. They will leave here happy, healthy, playful and confident. All you'll have to add is lots of love and attention to make a great companion. If you have any problems or questions please do not hesitate to call me. I will help you in any way I can.

If your circumstances ever change and you cannot keep the puppy - for any reason - I urge you to return it to me. I will make sure that every puppy born here has a good home with a loving family or I will keep it here with me.

Revised: 06/05/05.
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