Friday, April 29, 2011

What's Behind the Image

So here's a picture of the ever-so-sweet, angelic, sleeping-so-serenely little squirts that I took yesterday afteroon.

What you may not realize is what happened behind the scenes right up until this picture of serenity was taken.  What follows is the seven minutes of settling down to sleep that occurred just before I shot the photo above (any dampness you see in on the whelping box floor is from their paws getting wet in the water bowl).  Yes, it's longer than any video I've put up here, but, hehe, I think you'll enjoy it all the same.  Here they are (at four weeks old!):

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Escapades: Our First Solid Food!

Well, the term "solid" isn't exactly accurate.  The pups' first "solid" food is actually more like a really thick milkshake or thin Cream-of-Wheat.  We mix dry puppy food (ProPlan for Puppies, Large Breed Formula), puppy milk-replacer formula (powder), and warm water together and blend it until it's the consistency we think the pups can handle (at this point, thick milkshake).

Some breeders use human baby food (rice) at this stage, but we feel that the fewer changes to the pups' diet we can make, the better (and the less likely their GI tracts will protest).  The puppy food we blend now with the the milk-replacer formula now is the same puppy food they'll receive from here on out.  We just add less formula and more puppy food as time goes on, until we're just moistening the dry puppy food with water.  And by the time the pups leave us, they will be completely weaned and eating dry kibble.

Yes, Elsie is still nursing them, and is still their primary source of food at this point, but her role feeding the pups will lessen over the next two weeks.  We'd like them to be completely weaned by the time they turn six weeks old.

So here they are. This is their first exposure to food other than Elsie's milk.  And they do quite well, I'd say. It takes Master Blue and Master Green a little bit to get the hang of it, but they do in time.

This next clip was taken a minute or two after the first clip. In this clip, you'll see (well, hear) that Master Blue wants more! And if you watch closely, you'll see that Master Green catches on (once he didn't have Miss Lime, Master Blue, and Master Yellow climbing though his spot at the saucer feeder he did just fine!).

Next up? Their world expands beyond the whelping box: the kitchen pen arrives!

Until then,

Friday, April 22, 2011

Three Weeks Old and Thriving (Informational Post)

The pups are all three weeks old now (plus a day or two), and I'm delighted to report that all are thriving.

Miss Lime sniffs out the toys.

Master Yellow notices the camera flash.

Masters Red and Green chew on each other while Master Blue goes for Master Green's ear.

Miss Lime ponders life in the whelping box.

The gangs all here!

Master Green does his best bat imitation while nursing. Master Blue is falling asleep.


Miss Pink, like her litter mates, is experimenting with climbing.

Miss Pink notices the flash.

Masters Yellow and Green play with each other.

Sleepy Miss Lime.

The pensive Master Green.

Happy Miss Pink

Miss Pink and Master Red decide to investigate the flash from the camera.

We usually wait until the pups are two or three weeks old until we allow ourselves the freedom to be confident all is well. Why?  Well, it's not that we expect anything to go wrong, especially since the dam and sire are cleared on certs and healthy and since we've never had a congenital issue to deal with so far. 

It's just that if something is wrong (some anomaly internally, like a heart defect or internal deformity or some odd random issue, which can happen in any litter) it will show up in the first 2-3 weeks of life. And, if it is going to show up, it will show up often as a failure-to-thrive (lack or weight gain or lack of proper developmental milestones).

Ahhhhh... but all is well and all are thriving. :)  Yay!

So, the litter is three weeks old now.  Here's what's happened in the last week:

  • Their razor-sharp puppy teeth have started poking through their gums.
  • They've gotten even more steady on their feet, though they're still a bit wobbly.
  • They're starting to notice things visually.
  • They can sit comfortably and securely (not as apt to tip over).
  • They startle to sound now (means their ears are unsealed)
  • They can potty all by themselves (though they don't like it).
  • They get up from where they are sleeping to potty away from the puppy pile.
  • They're just starting to become aware of things above their heads (they're starting to look up). This is an important skill for retrievers!
  • They're starting to climb (ruh roh!). 
  • They're starting to differentiate between humans, Elsie, and each other.
  • They're play-fighting (starting to develop a very loose pecking order).
This week (from 21 to 28 days) is called the Awareness Period. It's the time when they become aware of their environment and they begin to realize they are dogs (as opposed to some other species). They "imprint" Elsie as their mother and humans as social companions.  It's a critical week in the pups' lives.

Because this is a huge imprinting week for the pups, our work with them increases substantially.  Here are some of the things we do during this period to ensure they grow up to be socially and emotionally healthy:

  • We make sure they have sufficient, but not constant, time with Elsie. She is always within hearing/scenting distance; we just don't let her stay in the whelping box all the time. The pups have to learn to interact with each other and with humans without her. But they also need to learn canine discipline, social skills, and submission from their dam.
  • We expose them to all kinds of sounds (and will continue doing so). Because they can hear now, they can also "startle" to sudden loud noises.  BUT, they don't yet know and have not experienced "fear" (that comes later).  It's important for the pups to learn how to startle to loud noises without the startle reflex being associated with fear.  They have to learn to startle and recover all on their own and without associated panic or fear (this is an ability they'll need the rest of their lives if they're going to function well in the noisy human world).  So, we bang on pot lids, slam doors, pop corks, run the dishwasher, test the smoke alarms, run the vacuum, crank the TV, turn up the music, clap our hands, blow whistles, drop things on the floor, etc...
  • We provide toys that make noises(squeakers and such).
  • We introduce them to water bowls (they can lap now) so they can learn to drink on their own.
  • Toward the end of this week or early next, we'll introduce gruel (really smooshy puppy food mixed with puppy formula -- like runny oatmeal).  Oh boy! 
  • We handle them frequently, snuggle with them, and play with them 1:1 away from their litter mates for short periods of time.  :)
Amazing, isn't it, how quickly these little ones develop?!  Wow.  

And they're doing wonderfully.  We'll keep you posted!

'til next time,