That’s what I’ve been doing since our lab puppies were born on 11/22/09! And with Thanksgiving, Christmas, and all the extra activities, I haven’t had time to post here. I’m on vacation from my J-O-B for 2 weeks, so I thought I would tell you a little bit about how we breed & raise our pups.
1. Selecting a Stud
First of all, choosing a stud dog is of utmost importance – it will be 1/2 the new puppies gene pool! We breed because we love labs and want to enhance the breed. We choose to use Deep Farm studs because they operate one of the finest breeding, training and canine health care facilities in North America. Owners Phyllis Giroux, DVM CAC and Jack Jagoda, co-founder and past president of the North American Hunting Retriever Association (NAHRA), have the absolute best all-round labs available. Our Whispering Pines Midnight Sun SH “Sunny” was bred to Deep Run Retriever’s AM/CAN/UKC CH Poplar Forest Play It Again Sam, MH “Sam” who is a conformation Champion as well as a Master Hunter. Since Phyllis specializes in canine reproduction, we feel confident leaving our girls with her during the breeding process. Gestation time is 63 days.
2. We started curtailing Sunny’s activity level a couple weeks before her due date. She is definitely looking pregnant! An excellent resource is The Whelping and Rearing of Puppies by Muriel P. Lee. Nursing moms need up to 300% more nutrients than normal, so we start feeding her more in advance.
3. Sunny took a trip to the vets the week before the puppies were due and had xrays taken so we knew approximately how many puppies to expect (sometimes they hide behind each other, so it’s not always accurate). The vet saw 8 to 9 puppies!
4. We start taking her temperature a few days before her due date. When her temp drops to 99 or 98 degrees and stays down, the whelping will be soon. My husband and I took turns sleeping on the couch and keeping an eye on her.
5. Sunny started nesting on 11/21, and was busy all morning on the 22nd, circling her whelping box and ripping up newspapers. Finally, she had her first puppy at 5 pm. It was large, about 1 lb, (a yellow male). This was Sunny’s first litter, and she had quite a tough time with him , so Bill and I and our nephew Jesse helped with the birth. Sunny was very surprised when she saw the pup for the first time and I wish I had a camera ready to take a picture of the expression on her face! A couple of sniffs was all it took for her to realize this was her pup, and she started nursing him right away. We named the puppy Jesse after our nephew. Sunny had 6 puppies from 5 pm to about 10 pm, then seemed to say, that’s it, I’m done! But we knew there were at least 2 more pups waiting to be born. So a few phone calls with the vet and more waiting, we took a trip to the vet’s at midnight. He administered a shot of Oxytocin to stimulate her contractions, and the last 3 puppies were born within a 1/2 hour. Whew! Back home by 1 a.m., put mom and all the puppies back in the whelping box, and were glad to see them all nursing contently!
6. We weigh the puppies twice a day in the beginning to be sure they are all gaining weight. All the puppies were between 14-16 oz at birth, all good weights, so we did not need to give any of them milk supplements. We have in the past, and we use an excellent milk replacer made from actual canine milk (most milk replacer is from cow’s milk), from Nature’s Farmacy. The first 2 weeks of life are critical, because the puppies are so fragile. They can easily be injured or chilled. They cannot regulate their own body heat, so we make sure the room temperature is about 80 degrees. Again, we took turns on the couch so we were close enough to hear if a puppy was in distress. Sunny took care of the feeding & cleaning up!
7. Between Days 3-16, we perform exercises called “Early Neurological Stimulation”. These exercises were developed by the U.S. military canine program, and have been shown to improve the adult dog’s adaptability, performance, health and intelligence. It only takes about 1 minute per puppy and they get used to be handled and held in different positions. Many studies have shown that there are 3 important stages in a puppy’s development: neurological stimulation, socialization, and enrichment. We make it a point to do everything possible so the puppies get all 3 of these important stages.
8. At Day 14, all the puppies’ eyes and ears were open. They begin exploring their world (limited by the 4’x4′ whelping box), but mostly still just eat and sleep.
9. At 3 weeks old, the puppies are getting too big for the whelping box – they are climbing out & escaping! We removed the box and set up 2 exercise pens in the middle of the kitchen to give them plenty of room to explore and play. And a crate at one end to sleep in. They’re teeth are starting to come in – ouch! Watch a video of the pups here:
To Be Continued