Saturday, September 27, 2014

Five Weeks Old!

The pups are five weeks old, little dogs with razor sharp teeth.  They are eating from a bowl now, either ground turkey, eggs and goats milk, or softened kibble (Pro Plan Select Turkey and Barley) with goats milk.  They are up to three meals a day, plus nursing.  Fern still has LOTS of milk, but is not very eager to visit the pups as she's tired of their sharp little teeth.  She doesn't sleep with them anymore, preferring her bed at the top of the stairs.  She can go down to check on them or feed them, but is not forced to stay with them.  More of a career girl than an earth mother type.  Fern held her weight perfectly and looks great, but it's due to four large meals a day.  Because I want her to start drying up I cut out the bedtime snack and cut back on her other meals.  Hopefully she'll stay in condition and gradually dry up.  I also hope that once they are less demanding about nursing she'll interact with them more, but if not Josie and Max will pick up the slack and play with the pups.
The pups have broadened their horizons and come up to the family room every day, and also spend some time outdoors.  Fortunately the weather is perfect for puppies, so they have a great time exploring the yard.  Some are more adventurous than others, but all are quite confident in both situations.  Last night they had their largest group of visitors, two adults and three teenaged boys in the family room.  Everyone did well, and none of the pups are overly cautious.  If we notice that happening (and pups often go through that for a day or two) we just give them more attention and handling until it passes.
Fern also had her first chance to interact with strangers since the pups were born.  She did fine, other than talking to herself (which she does when stressed).  She came in after the pups had gone back downstairs and could smell the pups on the guests, so it took her a few minutes to relax.  I'm very careful to never have strangers handle young pups while the mother is in the room.  Just not a wise idea as dogs can be overly protective in such circumstances, and I don't want to put the dog in that situation.
The puppy pen looks like an amusement park but it does keep them entertained.  They have all manner of toys and other objects to play with, boxes to climb on, a tunnel to go through (or sleep in), and multiple places to sleep.  They are starting to notice the items on the Activity Box, but are still more likely to play with toys on the floor - or far more often, wrestle with one another.
As is always the case, there are not nearly enough pups for all the wonderful homes that were waiting.  Hopefully some of the people can hang on until next time, either Amery's or Holly's litter planned for this winter.  Although there are a number of responsibly bred litters right now, there are an even larger number of educated buyers, which is a good thing. 
Meg will be paying the pups a visit next week to tentatively select her stud fee puppy.  She'll be picking between the two boys Feeney and McNab.  Right now Feeney is my favorite, but both boys are really promising, just different in type.  Because her pup will be going to an Agility home, the puppy has to have bilateral hearing, but fortunately I think both boys are bilateral.  BAER testing the following week will confirm my initial assessments.  The other liver boy is promised to a good pet home, so they have to wait until we decide which of the boys has more potential for show and performance.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Getting Serious About Socialization

Sleeping Beauty - Dallas 
One of the major differences between responsibly bred puppies and commercially bred puppies is Socialization.  Pups are socialized to people of all ages, including (and especially) children and seniors.  A reasonable goal would be for pups to be handled by and interact with at least 100 different people before they are ready for new homes.  All people sound and smell different to dogs, and it's important that the pups are exposed to and are comfortable with everyone.  Children also act different, with fast jerky movements, much different body language, and shriller voices.  Pups need to have positive experiences with children so they are comfortable in their presence.  
Because there are no small children in our family, I have to "borrow" kids.  Families with pups from our previous litters are often delighted to visit the new puppies, and things can be a real circus around here for awhile.  We have visitors before 4 weeks too, and the pups get lots of handling from the day they are born, but beginning at 4 weeks pups can tell the difference between their regular caregivers and strangers, so the socialization process is important.
Little whitey Baxter meets Grandpa Argus
Not all pups need a heroic amount of socialization, but in general it's very important with Dalmatians.  Some would grow up stable, outgoing, and trusting with very little human interaction, but that would be the exception in this breed.  We do maximum socialization with all pups to be sure they grow up to "be all that they can be".   You can never really make up for lack of socialization later - you can modify some behaviors and make things better, but the dog will never become quite what he might have been if raised properly.
Pups are socialized to people, things, other dogs, places, and experiences.  The pen is full of toys and the pups are starting to explore the rest of the basement.  Today they will come upstairs for the first time, and as the forecast is looking good they will go outdoors this weekend.  They will visit different parts of the house together and individually, will go for rides in the car to visit friends, be BAER tested, and receive their puppy check ups.  They've already been introduced to the other adults dogs here (except for 14 year old Watson who is no longer interested in puppies) and will be interacting with them when they come upstairs. 
So much to get accomplished in the next 4 weeks!