Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Introducing Marvelous Mira

Mira and her mom Fern
Introducing "Mira", officially known as Paisley Marvelous Mira.  Hopefully she will some day have titles on both ends of her name, if she continues to show potential for the breed ring (dog shows).  Her littermates have gone on to wonderful homes, and it's time to enjoy Mira as a new member of the household.

Mira is the pup we kept from our recent litter by Ch. Snowood Paisley "Duncan" Disorderly ex AKC/UKC Ch. Paisley Fabulous "Fern".  Her brother Feeney, now known as Axel, was also considered to be show potential and will be doing obedience and agility as well.  The other pups were placed as companions. Although they were very attractive pups and could certainly have been shown, we only place the very best pups in show homes. 

Mira and Grandma!
Mira is fitting in well here, and has quickly caught on to the routine.  Her house manners are excellent, and if she has an accident inside it's because we got distracted and were not paying attention.  Then we joke about taking a rolled up newspaper and hitting ourselves over the head!  Crate training has gone smoothly too, and Mira sleeps in a dog crate in the kitchen at night.  Ron takes her out before he comes to bed (late) and I take the dogs out about 7:00.  No fussing at all - good dog Mira.

We had a lot of fun with this litter, and the pups are in excellent homes.  Everyone was healthy, attractive, and very friendly, which made everything a lot easier.  Most of the homes had previously owned Dals, but this was a first Dal for the young family that purchased Summerset, now Chaos.    We put an enormous amount of time into this litters, and are very pleased with the results.

Both Duncan and Fern are robust, healthy dogs and have the CHIC numbers for health testing.  OFA hips, elbows, eyes, thyroid, and BAER tested hearing.  Hopefully their offspring live long healthy lives and bring their new owners much joy.  We're certainly enjoying Mira.

Tomorrow - Bringing Up Mira.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Eight Weeks Old - Already?

Seems as if the pups were just whelped, but they are already eight weeks old and leaving for new homes.  Feeney is now Axel, and was picked up by his new owners John and Jan who drove up from Nebraska.  Axel is slated to be a show AND performance dog, so we have high hopes for him.  He was a lovely puppy with a great personality and the best structure in the litter.  John has had a number of Dals over the years and has been very successful in obedience and agility competition.  It was hard to let Axel go, but he was promised before the litter was ever conceived.  It's nice when things work out so well.  That's rarely the case!
Summerset the extra cute patched puppy left on Sunday with Breanna and Ryan.  He stayed in Minnesota so I'm sure we'll see him in the future.  He was a charming puppy, very sensible and easy, and I know he will do well.  As of now, his
name is Chaos - hopefully he doesn't live up to his name!
Vet check on Thursday found everyone to be totally healthy.  My vet even came out to the car afterwards to take a picture of the pups looking out of their crate.  I was delighted with how well they all behaved and how friendly and confident they were on the examining table.
On Friday the pups and I drove to Wisconsin to do photos of both litters (Jess's pups are just one day older than mine).  That's a lot of work.  Hard enough to do stacked pictures of one litter, but two litters!  Photo session confirmed what I already knew, that I would be keeping Mira and that Dallas would be available to a pet home.  I so wanted to keep Dallas, but don't have room for a dog I wouldn't show.  She's absolutely stunning, with a charming personality, but not quite what I want for showing.  So I'm sorting through my reservations, trying to decide where she will go.  Am dragging my feet on this, because I really don't want to sell her - but it will happen eventually.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Winding Down

Puppy chores will be winding down soon. Two weeks ago we did microchips, last week we did BAER testing, this week it's vaccinations and Vet checks, plus three stool checks and worming along the way.  Visitors every day this week including two groups today, and one tomorrow.  On Friday Jess and I will get together to do puppy pictures.  On Saturday Feeney will head off to his new home, and Summerset will leave the next day.  Two pups will fly out to their new homes next week.  Puppy booklets to finish up, literature to print out.  Books (puppy raising and raw feeding) have arrived, registration applications are back from AKC and I have collars for everyone.  Whew!  How did I manage this when I was working full time?
Time to go through my list, and decide who would make the perfect owners for Dallas, when I finally decide to let her go. Sigh...
Fern is enjoying just being a dog again.  She and Max have been wrestling, playing keep away with Fern's beloved pig, and she's been nagging me endlessly to throw the darn thing for her.  Yesterday we went down to the river, and she had a chance to splash in the water for the first time in over two months,  She certainly enjoyed it!  Fern came through the litter in great condition, and we hope to go for her Grand Championship next Spring. This winter Fern will do an obedience class - she's exceedingly smart, but often has her own way of doing things, so it should be interesting.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Playing Favorites

So we're down to the last week of enjoying the whole litter.  Pups start to leave this weekend.  They've been a lot of work, but so much fun.  Because I don't take deposits, all expenses have been out of pocket so far, and my bank account is really feeling the pain. I'm tracking expenses on this litter, and hope they will be covered, but of course I don't track the hours invested in raising a well-bred, well adjusted, healthy litter, and placing them carefully in really good homes.  It's a very good thing that I still love raising a litter of pups!
Do I have favorites in a litter?  Absolutely!  My favorite is rarely the puppy I end up keeping.  It's often an obvious pet puppy, but one with a particularly endearing personality.  Whatever puppy I keep has to be a good fit for my home, have the kind of personality and temperament that I enjoy working with, and of course it has to be show potential.  Although all my dogs are pets first, they are also show dogs who finish their championships in the breed ring.  They may not ever be bred, but they must be dogs that have something to offer the breed if I choose to do so.
Sometimes it's easy to select a puppy to keep.  Fern stayed because she was the only brown-eyed bilateral hearing female pup - and fortunately she was also my favorite, although her brother Ramsay was a close second.  Max was always my favorite in Holly's litter, from the time he was a tiny puppy.  Fortunately he was also show quality, so I could justify keeping my favorite puppy - even though I had done the litter for a liver boy, and Max was black.  I kept his sister Mellie too, who is probably the better dog, but she eventually went to live with her co-breeder.  Both Fern and Max did well in the show ring and have become permanent members of my family.
When I leased Reebok and raised a litter from her, Letty picked ME when she was three weeks old.  She was a beautiful pup, and definitely my favorite.  Her sister Weather was also lovely, and it was a tough decision.  I eventually selected Letty to keep despite the fact that she was not outgoing and carried her tail too high, and Reebok's owner took Weather.  Weather had a wonderfully outgoing temperament and made a fine showdog, while Letty only wanted to be my dog.  Sweet and beautiful but unsure of strangers, with a tail carried too high as well.  Letty was eventually placed in a pet home where she has thrived, and I shed many tears over placing her.
Fern's litter was done knowing that the best male was already promised, so I made a point of not getting attached to Feeney who is a lovely pup with an ideal temperament.  He'd be a great fit here, but has an excellent home to go to.  Dallas was my favorite pup from the beginning, a brilliantly colored girl with a beautiful face and a sweet nature, other than being death on shoelaces.  She's the one who always kisses my face when I cut her nails, and she follows me everywhere.  Unlike Aunt Letty, she's comfortable with other people too, and sooo pretty.  BUT her sister Mira is almost as pretty, appears to be a bit better for construction, and has a bolder, more confident personality.  Dallas is soft and sweet and a bit submissive, and whichever girl I keep will be living with bossy mama Fern.  Dallas has a better chance of thriving and developing her potential in another household, without Fern.   I'm still arguing with myself over this.  I like Mira a lot, and anticipate that she will be a good show dog, but Dallas is the pup I really want to keep.  Still thinking this over, but I need to pick with my brain rather than my heart!   What I probably need to do is to find the right co-owner in the Twin Cities area, someone I can work with, someone who would raise Dallas well, and let me show her if she turns out well.  Still thinking . . .

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Seven Weeks Old - Already?

Seven weeks old already.  Where did time go? One more week and the pups will begin to depart for their new homes.  Several will be picked up next weekend, but two others will stay at bit longer as they will be flying to their new homes.
It's been a fun litter for the most part.  Other than a week's worth of loose stools, they have been totally healthy.  Three stool checks never identified the cause of the problem, so we treated it as Giardia, with added probiotics.  Seems to have worked - knock on wood.
BAER testing went as expected, although this group would not win any prizes for good manners in the car - it was a long, loud trip to Rochester.  The pups were brave and friendly when they arrived, enjoyed being held and admired, and didn't object excessively to the electrodes or ear plugs.  One more thing taken care of.  The upcoming week will bring vaccinations and physical exams, and hopefully I can get together with Jessica to do puppy pictures.  We normally do formal shots somewhere between 6 and 7 weeks, but things just didn't work out for that, and some of the pups are still changing quickly.
Handsome liver Feeney appears to be the best pup at this age.  He's wonderfully sound, handsomely spotted, has a nice outline, and a wonderful disposition.  He's going as an Agility and Obedience prospect, and will be shown in the breed ring of course.  Really like this boy, but I don't need to keep him and he will have an excellent home.
Black girls Mira and Dallas please me for different reasons, and I haven't decided which one to keep, so I'll run them both on for a few more weeks.  There's a spot reserved for me in a puppy class that begins on November 6th, so I probably need to decide by then!
The other pups have excellent pet homes waiting for them.  Unfortunately I did not have enough pups for all the wonderful homes that were hoping for a pup.
Fern was an excellent mother but when the pups were 5 1/2 weeks she'd had enough and decided to wean them. Enough, she declared. Their sharp little teeth probably had a lot to do with that decision.  Fern had plenty of milk and held her weight perfectly.  Her trim girlish figure is coming back quickly, and she's already started growing a brand new coat.  Pups are eating well and growing rapidly.
Not too many years ago we let our pups go to new homes at 7 weeks, as the current thinking at that time said the pups were ready to face the world.  I found that little Dal pups did extremely well being placed at 7 weeks, and never questioned that theory.  The current thinking is that 8 weeks is better, so now we keep the pups until at least 8 weeks.  In some breeds, the extra week probably makes a difference, allowing the pups to be larger, stronger and more confident.  I'm quite sure this group is ready to start their new lives at 7 weeks, but I'll enjoy having them for another week.  It also allows me to put off the first vaccination for an extra week, until the pups' immune systems are better able to develop the immunity that will protect them from Parvovirus and Distemper.
Tomorrow they start wearing collars, get their nails cut yet again, and take another trip in the car.  Hopefully this trip won't be as loud as the first one was.  They'll be visiting friends, exploring a new environment, and meeting friendly Labradors.  They had lots of socializing in groups, pairs and individually, but it will be up to their new owners to continue the work I've put into these pups, so they can "be all that they can be".
I should be in Kansas doing dog shows this weekend, but because we had not totally solved the problem with loose stools, I decided to stay home.  That means I've missed the last two Specialty weekends, once with new pups, and then with poopy pups.  Only four show weekends for me this year, but that means I saved some money and didn't put as many miles on my car as usual.  Hopefully things will work out better next year.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Less Than Fun

If I had to do it over again I would stick with the litter box this time, but I gave up on using one for this litter because tracked litter drives me nuts.  Said I would rather deal with wet papers.  Hah!  So even though a number of pups were using the box pretty consistently, and would have done better had I stuck with it, the litter box idea was discarded again.   And now I am stuck with tons of wet stinky paper.  Argh!
The pups had such fun outdoors last weekend, but I neglected to fence off the area under the birdbath as I normally do.  When Ron cleans the birdbath, he dumps the water into the Hosta bed even though I have asked him not to.  Easier that way and a hotbed for Giardia it would appear.  I totally forgot about that since we have not had Giardia in pups for a long time.  The pups have been wormed (just a precautionary worming as my pups never check out positive for worms) and had been treated with Baycox at five weeks, so I knew there was no risk of Coccidia.  But Giardia.  Oh yeah.  Stools started getting soft on Friday, so I took in a stool sample knowing that it's sometimes hard to get an actual diagnosis the first time.  As expected, the results came back on Saturday as Negative.  Yeah, right.  Something was going on, but what?  Probably Giardia, but I hate to treat without knowing for sure.  On the other hand, poopy pups are not very appealing!  This morning I started treating for Giardia.  Will do another stool sample first thing Monday morning and see if we can get any better answers.
Pups are fine, they feel great, eat like it's their last meal, and have lots of energy.  And they are bored!  They have been confined to their pen unless I know they have all pooped, and then I follow them around with paper towels - well not quite, but they do have to stay in the basement.  Because they have been outside, in the family and up in the bedrooms, they know there's lots more to the world than the basement, and they are protesting.
We were supposed to go to a Puppy Party today, but we're missing it because I didn't want to take a chance on infecting the other litter - and because they are just too messy!  So instead I go down and play with them every hour, pick up any messy papers, and explain to them that their confinement is temporary.  They're not buying it!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Socialization Continues

Six weeks old tomorrow!  So much accomplished, so much left to do.  The pups had a great weekend, and their visitors included teenagers, a family with three children, and my sister Kris.  The weather was perfect, so they spent a lot time outdoors too, exploring the yard and tasting the vegetation.  They also came upstairs with me, in pairs and singly, to check out the bedrooms and bathroom - lots of different sights, sounds, and yes, odors.  The laundry basket is always fun, especially checking for pockets that once contained dog treats.
Fern has lost interest in nursing the greedy little monsters with the very sharp teeth.  She is happy to play with them, especially just a few at a time, so she can deflect their attempts to nurse.  She did feed them once yesterday, only when the pressure built up (or was she feeling guilty?).  Two nights ago I offered her the option of sleeping downstairs as usual, or staying in the family room with her friends.  She chose the sofa and got a good night's sleep.
Pups are eating well, four meals a day, primarily softened kibble with goats milk.  They can eat raw too, but this litter is eating primarily kibble.
Because they will "go camping" the weekend they are 7 weeks old, kibble will be much easier for all of us.  We will be showing Fulton, a young liver boy that we co-own, and the pups will be staying with Fulton's family.  This will be great for the pups who will get lots of extra exposure to kids, and will have to adapt to a totally new situation.  That will make it even easier for them to adapt to their eventual new homes.
Today's visitors include Meg, who owns their sire Duncan.  Meg will be looking at the two liver boys, and tentatively decide on her stud fee puppy.  Pups will probably spend most of the evening upstairs in the family room while we evaluate them.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Being Our Breed's Worst Enemy

If you're old enough to remember Pogo, he supposedly said something like "We have met the enemy and the enemy is us".  Truer words were never spoken when it comes to the Dalmatian's reputation.  Sometimes the damage is unintentional, sometimes it's just poor judgment, but at other times it's gross stupidity.

Several months ago I joined a Facebook Dalmatian list that is made up primarily of pet owners, plus a number of experienced Dal owners (mostly breeder/exhibitors) who are there to be helpful.   Many of the list members are young, first time Dal owners, have rescue dogs, or purchased from backyard breeders or commercial breeders, so they are often inexperienced and have no one to turn to for help.   The list can be fun, and lots of cute pictures and stories are posted.  The list is also extremely frustrating, as misinformation is shared as fact and advice is given that is totally incorrect and occasionally dangerous.  Members post requests for help or advice, but for every hundred responses, often only a few are correct or useful.  The show folks on the list are generally in agreement on most things, but they are outnumbered by the clueless.  Hopefully the person asking the questions is smart enough to recognize the valid answers - but in many cases that's unlikely, and it often seems as if they really just want support from readers who agree with them.  Some even resent the answers that are not what they wanted to hear.

I've met many wonderful owners, and corresponded privately with those who requested extra help or advice, but many times I've had to bite my tongue and just stop reading.  Many show people have signed on for awhile and finally signed off in frustration, but I vowed to stick it out because there ARE people who genuinely need help and or want to learn.  Bite your tongue, Sue.  Do your best.  Try to make yourself useful.  For every ten fools, there's probably at least one sensible person out there, and although they may not be posting perhaps they are just reading along and learning.  At least I hope so.

This morning there was a post from a young man who has taught his dog to bite him - by pinching it's nose.  He posted a picture of the dog with all his teeth showing.  Says the dog does not bite hard. It's just for fun he says. What is he thinking???  Actually he is not thinking.  It's our job as responsible dog owners to teach our dogs that it is never ok to put their teeth on a person.  Ever.  This guy makes a game of it, gets the dog all revved up, and then encourages him to bite.  He thinks it's cool.  When a number of us protested, he then posted a video of the dog biting him and dared us to complain.  Won't it be just great when the video is shared, as it undoubtedly will be?  A Dal biting someone, confirming that Dals really are aggressive.  It will be really cool too, when the dog tries his teeth on someone other than his owner, a child perhaps, or in the excitement of a "game" forgets to bite softly.  What made the situation worse was all the people who think this is perfectly OK.  Not the responsible breeders on the list who try to educate their puppy buyers. Not the rescue folks on the list who have to deal with the poorly behaved dogs who need to be rehomed, or can't be rehomed.  Certainly not those of us who remember all the bad publicity the breed received during the Disney era when so many Dals were euthanized because their owners no longer wanted them or couldn't manage them.  Just the average uneducated Dal owner.  The ones that drive me crazy.

One of the topics that often comes up on that list is why Dals have such a bad reputation.  Why don't vets like them, why do people say they aren't good with kids or are aggressive, hyper or untrainable?  Why do they show up on lists of breeds not good for first time dog owners?  These same people delight in reciting their dogs escapades - the furniture they destroy, the mischief they get into, the excessive barking that doesn't bother themThey agree that all Dalmatians are hyper, steal off the counters and have separation anxiety, that they all pull and bark. They complain that show people are snobs because we won't let our dogs meet their out of control, snarling, lunging "furbabies".  They make no effort to actually train their dogs, and they do nothing to help improve the breed's image.  And then they wonder why the breed has a bad reputation.

Many of us work very hard on Dalmatian PR.  We get our dogs out in public, train and show them in obedience and agility, enter barn hunts and coursing events, do therapy dog work, make our dogs available for "meet the breed" and fire station events and respond to countless email and Facebook posts.  We explain that Yes there are bad Dalmatians, but there are many more bad owners. We explain that the breed is smart and trainable if you take the time to do it, that well-bred properly socialized Dals make great family dogs, and that although Dals can lively and enthusiastic, a dog that receives appropriate training and enough exercise is NOT hyper.   We discuss how to recognize a good responsible breeder, and how to buy intelligently.  We educate our own buyers and explain to them that their dogs will be the dogs that the public sees and judges, and it's important that their dogs present a good breed image.

We also explain that if they are not going to buy a well bred dog from a responsible breeder, then they should consider adopting a rescue dog.  Don't buy a commercially bred dog, or one from a backyard breeder who is only doing it to make a buck.  Do your homework, buy intelligently, train your dog, ask questions of knowledgeable people, and raise a dog that we can ALL be proud of.  And then some idiot does videos of his dog biting him, and many of the list members think that's really cool, and that those of us who try to explain why this is such a bad idea are just know-it-alls, busy bodies and troublemakers.  Someone recently posted asking if we thought the next Disney movie would be bad for the breed.  Maybe, but not nearly as bad as many of the owners.

Enough.  I'm out of there.  I can't do this any longer.  It breaks my heart to see Dalmatians trashed, and the damage is so often done by people who profess to love the breed.  Shame on them.  

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Vet Bashing

A senior dog died following a dental procedure, and apparently the Vet did no blood work before anesthetizing the dog. Very sad indeed, but now there are posts from dozens of people joining in the bashing and vowing never to take their dogs to the Vet again, planning to use home remedies and information they get off the Internet. That's far scarier, as so many dogs who need to be seen by Vets suffer while their owners search for home remedies or inexpensive cures. Many dogs are "treated" at home, and by the time they are taken to the Vet it is too late to save them - THAT is not the Vet's fault . . . There are many things that can be treated at home and with over-the-counter medications, but so many more that require professional treatment. My first Dal died many years ago during a badly botched Caesarian, but over the years I've been blessed with many other capable, concerned and caring Vets. I've shared many tears with my Vets, Vets who truly cared. Vets are not Gods, and Yes they can make mistakes too, but it is an even graver mistake to think we can treat everything at home, and not take our dogs in for professional help until it is too late to save them.

We need to be advocates for our dogs, to educate ourselves, and learn to ask questions. It also helps to have a Vet who explains the various options, so we can make educated decisions. There are good Vets and bad Vets, but there are many of them out there, and if we are not comfortable with one, we can always look for one we like better. I've gone to the same clinic since 1965. Many Vets have come and gone, some were fabulous, some far less.  My all time favorite Vet was beloved by many clients and we all shed tears at his farewell retirement party and still miss him. He was not perfect, and looking back I know he made some mistakes, but I know he was always doing his best, and his decisions were based on his experiences and the information available at the time. Sometimes there is no one right or best answer and Vets have to make judgment calls, a "best guess". It may not always be the right decision, but if it is based on education, experience, and caring it's the best we can hope for or expect.

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!  

Friday, September 19, 2014

Weaning Begins

I always chuckle when I read an article on weaning puppies that "explains" how to teach a puppy to lap from a pan.  Teach?  Dalmatians seem to be born knowing what a food pan is for and I've never had a pup who did not immediately begin to eat whatever tasty treat was in the pan.  Some of them do a bit of sneezing when they stick their little noses in too deep but they all chow down from the first meal.
Some breeders wean on cow's milk and baby cereal, but we prefer goat's milk (which is more like the milk they get from mom) and no carbs at first.  We do goat milk the first day, goat milk with egg yolk the second and third days, and then start adding ground turkey.  The meal is mostly milk and very liquid at first, until I know that the pups have started drinking water too. 
We make weaning a gradual process, adding different raw foods as we go along, but always including lots of eggs.  Pups get a variety of meats, and raw meaty bones as well, plus cooked or pureed veggies, and yogurt.  Because not all of my puppy buyers will be feeding a raw diet, the pups also get some meals of well soaked kibble with goat milk.  Although there are many good foods on the market, out preference continues to be Pro Plan Select Turkey & Barley.  We start off with just one meal a day, gradually working up to four meals.  Although Fern will spend less and less time with the puppies, she'll still be with them at night until they are at least 6 weeks old. There is no better food for pups than their mother's milk.
The cute little buy pictured below is Baxter.  For all the Dals with too many spots, there are some with too few - like Baxter.  He's a very handsome pup with a gorgeous face, nice structure, a charming personality, and very distinct markings.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Four Weeks Tomorrow

Tomorrow the pups will be 4 weeks old and are ready for the next phase of socialization.  During the 3-4 week period they explored their limited environment, the whelping box and the puppy pen.  Lots of toys to investigate, tunnels to go through, low boxes to climb on.  They started leaving the whelping box to explore the pen, and with that comes the instinct to "keep the nest clean".  Most peeing is done outside the box now, in a litter box or on the newspapers.  Because the litter tracks, I'm not sure I will continue with that, but the pups often use the box when they pee which keeps the paper drier, so we'll see.  They're quite mobile now and really
into exploring their surrounding, and all of them are comfortable being held and snuggled.  Mira and Baxter were the least good about being held, but Mira is now one of the most social.  Summerset will get the extra handling for the next few days. 
At four weeks their horizons will expand to include exploring outside the pen, and being carried upstairs to experience the sights and sounds of the household.  I'll let Max go into their pen to walk around and sniff them too - Fern makes him lay outside the pen to watch Puppy TV.  AND it's time for more socialization with people outside the family.  Heather and girls will be over this evening, and Laurie is arriving to spend the weekend.  We'll have a few other groups in too.  It's time to play Pass the Puppies - everyone sits on the floor and takes turn snuggling each puppy, and I'll be watching to see how each puppy reacts.  Any puppy that seems at all uncomfortable gets singled out for extra handling.
Pretty Peabody

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Enjoying Puppies

Such a luxury, to have the time to really enjoy a litter of puppies.  Pups are always fun but when I was working there wasn't as much time to enjoy them as I wished.  Now that I'm retired I can spend as much time with them as I want!  They aren't very demanding yet, and they don't stay awake very long, so much of the time is spent just admiring them as they sleep.  Once the adults have been out and fed (mama Fern eats in the kitchen with the others) I'm free to go downstairs and enjoy my puppies.  Sitting in the pen, I watch them interact with one another and explore their surroundings.  It's not long before they run out of energy and fall asleep - on my legs.  All eight managed to squeeze on today.

Fern has plenty of milk, and all the pups are chunky and robust, but tonight we'll start weaning.  It's a gradual process here, and Fern will still be nursing them if she wishes when the pups are 6 or 7 weeks.  There's really nothing better for pups than mother's milk, but as their teeth get bigger and sharper Fern on going to get real tired of nursing pups!

Argh, the html is playing tricks on me.  I normally love this blog site, but every now and again the coding does not work and I can't place the pictures and the text where I want them.  Until tomorrow.


Friday, September 12, 2014

Three Weeks Old Today

Some one is getting tired of puppies
Happy Birthday Puppies, three weeks old today!  Today is the day the babies become puppies and start acting like little dogs.  Many of their instinctive behaviors will become evident over the next few days, particularly their attempts to keep "the nest" clean.  The front comes off the whelping box today, giving them full access to the pen and the newspapers that cover the floor.  It's amazing how quickly pups learn to leave the box and use the papers, rather than peeing on the carpet.
They see and hear more clearly at this age, and if you reach quickly for a puppy it will instinctively duck in an attempt to avoid possible danger.  No Hawks or Eagles to worry about in my basement, but I'll be careful not to startle them when I reach for them.  They also start to recognize people and greet them with wagging tails.  I love being greeted by happy chubby pups with wagging tails.  NOTHING is cuter than that.
The pups are starting to interact with one another too.  Slow motion wrestling and mouthing one another are such fun to watch.  In the picture to the right Dallas and Summerset are mouthing, while Peabody and McNab are practicing their wrestling moves.  They're such fun to watch.  It's like Puppy TV.  If I go down to check on the pups I end up spending an hour just watching them.  They don't stay awake for long, but if they decide they want Fern and she's not there, they do some serious yelling.  Fern is resigned to the feeding on demand, but almost sighs before she heads back to work.

They really started noticing toys yesterday and their box is full of colorful items of different shapes and sizes.  Some hanging, some on the rug. A few dog toys, but many household items as well.  Everything is interesting when you are three weeks old. Such fun to watch the pups discover new things and check them out.  By providing them with a variety of toys now, they become accustomed accepting new things quickly. The experiences a pup has as a baby have a great deal of effect on his eventual personality.
Time for company this weekend too.  New people with different laps, new smells and strange voices.  Our goal is always for pups to meet a MINIMUM of 100 new people before going to their forever homes.  It's important that as many of the visitors as possible are children.  Pups need to be socialized to accept and be comfortable with all the different experiences they will encounter in their new homes, and they need to have positive experiences with children.  The next five weeks will be very busy!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Eighteen Days Old

Pups are thriving, trim is moving, spots continue to clear, and the pups are starting to play with one another.  I've added toys to their box and they been walking through a short tunnel (actually a large PVC section), climbing on and snuggling with pillows, investigating a large plastic glass, and sniffing at other new items.  I've added decals to the inside of the box, moved the Activity Box downstairs (they are too young for it yet, but it won't be long now), and picked up a few new toys just for them.  A bottle with clanking balls inside, a clean new scrub brush that will feel strange when they sniff it, and some bright colored items to hang over the edge of the box - large wooden beads, and bright red funnels.  Everything is an adventure for pups this age!
Pups are still confined to the 4 x 4 foot whelping box unless I am with them.  They like to explore the pen, but aren't ready to have full access to it yet as they would not necessarily be able to find their way back into the box.  On Friday, when they are three weeks old I'll take the front panel out of the whelping box and give them more space to explore.  (The box is in a wire pen.)_
Fern is very fond of our friend Sue who came over to walk Josie and visit the pups yesterday, so she had another friend visiting her puppies.  Soon Fern will have to adjust to visits from strangers, but seems very sensible about this motherhood business.  The pups were all out of the box exploring, but they quickly found Sue's lap and curled up for a nap - except for little Orange who is now known as Mira.  Right after I took this picture of Sue and pups, Mira took off on another adventure.  She's the smallest puppy and I'm convinced it's because she's too busy doing other things to chow down when the others are eating.
Today I'll pick up Fulton, the liver boy I co-own from last year's litter.  Fulton is almost a year old and I sold him as a companion, but kept show rights - I can show him at my own expense.  He was a lovely puppy, but I was not ready to keep another boy last winter, so he lives locally and may soon be starting his show career.  I'll pick him up this morning and meet up with my daughter Jess for a photo session, and some training.  The goal is to start him at shows in October, if we can get him ready by then.  Fulton's owners have done a great job with him and he is well trained and well socialized, which makes everything easier.
Yes, I am adjusting to retirement - it's easy!  Comes naturally, in fact!

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Numbers Are In!

The numbers are in and the news is good!  All eight puppies gave strong hearing responses by Day 15.  Too early to detect unis of course, but I'll get that figured out over the next three weeks.  BAER testing is scheduled for 10/8/2014.  Although I know the hearing status from an early age (pups normally begin to hear sometime between days 12 & 16) it's always confirmed with BAER testing. BAER Testing
The other bit of good news is that there appears to be no blue eyes in the litter.  Although blue eyes are acceptable, and many pet owners really like blue eyed Dalmatians, blue eyes tend to go along with deafness as they are genetically linked. That's not to say the blue eyed dogs necessarily have hearing issues, only that the litters that contain blue eyed pups are more likely to have deafs and unis.  For that reason, most breeders are extremely pleased when there are no blues in a litter.  If I keep one of the girls from the litter to show and breed I want her to have bilateral hearing, so having no blues in the litter increases the odds that the puppy I like best will have bilateral hearing.  Fingers still crossed.  Unilaterally hearing puppies are fine as companions, and some do well in performance or are shown in the breed ring (if they are particularly good) but of course we all prefer to get bilaterally hearing puppies in our litters.  Fern had several blue-eyed and/or uni littermates, so this is extremely good news.
Max got to visit the puppies on Saturday.  He's been dying to see them, and like his dad Argus he loves puppies and small dogs.  Dal boys tend to be very good with puppies, and it's always interesting to watch the interaction.  Fern would not let him in the box, but decided it was OK for him to sniff the pups as long as she could keep an eye on him!  Max is sort of a Doggy Uncle to the puppies, and I expect that he will interact with them a lot when they start coming upstairs.
Socialization has begun, and the pups had their first visitors on Sunday and all got extra handling.  More company scheduled for today.  We're starting off with people that Fern knows well so she won't worry about strangers handling her puppies.  Even so we are careful to not put Fern in a difficult position.  Company is greeted in the family room, and Fern stays upstairs when company visits the pups.  Dogs respond to very basic instincts, and protecting young pups is a strong instinct.  Once the pups are older and are coming up to the family room or going outdoors it will be less of an issue, but we'll still be very careful.  It's never a good idea to put dogs in situations where they might respond in an unfortunate fashion.  However much they are members of our family, they are still dogs and respond to stress like dogs. 
Yesterday I completed the Adventure Box, a large "playground" that will be added to the puppy pen when they are a bit older.  The more positive experiences the pups have before they go to new homes, the better.  This toy will provide both visual and audio experiences and includes items that clink, clang, clunk and jingle.  Because so many dogs are sound sensitive and respond badly to things like fireworks, we try to expose our pups to a large variety of sights and sounds before they go to new homes.  Early socialization makes an enormous difference in how puppies turn out. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Twelve Days Old - Good Dog, Fern

Such a good mama!  Fern is doing a wonderful job with her pups.  She has plenty of milk, keeps them clean and quiet, and has been very sensible about the whole thing.  She joins us upstairs for awhile each day, and come up to eat her meals too.  Because Fern is inclined to bury any "extra" food, she does not get to eat in the puppy pen as I'd rather not find food buried in the corners.  When she eats in her crate in the kitchen, where the dogs covet each other's dinners, she eats everything at once.   Because she's a smallish girl with eight large fat puppies, Fern is getting three meals a day plus a bedtime snack of peanut butter toast.  The other dogs are jealous of her midday meal, but appreciate a token biscuit at noon and share her toast at bedtime.

There's not much to be done with pups at this age other than keeping the box clean, keeping mama well fed, cutting puppy toenails, and handling them every day.  And watching the Puppy Show!  Pups are so entertaining to watch, and I can sit there for hours imagining what they will look like as adults.  Hopefully a few will be top show prospects, but each litter is an adventure and as long as the pups are healthy and have good dispositions, I consider it a success. 

I'll start home testing their hearing in a few days and keep my fingers tightly crossed until then.  Deafness is always a possibility in a litter of Dalmatians.  Even if the pups all hear, some of them may only hear in one ear - we call those unis.  Because Dals with one-eared hearing function just fine, we can deal with that.  Fern had several uni littermates, and one of her Grandmas was a uni as well as being a top show dog and fine producer.  Although the litter will be BAER tested when they are older, I like to know their hearing status as early as possible.   Once I know they hear, they will get real names and no longer be referred to as Black Collar Girl, Green Collar Boy, etc.!

The spotting is starting to show through on the three liver pups, but because they have really thick coats it will be another week until their patterns are very clear.  It looks as if all three of them are open marked, but not as lightly spotted as the black boy is.  Hopefully the lightly marked pups have large sized spots like Fern has.

Today I need to go through my puppy list and see who is on, and who is off.  Nothing gets promised this early though.  It's hard for puppy people to wait, but that's just the way it has to be.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Ten Days Old

What a lovely weekend!  It included my 90-year old mother, my brother who is visiting from Costa Rica, and me paying a visit to my sister, brother-in-law and nephew in rural Wisconsin.  There are so few opportunities for my brother, sister, and me to get together with my mom, and given her age every get together is special.   Al flew back to Costa Rica early Sunday morning.  He was eager to get back to his wife, farm, dogs, and gardens.  Hopefully he'll be able to come up for Christmas as he did last year, and perhaps I'll be able to visit him in Costa Rica once I'm retired.

Retirement officially begins on Wednesday!  Tuesday is my last working day, and will include going to lunch with the people in my unit, perhaps for the last time.  I've already gone to lunch with the folks from Land Management and there was an office party last week as well.  Happy Hour with friends who worked in the Attorney Generals' Office is on my agenda too.  I'll sure miss everyone  but may be able to go back part time  in another month or so - things are looking promising for that, and it would give me some money for the projects I have planned around here.  We shall see how this all plays out as there are no guarantees.

Pups are all doing well and growing like crazy.  Fern was certainly a slow starter, but has settled in to being a great mother, as calm and sensible as I could ask.  Spotting and trim are looking nice, with only one of the pups (a liver boy) missing any eye trim that I can see.  The trim on the blacks is all complete, and the liver noses are moving quickly. 

It's such fun to watch the spots come in.  The three black-spotted girls and the patched black boy have shorter coats so their spotting is quite distinct already.  The black-spotted male and the three livers all have thicker coats, so the markings are not as distinct yet.

Dew claws were removed a week ago and all the little scars are healing nicely.  The black-spotted boy has been dealing with a staph infection on his back.  He had a bruise on his back that probably happened when Fern was picking up the pups all the time, and he developed staph in that area.  I just noticed it the day the dew claws were removed, so had the vet check it out then and prescribe antibiotics.  It's drying up now and the hair is coming out in little tufts, but the new coat is growing in already.  Obviously it causes him no trouble since he is the largest fattest pup in the litter.

One of today's projects is cutting nails, lots of sharp little puppy nails!  If they aren't kept trimmed they can do serious damage to Fern's breasts and leave big scratches on their littermates' heads.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Six Days

Six days old and growing fast.  All pups are now very chubby and active - and vocal if something or someone gets between them and a nipple!  Fern is eating well, maintaining her weight, and is very calm about everything.  Hard to believe this is the same wild-eyed dog I saw last weekend.  She's all settled in to her routine now and a very attentive mother, but after she takes a trip outdoors she lingers in the family room for awhile.  Max of course tries to engage her in play but she just brushes him off.  Poor guy.
Spots are starting to show as shadows now.  In another few days the pups will begin spotting up, which is an amazing process to watch.  The chubby pups also have fat little necks and needed to have their collars lengthened last night.  So far I am satisfied with the adjustable Velcro puppy collars.  There was some concern the collars would rub, but the tender puppy skin looks just fine.  Green boy continues to get his antibiotics twice a day for the little scabby area on his back.   

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Five Days

On Monday the pups took their first road trip, visiting the Vet to have their dew claws removed and get a little checkup.  One of the pups had a small scab and a bruise on his back, probably thanks to his Fern's insistence on carrying her pups around the first few days. He's on antibiotics as a precaution.  You can see the little scab on the boy with the Green color.
Pups are growing like crazy, and are all strong and active.  Tonight I nee to nip off the ends of their pointy little toenails to keep them from scratching Fern and each other as they scrabble for nipples.  Trim is excellent on all, with most of the blacks showing complete rims and noses already.  The livers are not far behind.  Almost all the pups have spotted faces like their sire Duncan, and I'd say most have his shorter ears as well.  Fern had Dumbo ears as a puppy, although they turned out to be very attractive when she grew into them.
Fern had to be coaxed to eat for the first couple of days, as she was making milk but not eating very well.  Suddenly yesterday she was ravenous.  It takes a lot of food to make enough milk to feed 8 hungry pups. She's really settled in to this Motherhood thing now, and seems to have resigned herself to keeping them in the whelping box rather than constantly looking for someplace to move her new family.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Settling Down

Things have settled down a lot since yesterday.  Fern appears to be eating normally, and we have a routine that works for both of us.  She still picks the pups up a lot which makes me uncomfortable, but she's given up the idea of moving them to a "safe place" and seems resigned to remain in the whelping box, at least until someone forgets to latch the pen!

Pups are growing like crazy, and everyone is doing well.  Big, strong, chubby pups, all vigorous nursers.  Today we pack them up and take them in to have their dew claws done.  Fern will not be happy, but the bitches all seem to survive having their pups removed for a couple of hours. 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

A Bit Of A Scare

Everything seems to be back to normal today, but Fern gave us a bit of a scare yesterday!  She's producing plenty of milk and the pups are gaining weigh quickly, but Fern hasn't been eating very well.  A little deli chicken, some ground turkey, but no regular meals. She just wasn't interested. Some bitches have upset stomachs after whelping, and allowing them to eat the placentas is often blamed.  Eating placentas is natural behavior and I try to intervene as little as possible during whelping, leaving the bitch to rip open the sack, clean up the pup, and cut the cord.  Most Dal girls have good instincts, and Fern was no exception.  She did most of the work while I tried very hard to keep my hands out (as much as possible).
Late yesterday afternoon I heard a pup screaming and raced down to see Fern standing in the box, wild-eyed and panting, with a pup in her mouth.  She leaped from the box and tried to get out of the pen with the pup - trying to move it to another (in her mind, safer) location.  We've encountered this occasionally in the past, where the bitch gets restless and wants to move the pups somewhere/anywhere.  It makes me nervous when bitches carry pups in their mouths, and Fern made me very nervous as she was determined to move the pups.  We started her on oral calcium (I have it on hand for whelping), Tums (calcium carbonate) and spoon fed her vanilla ice cream.  Her temperature was normal but her ears felt hot and she was panting heavily, so I wiped her face and ears down with a wet towel.  The next two hours were stressful for all of us as Fern was restless, Kept trying to dig up her rug, and whenever we were not watching carefully, she'd pick up pups and move them around - interestingly, she picked up the black-collared pup about 90% of the time.  Her favorite?
We gave Fern additional calcium, and more ice cream, and things finally settled down.  We also added some small towels to her box so she could do some "nesting" without digging up the rug and run the risk of burying her pups and accidentally laying on them.  She ate her first regular meal later in the evening, and had an uneventful night.  Ron and I took turns keeping an eye on things, but Fern seemed to be back to normal.  No more wild-eyed looks, or frantic behavior.  She's fine this morning, and the pups look wonderful.   Hopefully it will stay that way, but we'll keep a close eye on things today! 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Pups Are Here!

I was hoping for weekend pups arriving on day 61, but Fern had other ideas and the pups arrived Thursday night on day 59.  Although I love raising pups, I really dislike whelping litters, and it's a chore I never look forward to.  I particularly dislike dealing with stillborn pups, cords that are cut too short and bleed when mom continues to fuss with them, and wondering if everything is OK or if I need to put a call in for veterinary advice.  You'd think that after 45 years I'd be immune to the pain of losing a pup and have all the answers to whelping difficulties, but that's never the case.  Fortunately we had none of those this time around.  Thank you Fern!
Eight pups, all delivered healthy, only one requiring some extra work (he was "juicy" and took some massaging before his breathing was normal).  Fern cut the cords perfectly, tore the sacks off the puppy heads in a timely fashion, and accepted the pups right away.  She got a bit nervy between pups four and five and had some trouble staying organized.  Dal girls don't like their pups taken away for safe keeping and insist on having them in the whelping box, so I had to keep them out of her way when each new pup arrived.  Some bitches lay quietly on their sides when the new pups arrive, but Fern was up and about, pushing hard and rearranging blankets.  Although I missed whole night's sleep, pups were delivered promptly with no long gaps in between.  Whew.
4 boys and 4 girls, 5 blacks and 3 livers.  Originally thought there were only 2 livers, but the boy I was unsure of ended up being liver.  P:ups are a day old now, and all are doing well.  Several pups were rather thin at birth, but all have plumped up a bit already.  Fern is doing a good job, and keeping them clean.  She doesn't tolerate the heat lamp though and get stressed when it is on.  I've used heat lamps for 40+ years, and this is the only time its been a problem.  She wins, of course, and I'll just keep the basement warmer.  Good thing most of my fish are TROPICAL fish.
Still haven't checked back on my list of "puppy people".  Guess I'd better do that this weekend.  Have a number of inquiries I still need to respond to as well.
Fern's cousin "Gemma" also has 8 new pups, 2 boys and 6 girls.  They live with my daughter Jessica and are co-owned by Gemma's "other mother" Heather.
Both Fern and Gemma are show dogs as well as beloved family members.  Both are Champions in the breed ring, were bred to top quality Champion males, and all four adults have their CHIC #s because they have had all of their appropriate health testing (hips, elbows, eyes, hearing, thyroid).  Both litters will be raised in our respective homes, properly socialized, be BAER hearing tested, will have thorough Vet check ups and first shots, and will be sold with comprehensive written guarantees.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Won't Be Long Now

Whew, we're finally ready for puppies.  The basement whelping area is cleaned, rearranged, and the flooring has been redone.  Our pups are raised in the house of course, and the basement gives Fern some privacy at first.  Because my fish room is in the basement, as well as the laundry room, we are up and down a lot but it's easy to keep the other dogs from checking in on all the activity.  Max obviously wants to be a part of all the excitement.  He'll be a great puppy sitter eventually. 
Today is the 58th day, the earliest a litter is likely to be whelped, but earlier than I want pups to arrive.  61 days is more typical, and weekend pups would be nice since our Repro Vets have someone on call for whelping problems on weekends and at night. 
Tonight I'll start taking Fern's temperature as there is normally a drop in temperature before the pups arrive.  It doesn't tell you when, but a normal temperature generally means that pups will not be arriving in the next 24 hours - assuming you are taking the temperature regularly and didn't miss the drop.  Some bitches stop eating before whelping, but that does NOT include most Dal girls!
For now, Fern is back in her favorite spot, behind the family room chair.  She'll eat breakfast in the pen, and spend part of the day there.  This evening she will move to the pen and start sleeping there as well.  Won't be long now!