• Cindy Benson

Follow Blush’s 2019 Litter – Birth to Four Weeks

Updated: Oct 30, 2020

#clickertraining #maremma #puppytraining #dogtraining

5/8 Laura & Blush

This is Laura, lovingly and skillfully tending to Blush in the early hours of her whelping. Blush delivered twelve puppies in just under eight hours. Some of them were born five minutes apart Laura had her hands full! She handled the situation beautifully.

Blush’s litter was whelped by my friend, and fellow Code of Ethics breeder, Dr Laura Bailey DVM. Laura bought the kennel you see from Costco. We set it up on her deck right outside the sliding glass doors to her bedroom, with a yard for Blush that opened onto the lawn. I build a whelping box for Laura based on my own. Earlier this year, at Laura’s behest, I bought an incubator and oxygen producing component. They proved to be of great help to Laura. She credits the survival of two of the pups to having had this equipment. I am quite sure she is downplaying her part in getting those pups through their first tenuous hours.

Laura weighed the pups daily right up until Blush and her litter came home to me when the pups were sixteen days old. Laura’s husband, Dr Paul Bailey DVM, her children, and various friends all gave their time to Blush and her pups. During this time Laura also did the ENS handling per the Puppy Culture protocol. The pups were exposed to new sights and sounds daily, and were handled by a variety of people. Even in these very early days in a pup’s life these experiences are important.

5/12 Mother’s day

Laura sent me this photo as my Mother’s Day gift. The pups are four days old here and are being held by Laura’s three young children – all puppy trainers in the making!

When I brought Blush and her pups home I put them into the barn and stall that Blush had been living in before she went to stay with Laura, in the whelping box she was familiar with, and on the same bedding she had been staying on. Laura and I weren’t sure what to expect in terms of moving Blush and her pups, especially since Blush is a first time mom, so we took every precaution to help her with this transition. She did great. This barn opens into a small pasture so Blush could finally take a break from being a mom and go back to work. She was soooo happy to do this! She raced around the pasture several times! I did not give her sheep back to her though because I knew she would not tolerate having them near her pups. Her sheep stayed housed across the fence from her. The pups could hear them and smell them. I have a wonderful wired in barn camera system so I can monitor the animals well from right here at my desk! That’s nice, especially at night or when it’s cold and rainy. I love it.

5/24 box

My whelping box is heavy and kind of a pain in the neck to handle with the daily change of bedding that I feel is necessary. Laura is a tiny woman so she probably cursed me a time or two! I use cotton quilts as bedding. The quilt is held in place by the weight of the whelping box. This is important because moms sometimes like to “nest” which can make it possible for a pup to become trapped in the bedding. Over time the mom is less and less likely to do this. I look forward to the next transition in bedding!

5/29 transition bedding

The brown bedding you see is a lovely whelping pad! It is the same size as my whelping box, stays in place well over the quilt, and has a water resistant backing. This allows me to change the bedding in the whelping box by swapping out the whelping pads rather than having to lift the edges of my whelping box. I appreciate this!

5/29 pee pads

As the pups become more mobile and aware of their surroundings they also begin to plan on where they take care of business – I am ready! I help to foster this great idea by placing pee pads near the far end of the whelping box.

5/29 painted

Graffiti pups!

When the pups become skillful at walking they begin to show me who they are. I track their behavior carefully throughout their time on the ranch. To do this I use non-toxic pet dye. I reapply it every few days as needed. I placed pups from the last litter at eight months of age; and yes, they wore paint right up until they left! It’s a lot of work but this method allows me to know a lot about my pups because I can tell from quite a distance which pup I am looking at. It’s also fun for others to follow the progress of the pups through my videos because the red tail pup is the same red tail pup always!

From the time the pups begin to move around they are given a wide variety of new things to interact with from the safety of their whelping box. This includes items like soft toys, new surfaces to walk on, and things that make new sounds, such as crackle paper.

5/29 1st out best

What a great big new world! These babies had a great time being brave adventurers while I changed out their bedding without having to move pups around to do it. A great time was had by all!

Setting the pups down outside their whelping box for the first time is a huge event! Maremmas own the ground they stand on so even at this tender age I try to support that. I give my pups more to think about, mindfully, so that I don’t overwhelm them.

5/29 1st barrier challenge

Barrier challenges don’t have to be big or complicated! Something as simple as this first new “hill” allows the pups to learn a lot.

Providing barrier challenges for the pups is so, so important. This teaches pups to think rather than just react. Pups without this training often respond to a new challenge with fear or frustration. When Rosie came to me at eight weeks of age she couldn’t work five feet of a fence line without showing me lots of frustration. I have a video that I created last year that shows a litter of eight week old pups confidently working twenty feet of fencing! Would you like to raise LGDs that know better than to bark at air? Teach environment discernment from an early age. One of the very important ways to do this is barrier challenges.

5/29 challenge met

Challenge met! I timed this; it took this industrious little male pup less than five minutes to notice this changed circumstance, go to it, try to climb it and fall off a couple of times, and then stand proudly as you see him here. Wonderful! Fascinating!

Over the next hour most of the puppies played on this new hill. When they lost interest I removed it, so that it could be novel another day, presented differently.

5/31 box open

So now the pups have lots of pee pads to encourage their participation in the great idea of planning. The piece of vinyl is there for me; it’s easier to keep clean than the stall mats. Blush can come and go over the padded rail of this larger area.

When the pups were twenty three days old I decided it was time to give them significantly more that would challenge them mentally and physically so I opened up the whelping box and gave them half the stall. They still have solid walls around them, which gives them some familiar security even in this changed environment.

6/3 drinking

Water is a good thing! At this point I was not yet supplementing the pups; water should always be offered when that happens, but it was beginning to get warm so I offered them a low bowl of water. It’s too low to drown in, too heavy to tip over, and serves as a new novel element to their environment.

I gave the pups a few days to get used to the changes I had made and then gave them a little more! I removed the solid wall from one side of their little area. They could see all the way out of the barn and watch the barnyard activity. That’s a lot to see – all from the safety of their house.

Cultivating a good startle recovery has been happening for the pups all the way back to when they lived with Laura, but it bears mentioning that right outside the pup’s stall lives The Tractor. They have been listening to it start up, and come and go, from the time they were sixteen days old. There are three other ranch vehicles that come and go from this barn and a variety of livestock and other dogs in this area. At this point they don’t startle easily! However, that will shift around as they go through fear periods so I will not make assumptions and will watch the pup’s responses to sounds carefully over the next few weeks.

Stay tuned – follow the litter to the next big change!

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