The puppies hit the 4 week old mark today- puppy families, you have reached the halfway mark!
They celebrated with their first feast of ‘mush’. We feed a complete ground raw food with a bit of warm water added to make a soft slurry. First thing this morning, they received their mush in a simple muffin tin feeder. Here are some video clips. Sequence: While momma Pepper eats her own breakfast, the little guys get solo access to the mush. When they start to wind down, mom comes in to finish it and clean the dish. Then she tidies up the area and cleans the puppies while they grab some milk on the run. A little bit of play wrestling and then they are ready for a nap. The whole thing takes about 15 minutes, and then after the puppies tuck themselves back into the crate for a sleep, I do the big morning clean up, changing out all of the blankets, scrubbing up the potty patches and so on, and the muffin-tin puppy feeder goes into the dishwasher. Today, they’ll just get the one meal of mush. Tomorrow they’ll get breakfast AND supper. The following day they’ll get 3 meals. It takes about ten days to go from ‘first mush’ to full weaned and it’s a gradually process so that the puppies have their bellies slowly acclimated to real food, and so that the milk demand on Pepper decreases gradually- as the puppies get up to 4 meals a day, they will choose to nurse very little so Pepper has a chance to dry up naturally.
Lots of activity today! While I was cleaning the puppy room, the babies were playing in the living room and I could hear them running through the tunnel- by the time I grabbed the camera that part had ended but there was more fun to be had:
As the puppies are evolving into social, interactive creatures, watch the videos for their interactions with each other and with other dogs. Watch for these things (not all shown in this clip, but it will come up eventually):
- Puppies learning bite inhibition from their littermates.
- Puppy to puppy interactions. Instigating play, wrestling, licking, stealing resources, scrapping, snuggling, chasing.
- Puppy and adult dog interactions.
With regards to bite inhibition, this is the process where puppies learn to use their mouths gently vs biting full force. What will happen is one puppy will bite another one. The puppy receiving the bite will scream, and the biter will let go. At their current age, it takes quite a bit more screaming before the biter lets go, but it gets better with age and practice. We describe how to continue using a similar strategy for teaching puppies not to mouth humans in the puppy owner’s manual that was provided when the puppies were born- so if you haven’t read that far yet, go read it now. The idea is that they eventually learn that biting each other (or people) ends play. This learning starts now but it’s most important during their last week with us (between 7 and 8 weeks of age).
Puppies have all sorts of different interactions with each other. At this age, they are just learning how to communicate with each other, and exploring all kinds of body language and vocalizations. They even have little scraps! Some people see this and are concerned that a puppy is ‘aggressive’ or ‘dominant’. I would assure you that these types of interactions are very normal and not a sign of anything negative in their future personality traits. They are learning about conflict resolution and need to practice their skills!
The interactions that the puppies have with adult dogs are carefully monitored. Well adjust adult dogs will always choose to avoid conflict with each other if it’s possible to do so. They will also avoid conflict with puppies. It is not normal for a mother dog to physically correct their puppy and it is definitely not appropriate for a non-mother dog to be correcting puppies. In the ‘wild’ world, however, there is a lot of space for dogs to avoid puppies when they start to become annoying (which definitely happens). In a very confined area like our home, there are a lot fewer options to escape, and in case you weren’t sure, the puppy teeth right now are SUPER sharp and it really hurts when they bite! So, with our adult dogs, we try to make sure that they always have the option to leave if they are interacting with the puppies (up on a couch works now). We watch carefully to make sure puppies don’t corner the adult dogs because if the only way to flee is by jumping over puppies, there is an added risk of the puppies getting squashed in the process! As the puppies get bigger, faster and braver, they will have more of their adult dog interactions outside and only very carefully controlled, selected interactions inside with dogs who have a higher degree of tolerance. Personally, I do not want the adult dogs feeling so stressed that they have to correct a puppy (remember, that is NOT appropriate- it would be like if your kid was acting up in public and some stranger came over to spank them). That is not good fun for the adult dogs to have to make disciplinary decisions and also risks and injurious encounter- puppies are fragile! Puppies learn coping mechanisms from the adult dogs and from how us humans manage interactions. If one of them is being a little jerk- they either leave or the adult dog they are being a jerk to can leave. This sets them up to learn to AVOID conflict when they are grown ups too. When the pups go to their new homes, new owners should ensure that strange dogs are NOT permitted to physically correct their puppies and they should equally make sure the puppies are not doing anything warranting a correction. Unless you want a dog who thinks that fighting is the best way to resolve conflicts, these strategies are important to teach for domestic dogs.
As you noted at the end of this video clip, Shelby feels pretty safe going over to her big cushy dog bed to chew a bone, as there were not any puppies right there at the time. But once Rose sees her and comes rushing over, notice that she stops chewing and turns her head slightly towards the puppy. Rose, I’m sure, doesn’t have any interest in bones yet and probably thought Shelby was Pepper; she ran over to see if she could grab some milk. Shelby is used the puppies attempting this but doesn’t appreciate it, so her head turning is anticipation that those nasty little teeth were coming. Knowing Shelby, she would have left on her own before the puppy got too close to her mammaries but I called her (her nickname is Doods) to be sure, and she left the bone behind. Shelby wouldn’t not be upset if the puppy had wanted to share in the bone chewing but nipple biting is a definite no for her.
Lots of visitors this week! The puppies have been busy. Below is a video of their first play with the jungle gym. Never mind the mess- that is authentically how life is when puppies rule your world.
Two more firsts today!
First first: The puppies had their first mini training session as they are now able to take food treats (tiny bits of cheddar cheese). We start by rewarding puppies who voluntarily sit. Our puppies are never pushed into position, we just wait until they sit (or lure them into position) and reward, and over the coming weeks, this becomes a very strong default behavior. The puppies will use a sit to ask for thing – a process that is called ‘manding’- because it is so highly rewarded, they know that good things happen if you sit. Providing them with this skill gives them a means of communication (and doubles as a very conveniently polite greeting). New puppy families will need to keep up with this training. I’ll aim to get video of tomorrows session.
The second first was the first outdoor playtime for the puppies! I put a mat down on the snow and they went out in pairs for about 2 minutes each. Photos are posted on our facebook page. If weather cooperates, we’ll be able to gradually increase the amount of time they spend outside and hopefully be able to get them going out to potty regularly too! But first, they need to be able to just be outside and be comfortable.
As promised! Puppy training video:
Things to note:
a) I do not tell the puppies sit, because this is only their 2nd lesson. The most important thing for them to first figure out, is that their action (sitting) causes the cheese reward.
b) I do not force the puppies to sit, by pushing their bums down. That doesn’t teach them anything useful. I want them to figure it out on their own, and be motivated by their desire to learn and earn.
c) The puppies can come and go as they please but mostly, are choosing to stick around and play. This session is about 5 minutes long which is about 4 minutes longer than I would do if the puppies were working one on one. Puppy attention spans are super, super short. No single puppy was operational for the entire 5 minutes and we are building the ability to work around distractions (littermates! toys! papertowel) on a very low level right from the start.
d) Most importantly! This is not a test. This is not a test to see which puppy is smartest, or easiest to train, or has the best attention span, or likes food the most. None of these qualities can be measured in a 5 minute session on 4.5 week old puppies (and I would argue that none of these things can be measured in a single session on puppies of any age). There is no room for tests in puppy training. This is training, teaching them to learn, rewarding offered sits (which equate to offering patience), and teaching them that they can get what they want by asking politely through sits vs grabbing and demanding. Yes, we do want to get to know them on an individual level so that we can help place each puppy with the best suited home, but we will not use a single test to do that. I will describe more about how puppies are evaluated (evaluations are different than tests) in another post soon. But I think it is enough for now to know that you can enjoy the video, watch for different puppy behaviors, but know that you will not be able to identify anything super revealing about puppy temperament traits from any single video.
Playtime video today- Marvin and Mezzy helping to wrangle puppies. Mezzy is a master of appropriate play- when the puppies get grabby, she takes a toy and taunts them into chasing her vs biting at her. She will hop on and off of the couch but is super aware of her body placement. It is important to be aware of this, as some other dogs are not as careful and I would not be able to permit so much movement from them. Puppy injuries can be serious and avoiding them is at least as critical as having good interactions with older dogs. Mezzy also will lay down on her back which is an invitation for the puppies to approach and wrestle. Thanks Mezzy, for helping to teach to teach the puppies about body language and appropriate play!