Today is a big day. A very big day! The puppies are 7 weeks old.
The waiting families know what today is. We lovingly call it ‘show dog day’ even though we are not breeding or evaluation for show qualities. 7 weeks old does mark the day that we do structural evaluations. This is the final piece in the puzzle for making puppy matching decisions.
The day starts off with their weekly weigh in . Okay- it starts off with breakfast, a walk and clean up as usual- but weigh in is the first notable thing. This week is pretty tough as the puppies have really outgrown the postage scale we use and any little wiggle throws things off. Here’s their growth chart (note that I arranged it a little differently this week).
After this, the puppies settled in for a nap. We went for a bigger walk and play in the snow around 11 am. Then, headed into the training building to set up for the photo shoot. The play part is important because the puppies need to stand in a specific stance – a conformation stack- to be properly evaluated. If their muscles aren’t warmed up, they may not be able to hold the position well, or, if they do, cold muscles change the appearance of their structure, usually in an unfavorable way.
So we got the play out of the way, set up the photo booth. Crank the tunes and get the party started! This time, I set up my ipad to video and took film of the puppy stacking. Then I was able to go through and grab stills from the most suitable moments. This actually worked much better than I expected and though the photo quality isn’t awesome, I think the quality of the puppy positioning in the photos is better than usual.
I posted some new pictures on our facebook page- we are getting in at least 3 walks a day now in this glorious weather. Sometimes we take a grandma with us, sometimes it’s just us puppies. Because it’s so nice out, the puppies are now spending most of the day out in the indoor/outdoor kennel run. This provides a couple of perks for them over being housebound all day- first, they can let themselves out to potty through the dog door- they already understand this concept well and now that they have control over their own individual potty routines, they have had no accidents! The other major perk is that the puppies get exposed to a different atmosphere and with it, new noises, smells and visual stimulation. As an example, we’ve been busy moving snow piles around the yard with the tractor over the last few days so the puppies have had great opportunities to hear a noisy tractor work. They are also being desensitized the smell of farm critters what with the ducks, chickens, rabbits and sheep nearby.
When we begin to incorporate loud noises into the puppies repertoire’s of experiences, it’s always done at a distance and with a ‘good role model’ nearby- be that of human or grandma origin and typically paired with food since they are such foodhounds at this stage. Then, build up the volume by gradually getting closer to the noise source (or having the noise source get closer)- the speed of which this happens is dictated by puppies response. We are aiming for a ‘who cares’ or mildly interested attitude. Here’s a video of the puppies having lunch just a few feet from the tractor.
Puppy Matches have been made! Puppy families, please check your emails. Formal announcements will be made once I’ve heard back from all of the families.
Some things that the puppies have experienced in the past week or so that I have not yet mentioned: Gun shot noises, playing in puddles, introduction to a live pigeon. I’m sure there are other things- raising puppies regularly means that much of the things we do with the puppies are automatic and I have to really think about if I’ve reported them yet or not. Oh yes, full size agility tunnels, tippy boards, ramps and (stairs) small sets. None of these are things we go overboard on (especially stairs) but want puppies to have a good intro while they have the ‘positive peer pressure’ of their littermates and grannies around.
On an individual level, the puppies get some short training sessions on their own. Today, we did a clicker session with the soft crate. At this age, what they are learning is secondary to the fact that they are learning to learn, but positive interactions with the crate is always beneficial to every puppy. In these videos, the puppies show that everyone of them is a very quick learner. Note the short training sessions- between 3 and 4 1/2 minutes each, and a very high reward rate (I am just using plain kibble as a treat- every click means the puppy is getting one piece of kibble). I start by rewarding the puppies for any interaction with the crate, then going inside, going in a little further, then turning around inside the crate, and finally for voluntarily staying in the crate. Watch the body language of the puppies – by the end of each session the puppies, you can tell that they are thinking ‘I did it, I should get paid now!’ which means they are making the very important association that their actions determine if they are rewarded or not. Another aspect that you should be able to see in most of the clips is that the puppies notice that I have treats in my hand an pockets, but quickly give up on trying to steal them and go back to the crate where they know they can earn rewards. SO smart and excellent self control!
Here is Bonnie (now named Fig):
Here is Haggis (Now Rudy)
Here is Rabbie (now Orie)
Phillis (now named Minnie):
Mouse (now named Chai)
Rose (now Ruby) –
This morning the babies went for a walk with grandma Shelby. Well she must be getting a little weary as she ran quite far ahead up the trail, just maintaining a line of sight with the humans but too far for the little guys to notice her. However, they definitely knew she was ahead and keenly had their noses to the ground following her tracks! Dang I wish I had brought the video for that. When she finally did come back for a visit, they looked like they won the lottery – their prize at the end of the track!
Later in the day, it was time for their tattoos! Each Eromit puppy gets a unique ear tattoo that identifies them on their Canadian Kennel Club registration paperwork.
Now, they are enjoying a well deserved frozen-supper-in-a-kong. Chewing and really working for their food is a great way to burn calories, keeps their attention and is safe puppy exercise! I just crammed one puppy-sized raw food meal into each kong and stuck it in the freezer this morning. When they are finished, the kongs can go in the dishwasher for a good cleaning.
A video of our adventure today:
The puppies normally don’t go so far ahead, but they are trying to create space between each other so they can poop in privacy, haha! Under most conditions, I would call them back when they about 1/3 of the distance that the furthest puppy achieves, but I did really want them to poop. A downside to this sudden extreme warm temperature (it has been a high of 16-20C the last few days) is that the snow off of the trail is super soft (and it’s much deeper than it looks- above my knee)- so the puppies really can’t get around if they stray from the trail except during the first walk of the day when things are still frozen.
Today is the big day- the first puppy is getting picked up. This is always a bittersweet day for us. While we are so excited for the puppy to get to meet his new family and begin their happy ever after, there is no denying that we get very attached to the puppies. Our world revolves around them for 8 weeks and they are each little individuals that we love and get to know their personalities and quirks.
Sometimes people ask ‘don’t you want to keep them all?’ The answer is heck now. But, I want to be clear- not wanting to keep them all does NOT mean we don’t love them all. Part of being a breeder is knowing that sacrifices need to be made and more than anything else, those sacrifices are usually to the breeder’s personal feelings. That means that I definitely can’t keep every puppy even when they are extra loveable. It also means that sometimes I can’t keep a very special puppy even when it would be very tempting to do so.
Part of what makes the ‘goodbye’ process easier is that we choose puppy families who we believe and trust will keep in contact with us for the life of their puppy. Logistically, we know that many that live far away, we will never see again in person. It’s better not to dwell on that fact and think about how we’ll get to hear stories of their adventures, receive phone calls and emails about how the puppy is doing and growing up.
Occasionally people will say ‘oh, you’ve got another litter born, that will help’. I have to say that puppies are not interchangeable. You don’t miss your oldest child any less when he moves off to go to college just because you have other kids. Yes, they may take your mind off of the missing a bit, but they are different kids, one does not replace the other. The same is true with puppies. There is only one Haggis and one Bonnie and one Rabbie, one Rose, one Phyllis, one little photogenic Mouse. Specifically because we have new puppies that were born today- I expect this sentiment to come up again. But it’s different with each litter, each puppy.
So anyway…. back to how things work on puppy pickup day. In advance of this day, I have done up all of the paperwork. This includes a purchase contract and warranty, non-breeding agreement, trial health insurance policies, socialization checklist, deworming and vaccination records. I prepare the puppy’s ‘kit’- their harness and leash, favorite toy, a blanket that mom and puppies have taken turns sleeping on (and usually some grandmas too), and any other needed supplies.
About an hour before the puppy’s new family is set to arrive, puppy gets a bath. We want them feeling fresh and clean and with that ‘new puppy smell’ 🙂 This is followed by a towel dry and a last play with sibling(s) to help burn off some steam before travel time. Rabbie (now named Orie) was the first to get picked up today. He quite enjoyed his bath and celebrated with a bit of the zoomies afterwards. Then some tunnel crushing fun with sister Rose (see why we can’t keep them all, haha!)
Some training videos from today! There are so many fun things you can teach puppies this age, today I did a different training game for each puppy’s video. The ideal time frame for these sorts of lessons seems to be about 4 1/2 minutes or less. A couple of times I went longer than that and it was a bit too much. Setting a timer might be a good idea to ensure that the lesson doesn’t drag on too long, keeping things fun for the puppy and trainer and ensuring that it can end on a positive note.
First up- Ruby gets her first nosework lesson. She is being introduced to birch in the little container via the ‘Its Your Choice” method. (I like the following course from Fenzi Dog Sport Academy for an introducing nosework, and as it happens, it’s open for enrollement right now! https://www.fenzidogsportsacademy.com/index.php/courses/14305 )
Rudy does a little shaping on to the dog bed. In the first bit, he is pretty sure that it’s freezing in position that is earning him the reward, but he goes on to figure out it’s being on the bed that pays.
Fig’s turn is to advance in her crate work. Now that the crate has definite value to Fig, I’ve decided not to use the clicker anymore. You can see she is already pretty fired up and I’d like her to be more ‘calm and waity’ vs ‘yeehaw let’s get crackin’ for this particular game. Near the end I start closing the door, adding in some random treats while the door is closed, and reward her for staying in when the door opens.
Chai gets introduced to the concept of staying. Guys. GUYS! Staying is WAY easier to teach at this age then any other age. Use something like this foam platform to ‘magnetize’ the puppy- ie pay them super well for being on it- and they will naturally be a little resistant to leaving it. That lets you move around, walk away a bit, add some duration to the stay, while the puppy eagerly stays there. Being ‘up’ on something (at a safe height of course) is more fun for the puppy and provides a clear boundary of where to be.
For Minnie’s video, she is practicing her heeling skills. This would have worked a little better with a bit more movement but I tried to stay in the video frame. Just like how we teach other stuff in small bits, leash walking needs to break down into tiny bits to learn properly. You wouldn’t just tell a puppy to stay and walk a hundred yards away and expect them to stay on the first try, yet people often strap a leash on their puppy and expect them to properly walk several blocks on the first try. That just sets the puppy up to fail. I like to reward heel position (my left side) using my left hand – that part is super important- and just do a few steps at a time. I want the puppy to think ‘being beside mom and facing the same direction as her pays VERY WELL’ and as she gets that, I start to sometimes take a few more steps before stopping, and build up a good habit slowly over time.