Archive for November, 2020

20 Days Old!

Sunday, November 29th, 2020

I cannot BELIEVE they are almost three weeks old already! This morning just as I was waking up I managed to catch a puppy barking and then howling for room service.

I’ve changed the pen around a bit more, I put the whelping box liner on top of the underbedding to see if it would give them better traction, then I flipped it over to the rubbery side. It’s better traction AND a different surface to walk on so that right there is enrichment!

I’ve also added a bed and will be rotating toys in and out of the box. We’ll be building the big house this week since I think these guys are going to be making The Great Escape any day now! I am purposefully not commenting about specific puppies here because they change so much and I don’t want anyone falling in love just yet!

Alice is standing up to nurse them more and more

Next week I will offer them solid food for the first time! Fingers crossed that they take to it more quckly than the litter Alice was born in did (they were holdouts for a long time, which made starting clicker training difficult!).

Day 19 Enrichment

Saturday, November 28th, 2020

Now that their eyes are open and they are moving with real purpose, enrichment starts in earnest! We did Early Neurological Stimulation from days 3-16, we cuddle and handle them individually several times a day, but now the real fun starts!

In addition to the toy and new surface they encountered, I decided to give them a brief visit in the living room this morning, so I set up an x pen and some hospital pads and brought them out to watch some Formula 1! We will do this sort of thing regularly now. They got very well sniffed by Grandma Zhora, Auntie Tish and Great Grandma Nina! Zhora wanted to get in with them so badly but not yet! Alice kept a close eye but wasn’t worried.

Day 19

Saturday, November 28th, 2020

All of a sudden they are puppies! Blue boy Echo BARKED last night. They wag their tails with purpose, they toddle over to see you, they SWARM Alice when she comes into the box.

Today I gave them a toy to experience (they tried to nurse on it). I won’t leave toys in there for long periods, just put one in for a bit now and then to give them something new. I’ve also added different things for them to walk on, hospital pads and an upside down bathmat.

While Puppy Culture can be a bit intimidating (especially if you work!), I’ve found that even just doing “most” of it makes a positive difference, and I am going to do as much of it as I possibly can!

They are starting to use a specific corner of the box as their potty area and while some are more motivated than others, I added a litterbox yesterday. Today I changed it from a cardboard box lined with a pee pad and dog litter to a sheet pan lined with a pee pad and dog litter. This has lower sides so hopefully it will be more inviting for them!

They are bigger and stronger now and they drain Alice very quickly compared to even a couple of days ago. It’s amazing how much they change from day to day right now!

Day 18

Friday, November 27th, 2020

They are starting to toddle better and better now. What an enormous jump in ability we’ve seen since their eyes opened Monday! They’ve gone from being furry potatoes to actual puppies!

17 Days Old Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 26th, 2020

I am thankful for many things. I am thankful to have an amazing husband who puts up with my crazy dog obsession. I am thankful for my oldest friend still being with us despite horrific loss and serious health challenges. I am thankful for my family. I am thankful for my wonderful dogs. I am thankful for my job and my amazing work family. I am thankful for Renee the awesome repro vet tech without whose help this litter wouldn’t be here. I am also thankful for my repro vet Dr Gray and everyone at Alliance Animal Hospital whose support and knowledge is invaluable. I am thankful for the plethora of truly amazing prospective homes for these puppies, I wish I had ten more puppies to go around!

Today the big dogs celebrated with a real walk. Alice was happy to pay the price of an undercarriage bath.

The puppies celebrated by going OUTSIDE! It’s relatively mild out but still I took them out in their warming box all together. They made big sniffs and saw and smelled something different! They are starting to become interested in each others’ faces now that their eyes are open, and I actually saw the first bit of bitey face just now! They sort of waddle over to you when you are in the whelping box now, and then try to nurse on your arms and chin. They’re starting to toddle, Red girl Alfa and Blue boy Echo are the best at it so far but everyone has been up on all four feet and walked a couple of steps. We’re getting close to putting the litter pan in with them, that should happen in the next couple of days once they’re toddling well.

Their average weight is 809 grams today! And they LOOK huge. They’re starting to swarm Alice when she goes in to feed them.

I love taking them outside for the first time. Last time I did it in the first week but it was really chilly then this time around. It’s so neat to see their little world expand a bit!

15 Days Old!

Tuesday, November 24th, 2020

The lighting the puppy room are lower than usual because as of last night everybody has two eyes open! Now the Mr Magoo period starts. They are starting to be able to almost-walk a few steps and will move towards you if you are close enough for them to make you out (their vision isn’t good yet). They try to nurse on everything and if you’re snuggling them they try to nurse on your chin.

Some Helpful Links

Saturday, November 21st, 2020

Here are some links I think might be useful:

Puppy Culture Stories is Jane KIllion’s blog, there are some excellent articles on there. Especially this one about Socializing Puppies During The Coronavirus Pandemic

And here is the FREE course for puppy owners!


Saturday, November 21st, 2020

I thought green boy Delta was “looking around” sort of this morning but it didn’t look like his eyes were really opening yet, but Jim was just in visiting the puppies and THREE of them have eyes opening!

Green boy Delta has two eyes just starting to open, and purple girl Foxtrot and orange boy Bravo each have one eye opening.

Now we’re just about to start the really fun time – they’ll be Mr Magoos for a while as their eyes and brains start learning to work and work together.

The puppycam will be off or dim for a while so that we don’t overwhelm their brand new peepers!

And here is a video I took in the middle of the night last night as yellow girl Charlie tried to scale Mount Alice

Insomnia Thoughts

Saturday, November 21st, 2020

So last night I was up quite a bit with the puppies (some nights they’re quite active and vocal and because I am sleeping right beside the whelping box if they’re up, I’m up). As I’ve said before, they’re big and strong and active now, but they still can’t see (any day now!). So they’re able to get themselves into jams on occasion, like the ones who insist on trying to sneak around behind Alice to get an unopposed teat, who then end up shrieking when Alice lies down and traps them behind her under the pig rail (the pig rail is the white plastic you see around the sides of the box, this is to help stop a puppy from being crushed between mom and the side of the box).

If you’re watching the puppycam you will also see me moving puppies around on occasion, as much as I try to let them do their own thing most of the time, if I have some who are big gainers and some who are small gainers, I will try to give the smaller gainers some prime nursing time so nobody falls behind. Would they all end up where they should be? Most likely. But why not make sure of it?

I was thinking about my policy (for want of a better word) for how I place puppies. I don’t do things the way many breeders do, many breeders put you on a list and then once the litter is born they say whether they have a puppy for you or not and then either let you choose or choose for you (and I’m not saying that’s better or worse, it’s just different from what I do, and I have to do what I am comfortable with). And truthfully that’s probably the most “fair” way to do it, because the limbo I leave some of y’all in sucks, and I know it sucks. I usually wait until the puppies are old enough for me to see what their personalities are like, to decide who fits where. Which unfortunately means that even if you’re a home I’d love to send a puppy to, I may not have the right puppy for you in a given litter. If you want an agility dog and I have only mellow puppies I’m not doing you OR the puppy any good by placing a puppy with you. If you want a quiet family pet and I have only “delightful assholes” (as one of my puppy buyer husbands terms them), I’m not doing you OR the puppy any good by placing a puppy with you.

This is also why I try not to talk too much about individual puppies here, why I try to be gender neutral with collar colors (even though it ended up being more or less traditionally gendered this time, the collar colors are rainbow colors in birth order, so if a male had been born last, he’d have had the pink collar), why I try to be neutral with whelping box names, etc. Because in the last litter when I had a puppy who was struggling for the first little while (Popcorn) and wrote about it here, of course everyone wanted Popcorn. She was the one who had a “story”, she was the one they heard about the most. She was the one they fell in love with. So even if you’re glued to the puppycam, don’t fall in love with a puppy such that you’d be disappointed if that puppy isn’t “your” puppy. You don’t know them yet, heck *I* don’t even really know them yet and I’ve been with them 24/7 and even before they were born! We have a tendency to gravitate to the one that seems different or special (and I am no different in this regard, I loved Popcorn fiercely, I stayed awake for 72 hours trying to keep her alive, but I didn’t keep her, she wasn’t “my” puppy – I apply my placement rules to myself just as stringently as I do to y’all), but that doesn’t mean that that puppy is really the right one for us.

I feel that my first obligation is to the puppies, to find them the best possible home for them. It’s been the case in the past that I had a home that I was SUPER excited to place a puppy in, because I knew that puppy would have an awesome life and get to do all kinds of things. But the litter I had at the time just didn’t have a candidate in it that I felt would thrive in that home. Not because it wasn’t a great home, and not because I didn’t have nice puppies in that litter, but because the match wasn’t there. I told that owner (a very experienced dog person) that I didn’t think this was the litter for her, she appreciated my candor, she waited two and a half years for my next litter, and THERE was her puppy. And now that puppy has gone on to make breed history multiple times. That owner was Jan Robles and that puppy was Lobo (Alkemi Beowulf del Roble LS). Lobo (and his niece Cora now too) is thriving with Jan. Would he have been happy in a true “pet” home? Maybe, he’s a pretty stable and easy-going dog, but he wouldn’t have been living his best life, and he needs a job to do and someone who is willing to find ways to let him do a job. My obligation when I bring a new life into the world that otherwise wouldn’t have been here is to give that puppy the best possible life for it. So if I don’t have a puppy for you, that doesn’t mean I don’t think you’d be a great home, it means I don’t have a puppy that I think would be a good choice for you.

You don’t really start to see what their personalities and energy levels and tendencies are like until they’re a few weeks old. I mean right now I can see that some seem more mellow and some seem more busy, but this stage of their lives is not like any other – they can’t see or hear yet, their entire world is about eating, sleeping and having their mother stimulate them to urinate and defecate. They might walrus around the box but they’re not really exploring the world yet. The active puppies now might be the chill puppies later when they can see and hear. So it’s not about where you are on the list, it’s about what your home and lifestyle are like and what the puppies I have turn out to be like.

There is a tendency to think that “a dog is a dog”, and while dogs have many qualities in common, even within a given breed, they are also individuals. You may think you want “a Vallhund”, because you met one and loved it, or because you think they’re nice looking dogs, or because you think they’d be a good fit for your lifestyle, or any and all of the above. But within “Vallhunds” are individual dogs, with individual energy levels and drives. And one thing my mentor, Ulla Gamberg, told me that has always, always stuck with me is this: always trust your gut. Ulla and I do some things the same way and some things differently, but Ulla has forgotten more about Vallhunds and breeding Vallhunds than most people will ever know. And I absolutely trust that advice. So sometimes my gut (going by what I see in my whelping box) is going to tell me that I just don’t think this litter has your puppy in it. And if I tell you that, please believe me that it’s not that I don’t understand how much you want one, and it’s not that I don’t think you’d be a great home for a puppy (unless I tell you that), it’s that I think the puppy and you would be better served by waiting for another litter, or maybe I will refer you to another breeder who might have something suitable for you.

To my mind one of the biggest risk factors for a puppy not working out in a home (and since I take responsibility for my puppies for their entire lives, this matters!) is a mismatch between what the puppy needs and what the owner needs and can offer. You can’t make a high drive puppy into a low drive puppy, you can’t make a high energy puppy into a low energy puppy. And you need to be honest about what your lifestyle is like and what you can offer. I try to breed dogs with a work ethic, this isn’t what everyone wants in a dog! And there’s no shame in admitting that that’s not what you want in a dog.

So hopefully you understand that if I don’t have a good match for you, it’s not that you aren’t a suitable home, it’s that this litter doesn’t have a good match for you. I know these days, especially with COVID, it seems like everyone wants a puppy. But a Vallhund should be part of your family for well over a decade or even over a decade and a half, and I think it’s worth waiting for the right puppy, not just the right now puppy.

Ten Days Old!

Thursday, November 19th, 2020

They are making noises that are almost barks now! They are also getting HUGE. There will be a point in the not-too-distant future when Alice is nursing more than her bodyweight in puppies. I can tell she is starting to ramp up her milk production (and milk production works on a strict supply & demand basis, so that means there’s increased demand obviously, since the puppies are growing). Usually around week 2 and again around week 4 is when the demand makes a jump. The dam’s appetite increases (Alice has been getting four meals a day of her usual ProPlan Sport kibble, plus some tripe and canned food, plus mother’s porridge to support lactation), and then I’ve been leaving a bowl of kibble out with her overnight just in case (I NEVER free feed my dogs as a general rule, but it’s a different story during lactation, if they start getting behind in terms of calorie intake when the demand on their bodies is high it can be really hard for them to get ahead of things again). Just the last day or so she’s been eating the whole bowl of overnight kibble, whereas before she’d just nibble at it.

While I’ve been giving her some calcium with each meal (I use Doc Roy’s Healthy Bones because it’s a balanced calcium/phosphorus supplement), around 2 weeks and again at 4 weeks tend to be the critical times for the risk of eclampsia, so we will be watching her closely to be sure she is getting adequate calcium.

As I’m sure I’ve said before: puppies who are comfortable are in a loose pile, puppies who are cold and huddled together, and puppies who are too warm are spread out. The heating pad is under the bedding in the middle of the box, and as you may have noticed, they’re almost never on it. It’s chilly here and our house is set at the same cool temperature it always is (other than the first couple of days when we crank up the heat a bit). Vallhund puppies tend to be quite cold tolerante (like adult Vallhunds are), and in fact they prefer cooler temperatures!

One of them HOWLED last night because he was stuck away from the rest of the litter. I try to let them sort things out for themselves most of the time, but if they sound genuinely distressed you bet I help!