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

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!

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!

Nine Days Old!

November 18th, 2020

If you’re watching the riveting viewing that is the puppycam (trust me, it gets more exciting as they get older and more mobile), you will see that occasionally Jim or I move puppies around while they’re nursing. While I generally try to interfere as little as possible (other than by rescuing puppies who get stuck behind Alice under the pig rails or whatever), if we have a puppy who didn’t gain as much as the others, we will try to place that puppy on the inguinal teats (the ones closest to Alice’s back legs) preferentially. In general the inguinal teats seem to let milk down faster and easier and this can help the puppy catch up. In the big picture it’s pretty normal for them to gain more or less each day and as long as the overall trend and average gain are going the right way it’s not a concern, but much better to be proactive anyway in my view.

Baking Not Puppies

November 18th, 2020

I make Nova Scotia Oatcakes pretty often. I probably make them a couple of times a month at least, I certainly make them more than any other baked good. I’m Canadian originally, but I’m from Toronto and the child of English immigrant parents and I never had them growing up so it’s not like I can claim that I make them for nostalgic reasons. I make them because they’re amazing.

I usually use this recipe. And I can even make them in our toaster oven (which is also awesome and we refer to it as “the science oven”) which means I can bake these in the summer and not heat up the whole house.

And once in a while, if you don’t mind sacrilege, you can add a splash of vanilla, or dried wild blueberries, or even chocolate chips.

They’re delicious, not too sweet, a bit salty, chewy and oaty and just awesome. Filling and tasty and they have oats so they must be good for you.

We now return you to your regularly-scheduled puppy programming.

Eight Days Old!

November 17th, 2020

So I was fortunate enough to have saved some PTO for the Agility Invitational (which I won’t be going to because puppies + COVID). That plus the fact that we had an extra body at work to help out meant that I splurged and took two weeks off. I go back next Monday but will be home as much as possible. BUT, that means I am starting to try and get into a schedule that will continue after I return to work. So here’s what a typical day looks like:

  • get up (I will likely have been up several times in the night to move a complaining puppy or let Alice out), let Alice out, go and get the other dogs (I am sleeping in the puppy room with Alice and company, Jim is in the bedroom with the other dogs) and let them out
  • move puppies to the holding box while I change their bedding
  • cuddle and weigh each puppy, record weight, do Early Neurological Stimulation (until day 16), return puppy to whelping box.
  • feed the dogs. Right now Alice is eating her usual ProPlan Sport 26/16 but she is also getting some canned Royal Canin Gastrointestinal and canned tripe, into which I mix her Panacur C (she is still working through the 30 day fenbendazole treatment to reduce any worm burden on the puppies), B Strong (a vitamin B supplement), a probiotic (right now I’m using ProPlan FortiFlora SA), and some mother’s porridge (a cooked mixture of steel cut oats, yoghurt, goat milk, eggs and Karo syrup – this helps support lactation). She also gets a DHA supplement (Catalyst Chews), a capsule of sunflower lecithin (to help prevent mastitis) twice a day and Doc Roy’s Healthy Bones calcium/phosphorus.
  • Get puppycam set up and running
  • starting next week then I will get ready and go to work

One of them actually just about barked yesterday, so I am reassured that they really are Vallhunds. They make a wide range of noises at this age which is interesting since they can’t hear yet and likely won’t be able to hear for at least a week or two. They squeak, grunt, grumble, whine, whistle and mutter to themselves.

They have a heating pad in the middle of the box but they are almost never on it (I found this to be the case with my first litter, born in January, too). They’re usually in a loose pile (this means they are at an ideal temperature) or even spread apart (which means they are warm). You almost never see them really huddled together (which means they are cool). With my first litter I was so terrified of them getting cold that I actually overheated the box so much that Nina wouldn’t get in there with them for any length of time (I used a heat lamp then, for about two hours). Using a localized heat source UNDER the bedding means that the puppies can move on and off it as needed since they can’t internally regulate their body temperatures yet. Heat lamps, while many breeders do use them with good success, can promote dehydration and make it harder for the puppies to get away from the heat, and can also make the box uncomfortably warm for the dam. They’re also a fire hazard. So I’ll stick with my heating pad. I did just get a seedling mat with a thermostat so I will be interested to try that out. Many breeders are starting to use those instead of heating pads because they are very thin and you can get very precise temperature control.

I commented this morning as I was doing their Early Neurological Stimulation that it was like astronaut training. Only for a few seconds a day. On puppies.

This morning’s weigh in (remember at this age we want to see an average gain of 5-10% per day, but also remember that this is a spot check):

Alfa (red collar female): 444 grams (9.63 % gain)

Bravo (orange collar male): 451 grams (11.36% gain)

Charlie (yellow collar female): 408 grams (10.27% gain)

Delta (green collar male): 503 grams!! (10.31% gain)

Echo (blue collar male): 420 grams (9.09% gain)

Foxtrot (purple collar female): 478 grams (6.94% gain)

Golf (pink collar female): 496 grams (16.43% gain YOWZA)

One Week Old!

November 16th, 2020

The puppies celebrated being one week old by eating, sleeping and crawling around. Same thing they do every day, Pinky.

They are very vigorous and active, they’re really starting to motor around with some energy. They have all just about doubled their birth weights so they’re right on track. At the one week mark I stop weighing them twice a day unless I have someone I’m keeping a closer eye on, and I just weigh them in the mornings.

One week weigh-in:

Alfa (red collar female) 405 grams (birth 213 grams)

Bravo (orange collar male) 405 grams (birth 205 grams)

Charlie (yellow collar female) 370 grams (birth 173 grams)

Delta (green collar male) 456 grams WOOF (birth 220 grams)

Echo (blue collar male) 385 grams (birth 176 grams)

Foxtrot (purple collar female) 447 grams (birth 213 grams)

Golf (pink collar female) 426 grams (birth 225 grams)

Day 6!

November 15th, 2020

We got the maternal nomograph results from CAVIDS last night. It shows that the optimal time for these puppies’ first distemper/parvo vaccine is 9 weeks then 13 weeks. I will be sending home a copy of this test with each puppy, and the results will be included in the letter I send home for the puppy’s new veterinarian. Nomograph testing is some pretty cool science, it shows when the maternal antibodies will have waned enough to make vaccinating the puppies more effective (while Alice’s antibodies are still at a high level in the puppies’ bloodstreams a vaccine will not provoke the puppies’ own immune systems to create its own antibodies, which can leave the puppy less protected from disease if the maternal antibodies wear off before the next booster vaccine is given).

I am a believer in LESS vaccination, not NO vaccination, finding the happy medium between overvaccination and lack of protection. I’m really glad my repro vet and repro vet tech told me about maternal nomograph testing!

They are motoring around the box quite actively over the last day, this means that they’ve started getting themselves stuck in corners on occasion and squeaking until someone comes and rescues them. Once their eyes open in about a week they won’t get stuck anymore, but this next week between 1-2 weeks of age is when they really need someone watching them (the first week the big danger is mom lying or stepping on them, although Alice has been really careful), the second week is when they’re mobile but still can’t see or hear so they can get themselves into jams.

Today’s episode is brought to you by the letter T
This looks like a very important meeting
Alfa has feet
Bravo pins his brother Delta to win the bout
Golf blep

Here’s a cool little video where you can see the little pops and jerks that are signs of “activated sleep”, where the puppies’ nervous systems and muscles are coming online and getting a workout.

Day 5

November 14th, 2020

Orange puppy Bravo wasn’t gaining as quickly as the others (and this is relative, you really just want 5-10% per day on average and his daily averages were 7.8%, 11.3%, 13% and then 6.47%, all of which are over 5%, but he had one weigh in that was lower than I wanted as compared to the other chonks), so I got up a few times overnight to make sure he got some uncontested nursing time. It paid off and this morning he was up 14.8%! I’m used to having a couple of teeny tinies but these guys are all pretty uniform in size.

Alice is asking to go out and play fetch several times a day. She is spending some time out in the living room since yesterday (the living room is right off the puppy room so she can see and hear what’s going on in there all the time). I am in the puppy room with her most of the time though, since she really doesn’t want me away from her for any length of time (this will ease off as the puppies get older). I think it’s a bit too soon for a walk but we’ll see.

While the puppycam is up, it’s quite dull at this stage (wait until they’re a couple of weeks older and especially once they move to the big house). Right now its sleep, eat, potty, sleep, eat, potty, lather rinse repeat.

Nursing puppies (turn it up! It’s amazing how loud they are):

And this is the puppycam setup (my bed is to the left):

Everyone is handling the Early Neurological Stimulation well, it’s interesting that some are chill throughout, some don’t like the head up but don’t mind the head down, some don’t like the tactile stimulation. But the absolute consensus is that everyone hates the thermal stress part (I wet a towel, wring it out and then put it in the fridge for half an hour), I put them on the cold wet towel and you can almost hear them say “WHAT THE HELL MAN!??!?!”

This morning’s weigh in(everyone broke 300 grams today!):

Alfa (red collar female): 351 grams (213 at birth)

Bravo (orange collar male): 325 grams (205 at birth)

Charlie (yellow collar female): 302 grams (173 at birth)

Delta (green collar male): 368 grams (220 at birth)

Echo (blue collar male): 308 grams (176 at birth)

Foxtrot (purple collar female): WOOF 376 grams (213 at birth)

Golf (pink collar female): 350 grams (225 at birth)


November 13th, 2020