WEEK ONE-WEEK TWO
This wonderful litter of healthy, robust German Shepherd puppies was born unassisted over about a 7 hour period. Libby has kept very fit throughout her pregnancy and has good muscle tone to help produce steady and strong contractions. Libby is a very good mother and quickly cleans them off, working vigorously and attentively on each one to stimulate breathing. It is always amazing to watch how each puppy knows instinctively where to go as soon as the sac is burst and the umbilicus has been bitten off. Each puppy struggles to navigate around to get their fair share of the colostrum (and sometimes with not-so-gentle nudges from Libby). Being present while birthing occurs really is a marvel...and the anticipation of "how many", "what gender,colors, temperament" is somehow incredible.
It is intriguing to see how their instinctive reflexes quickly kick in and they are crawling, seeking warmth and nursing. Every now and then they are somehow turned upside down and they manage to struggle around to right themselves. During this first week their weight gain is already significant. Libby carries herself so proudly wanting to show off her "family". After all of that hard work she is fed well and given fresh water.
At this stage of life they spend about 90% of the time sleeping and the other 10% of the time eating. While the puppies sleep they appear to be jerking and twitching (called activated sleep). This is supposed to aid in the deelopment of the pup's neuromuscular systems. I'd have to say one or two of them will be developing early!
It is very relaxing to sit and listen to the little sounds they make as they nurse. For the first few days they have great difficulty regulating their body temperature so it is important to have a controlled environment as they are susceptible to changes of heat/cold.
The stages of development of the puppies are always intriguing and quite short and intense compared to human infants. During their second week, we will begin to lightly stress the puppies in a variety of ways. Their eyes should open around days 8-10.
The puppies are beginning to "walk" rather than "swim". Their eyes are now open and their ears should open this week around days 13-17. Their nails are soft and easy to trim each week. This makes the nursing easier on Libby. However, the fact that they get their upper teeth around the 18th or 19th day has become problematic for Libby with some litters. We also begin to clean their ears periodically and brush them lightly to get them accustomed to being handled in this way.
The puppies are beginning to enjoy some time outside in the exercise yard. They love the feel of the grass and new scents they are exposed to outside of the whelping shed. The puppies are now old enough to begin to lap liquid, but hopefully we can keep them nursing for a while longer. We will begin to supplement them a little this week to ease the strain on Libby. They are gaining weight quickly and getting very rolly polly. It is entertaining to see how they begin to interact with their litter mates. This brings to a close the "transitional period" of approximately 13-20 days. During this week the pups sensory organs have begun to function. Their blue-grey eyes are opened during this week but they still seem to be quite glassy-eyed. Their eye color will change to a darker color as time goes on. Most pups are closer to a month old before their eyes function at their optimum. Unlike human babies that take a very long time to transition into independent youth, these puppies within a week have gained the ability to see, hear, smell, walk and eliminate on their own.
The puppies aren't yet playing with one another but they certainly know the rest of the litter is there. I guess this would compare to "parallel play" of children. The puppies voice their distress when moved away from the litter.
At the very end of the transitional period (day 20-21) the puppies begin to show signs of being able to hear as they react to sounds around them. This year the numerous thundershowers will have been some of their earliest imprint of sound.
|By now they are much more interactive and fun for visitors to hold. We begin to introduce them to sunshine and the great Saskatchewan outdoors for brief moments. Within days they will be mobile enough to spend a little while each day outside. As they learn to move from the indoor sleeping space to "outdoors" to eliminate it helps to prepare them for house training.||
The puppies have a whelping shed in the main kennel, but we generally bring them into the house where we can enjoy them throughout the day.
Libby also prefers this arrangement so she can show off her litter to all who come to visit. The puppies are handled by many children, adults and seniors. They are exposed to usual household sights, sounds and activities.
|This litter have begun to enjoy the great outdoors. They are 3 weeks old and we let them out into the kennel yard each day. We start with very short visits and extend the time a little each day. They love to explore the feel of the grass on their padded feet.|
The puppies are mainly outdoors except at night when they go back into their heated environment. Their teeth have emerged and this is causing some issues for Libby:) So needless to say we are beginning to feed them 2- 3 times a day...very small portions to get them started - and still coaxing Libby to let them nurse. This is a very entertaining stage to watch. They are beginning to bark and their little tails look like horizontal flags blowing in a stiff breeze. They growl a little at one another and chase each other through the grass. Their legs are so much stronger this week and they show such great control. They do tire easily and often are found in one "dog pile" having a good snooze.
Libby is still with them most of the time. She has an attached large
kennel where she can jump over a half gate to get in and out of the puppy
kennel. She can also jump up onto the grooming table to get away from
puppies that are intent on nursing.
The puppies are so much more interactive with one another at this stage. They romp together as a group and love to investigate the environment outside of their kennel. They chase moving objects and love to chew on softer objects. At this stage they also begin to show the dominance order within the pack - or more accurately try to determine where they belong within the pack. They are growing very rapidly. They have an appointment booked for their vet checks, vaccinations and microchipping.
It is fascinating how puppies learn through play. They experiment with
varying body postures and vocalizations. Always watching the reactions
of their littermates (and Libby). They also learn the valuable lesson
of what it feels like to be bitten. This is believed to temper their own
bite later on. Libby does a wonderful job of teaching her puppies to mind
her. The theory is that this will help them to accept human leadership,
and therefore be easier to train.
The puppies have had their vaccinations, been dewormed, microchipped and vet checked. The veterinarian checks for ear mites, incorrect bites, stable body temperature, growths or abnormalities, mobility of each limb and heart murmurs. All puppies are healthy and active. The ride to the vet in crates disturbs them more than the actual visit.
Now each pup requires individual time and attention away from the litter for short periods of time. Their growth and development will continue, as the food amount is slightly increased -but still softened.
We have begun to take them for walks through tall grass, over crunchy leaves, gravel and cement. You can see their confidence and curiosity grow with each excursion. Now when you go near the kennel you are sure to be greeted by little faces (and voices) begging for more....