A WEEK-BY-WEEK LOOK AT WHAT'S GOING ON
Getting a new puppy is SO EXCITING...and we know, it's near torture to have to look at all those cute pictures and imagine the joy you'll feel when you finally get to pick your puppy up and meet them for the first time! In an effort to make the waiting a little easier, we thought we'd give you a little info on what the puppies are doing each week from the time they're born until the time they can finally come home with you! Each week is incredibly important to their development, and we're excited to share more with you!
JUMP TO WEEK:
WEEK ONE - THE JOURNEY BEGINS
When all goes well, the first week or so of the puppies' lives is fairly uneventful and is mostly colored by eating, sleeping, and well...to put it nicely, practicing using their digestive systems! Their mommas are their main caretakers during this week of their lives. Unless there is a puppy that needs extra care, this includes feeding their babies and making sure they are clean and safe. It's kind of gross, but this means they stimulate their puppies to go to the bathroom...and then eat it. Was that TMI? Sorry if it was, but that's actually their instinct and is helpful to replenish the mother's nutrients post-whelping.
However, we still have a BIG part in raising the puppies at this stage! Our team closely monitors the puppies' growth with two or three daily weigh-ins to ensure puppies are gaining an appropriate amount of weight each day. We are also constantly ensuring that their momma's are provided with everything they need to feel happy and safe with their brand new babies. Often times, this means providing the mommas with plenty of fresh water and yummy, calcium-rich mix-ins to their food to ensure that they are producing enough milk for their puppies. Our employees are also constantly monitoring the moms' lactation to ensure we are clear of any post whelping infections. A healthy momma means healthy babies!
If we have a puppy who is struggling this week, we know it is likely in critical condition and gets round-the-clock care by our experienced whelping team. This often includes tube feeding, very frequent weigh-ins, constant monitoring, and visits to the vet's office when needed. Unfortunately, because the puppies are so young, there are few diagnostics that the vet can run. We've handled more newborns than many doctors, and are lucky to work very closely (like, we just text the doctors instead of call nowadays!) if we have any issue with our puppies. In many cases, we're able to prevent a potentially dire situation. JLDD is proud to boast our mortality rate in our puppies is FAR below the standard for breeders worldwide due to our commitment to each puppy we choose to bring into the world.
We also start the puppies with ENS this week, which is short for early neurological stimulation. This is basically a practice we use to begin breaking the puppies into sensory development and recovery. We know it seems scary to do this to puppies so young, but it's been proven to produce happier, healthier, and more well rounded dogs! It consists of holding the puppies upside down, right side up, on their backs, and using a cool compress on their paws for about 5 seconds on each position. Each day, we can see them getting more and more comfortable with these practices. Every puppy in this litter will be receiving this practice daily until they're a little over 2 weeks old.
Now that the puppies are in their second week of life, things are usually fairly well stabilized with them. Most of the time, puppies have more than doubled their birth weights by this time as they spend most of their time eating, sleeping, pottying, snuggling...and then doing it all over again all day, every day!
Their mommas still spend most of their time snuggling in their box with their little ones, taking breaks regularly to cool off from their warm box and have some yummy, calcium rich snacks to support their milk supply. When puppies are this young, they actually cannot regulate their own body temperatures, so it’s up to us to ensure that they have the heat sources they need to stay nice and toasty, which makes them more apt to keep their hearty appetites - which is VERY necessary at this point in their lives! The vitamins and antibodies that they are gaining from their mothers’ milk during this period of their lives are incredibly important to the puppies’ development. The puppies are also born with both their eyes and ears sealed shut, so they can’t hear or see anything we do at this point. However, their senses are incredibly strong and they can almost always find a heat source or their mothers. Sometimes, we find ourselves whispering to them and then thinking to ourselves - wait a minute, they can’t hear me. What am I even doing? Ha!
While we’re usually out of the ‘danger zone’ of losing puppies at this point, our team is dutifully still doing two daily weigh-ins, both in the morning and during the evening to ensure that each and every puppy is growing at an appropriate pace. As aforementioned, puppies are generally at least twice their birth weight at this point and are getting ADORABLY chunky! It’s so much fun to see them growing both physically, and mentally. We know it seems silly to say that they’re growing mentally already, but their ENS this week is already showing massive improvements from last week. The puppies are reacting less to the stimuli we’re creating for them, and are ALREADY on their way to becoming excellent best friends for their future owners. We can’t wait to start seeing their little personalities emerge in the next couple of weeks!
Week three is one of our FAVORITE weeks in puppy development! It’s absolutely amazing to watch the puppies that could previously only scoot around on their bellies now start getting their little legs under then and start pushing up onto their tiny paws and begin to toddle around their whelping box. These steps are never very graceful, but they are some of the cutest that you’ll ever lay eyes on! Puppies are starting to find their voices, and sometimes we get to see them practicing their extra fierce barks and growls! The puppies are already beginning to establish pack order at this point, and we sometimes even catch them barking and charging at one another! Again, the cutest thing you’ll ever see - but it also plays a massive role in the puppies’ personalities on a long term basis. More dominant puppies who are willing to charge their littermates are at the beginning stages of jockeying for the coveted ‘pack leader’ position, and others who are more laid back will remain in the middle or lower end of the pack. However, don’t be too worried about this just yet - there are still SO many changes to come!
During this time, puppies’ eyes and ears are also opening - so they are seeing and hearing the world for the very first time. Things are a little fuzzy on both spectrums for them during this week, but as time passes, they will see and hear more clearly. Since puppies are getting a little older, our team is now able to do a bit more of our puppy culture protocol to start enhancing their first experiences with sight and sound. It’s up to us to make sure that they begin having a positive experience with the sites and sounds that will be a part of their lives on a long-term basis early on. This week, we either turn on a television or radio in their whelping room to ensure that this is a familiar sound for them, and if need be, can serve as a source for self-soothing later on in life. They also begin experiencing ‘normal’ household sounds such as babies crying and birds chirping.
Although often times we start it before the puppies are three weeks old, this week marks the official beginning of our puppies’ crate training protocol. We won’t bore you with the details, but it starts with all the puppies being crated together in one crate while their whelping box is being thoroughly cleaned and sanitized, and then puppies are slowly broken into less crates for longer periods until they are in individual crates. Starting the puppies on their crate training early makes this a natural part of their lives and makes their transition into their forever homes that much easier when the time comes!
“Weaning Week”, as we lovingly label week four of the puppies’ lives is where the fun REALLY begins! This week, we begin assisting our mommas with weaning their puppies from their milk on to solid food! Some of our mommas LOVE this week as they’re kind of tired of having to stay cooped up with their puppies, which means less time for playing with their friends! Others aren’t as fond of it, and just want to stay with their pups and continue doting on them. However, whichever end of the spectrum the mom is on, she is ALWAYS happy to clean up her puppies’ ‘puppy mush’ leftovers!
All of our puppies are started on ‘puppy mush’ at their four week birthday. Naturally, about this age this is when their mothers would start weaning them - so we follow suit! So, “what’s in puppy mush?” you might ask! Well, it’s a lovely combination of:
1.) Puppy food
(the same food their mom was started on when she found out she was expecting!)
2.) Warm water
(similar to the temperature of their mother’s fresh milk)
(Because let’s be honest - new foods don’t always go the best for anyone!)
4.) NuVet Powder
(This is our #1 favorite vitamin that all of our dogs get year round! PLEASE make sure your puppy stays on it their whole life, too! ORDER HERE!)
You guys - it’s not pretty when it’s made, and it definitely doesn’t smell even a little bit good to us humans...but the puppies L O V E I T ! From the start, smaller litters usually aren’t as into it as bigger litters as they’re not used to having to compete with their siblings for food. However, day by day, we see all of the puppies start to eagerly lap it up when they see their food! The first feeding of ‘puppy mush’ is usually pretty watery and closely resembles the consistency of their mothers’ milk. Twice every day, about 9am and 7pm, based on the amount food to water ratio the puppies ate for their previous meal, our team continues to thicken the mixture to reflect more food and less water until they’re on hard kibble when they go home at 8 weeks.
Speaking of food and vitamins, another VERY popular and necessary question we get is that of what type of food and vitamins the puppies are getting. All of our puppies and dogs get NuVet Vitamins EVERY single day. Many companies have contacted us offering us vitamins to try - and we have refused all but these. We have seen vast improvements in our dogs’ overall health, as well as that of the puppies. During this stage of their lives while they’re not all the way vaccinated, it serves as a potent immune booster to improve their overall health. As they grow, it will assist in supporting healthy growth and development of their bone structures and bodies. Its benefits change with your dog and it’s different needs throughout its life. And…the best part is that THEY LOVE IT! We highly recommend starting your puppy on these vitamins NOW and continuing them throughout their lives!
Going along with weaning is POTTY TRAINING! Naturally, our moms stop cleaning up after the puppies around this time, and we start limiting their time nursing their puppies to ensure a safe weaning for both mom and puppies. We introduced potty pads last week, but this week they start transitioning to wood chips. We start them by having only two areas of their whelping box - sleeping or potty! Naturally, they don’t want to potty where they sleep (who does?!) so they begin to make the association relatively quickly. As they learn, we start giving them more and more space to play and relax. The wood chips help puppies start to associate "outside smells" (like wood) with pottying outside!
Additionally, this week we are getting to have more fun than ever with our puppy culture protocols! We are spending time with each puppy individually doing different challenges every day and getting a better feel for how they react to the new, exciting world around them. We introduce more toys this week as well, and personalities are really beginning to emerge! We can’t wait to see what’s next!
This week in the puppies’ development is a lot of building on what they’ve experienced in the last week. Their weaning is extremely important in this time period, both for the puppies and for their mommas. Naturally, the mommas start to be more at ease spending more time away from their puppies around this time, as they know they are getting nutrients from a source besides her! When she does come in for a visit with her puppies, there is some serious almost attack-suckling going on! The puppies act like this will be their last meal ever from her - but most mommas don’t stop feeding their babies all together until they are between 6 and 7 weeks old. You know what’s extra gross? Lots of times, the mommas will go into the puppies’ pens and vomit up their own food for the puppies to eat. Gross, right? We guess it was the best thing they could come up with as far as puppy mush in the wild! What’s even grosser is how tasty the puppies think it is! YUCK!!
Puppies are also doing a lot of exploring their world and playing at this point in their lives. When they begin weaning, we move them from their whelping box into a bigger pen that has a lot of fun items to play with and explore - as well as a potty area for them to begin to start using. Each day, they get new toys added that are different textures or make different sounds so that they can continue learning about the world around them! Every day, during our puppy culture protocol, they hear new sounds and interactions that they will experience when they go out into the world in just a few short weeks!
Individual time with the puppies is getting more and more fun as they are really becoming more interactive on a daily basis. They are so funny and love to run at us and do the cutest little puppy barks and growls! So ferocious! Our staff members are always excited to do individual time with the puppies at this age and see their minds expanding before our eyes every day. They are also being encouraged to sleep in a crate nightly, which is just a crate in their pen which we carefully ensure has the most bedding and soft things to sleep on! This way, we form a positive association with the puppies and their crates from an early age...which makes it easier on you, their pawrent when they come home! They are also spending increased amounts of time in their kennels individually at this point, which again should make the transition to your homes MUCH easier!