[pdf version] It’s 4 a.m., and there are 10 Weimaraners in my bedroom. It’s times like these that I wonder what I was thinking.
I have owned Weims for 12 years and took the leap from “dog lover” to “dog breeder” after seven years. That first litter was filled with every emotion imaginable, and I feel incredible satisfaction watching as those tiny puppies have turned into happy, well-adjusted family members.
The decision to do it again was not an easy one and started as mental gymnastics years ago.
I have tough criteria for my dogs and made sure that when I got my last puppy she came from bloodlines that I knew and liked. As Macy grew, I liked what I saw, and other people did too. Macy was campaigned in field trials across the country, and true to her pedigree, she started placing in every trial she was entered in. As the ribbons kept coming in, I kept adding to the laundry list of things I LOVED about this dog. And to be sure there are qualities I would change, but the list is short!
So I continued to strictly evaluate her and discussed her merits (and faults!) with my mentors, trainers, peers and respected Weim breeders. Eventually I considered that Macy could be an asset to our breed in many, many ways and started scheduling all her health tests.
Many breeders record their health test results in the CHIC database. CHIC is the Canine Health Information Center, a centralized health database for purebred dogs.
In Weimaraners, the recommended health clearances include testing for the following:
Hip Dysplasia – HD is a genetic disease where dogs have abnormal hip joint structure that usually results in arthritis and pain. Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) or PennHIP evaluations done by a veterinarian and submitted for evaluation will “rate” hips. The cost is approximately $50 for the vet exam, $100 for the X-ray, and $25 film submission, for a total of approximately $200. I also did PennHIP so my total cost ended up being $250 since anesthesia is required for this test.
Eye Clearance – Eye examination by a board certified Ophthalmologist is required for a Canine Eye Reigstry Foundation (CERF) clearance . The cost was approximately $50 for the exam by a specialist and another $12 to submit to CERF.
Autoimmune Thryoiditis – Thyroiditis is caused by a hormonal deficiency which results in a myriad of symptoms. Testing is done by a blood draw and results are submitted to the OFA. The cost was approximately $50 for the vet visit, $50 for lab costs, and another $15 for OFA submission, for a total of approximately $115.
Hyperuricosuria – This inherited condition causes elevated uric acid which in turn can cause bladder or kidney stones. UC Davis has a genetic test to determine the presence of the gene. The cost of the test was approximately $58 and required a cheek swab that you can do yourself at home and mail to UC Davis for evaluation.
Hypomyelination- This is also called “Shaky Puppy” and like the Hyperuricosuria test, can be done at home with a cheek swab and mailed to UC Davis to determine the presence of the gene. The cost of the genetic test was approximately $58.
I also did a Brucella Canis test – This is a sexually transmitted disease. A simple blood exam was needed at $25 to be sure we were safe!
Up to this point, I was “in” about $568 just for the health testing.
Even though I knew Macy’s line well and felt that the chances of “failing” one of her tests was slim, genetics can still hand you an unexpected card. Macy had always been routinely seen by the vet and declared healthy, but these tests were looking for hidden problems in the genes. And while there is no way to have 100% guarantees, I wanted to utilize every test and have as much knowledge as I could about the health of my dogs.
I was ready to pull the plug and chalk the cost up to “that’s life” if she had failed any one of her tests. Hey, spayed girls have their benefits too!
A few weeks later, her health tests came back great, and the matchmaking began. I called Macy’s breeder as well as the owners of some of the influential dogs in her pedigree to examine the details of the health history, temperament, work ethic, conformation and everything else in the dogs behind her.
I ended up on a dog that lived across the country. His abilities and physical traits complemented hers nicely and both dogs had stable, easygoing temperaments. He was proven in both the show ring and in the field, and all his health clearances were already in place. Good! In addition, the dogs in both pedigrees also seemed to go well together in other breedings, and there would be enough diversity in the puppies’ pedigree. The stud fee was the standard price of a puppy, or $1,200 at the time.
There was one problem with my plan. The stud dog was older and already neutered! Thanks to modern technology, we were able to do a frozen semen breeding using artificial insemination.
So circumstances dictated additional costs. I had to arrange for the stud dog’s semen to be over-nighted to my vet for artificial insemination surgery. The shipping cost was approximately $200. Four progesterone tests to pinpoint the timing of Macy’s ovulation (We didn’t want to miss the window when using frozen semen!) was another $200. The artificial insemination surgery itself was $1,200. Finally the gas and incidentals to arrange this came to about $150, for a total of $2,950 including the stud fee.
With $3,518 spent at this point, we still didn’t know if Macy was pregnant! So I wait. And then more waiting. Is she? Or isn’t she? I tried not to get too excited, but I thought she was acting a bit different, maybe clingier, maybe a little bit thicker around the waist? At 27 days, I took her to Virginia Tech for an ultrasound… and we saw little heartbeats! The daydreaming can officially begin! The vet thought that there were six puppies, with the possibility of another hiding up under her ribs. I was happy with that! My next little superstar was in there, and maybe she would be even better than her mama!
In addition to daydreaming, the work started. I dragged out the whelping box and set it up in the bedroom. I started gathering puppy toys and thinking about all the things I would do with these little guys. I also reviewed some of my books to pass the time and to relieve some of the excitement and anticipation! My favorites are Myra Savant-Harris’ Canine Reproduction And Whelping and of course Weimaraner Ways, but nothing makes me feel better than knowing my mentors are near the phone if I need some support!
As the weeks went on, my girl got bigger and bigger!
Dogs are pregnant on average for 63 days from ovulation, and since I did a series of progesterone tests, I knew exactly when ovulation had occurred. That made prediction fairly easy so I would be ready on whelping day.
Whelping day arrived…and nothing! Apparently she didn’t get the memo that we were expecting puppies! She was eating with gusto but otherwise acting like an expectant mom, digging here and there, pacing now and then in between sleeping like a log. The puppies were kicking and rolling around, I couldn’t wait to meet them!
While I waited I updated my expense sheet. Thankfully I was able to cut some expenses on this litter since I had some supplies from the previous litter. Still the expenses at this point now soared to almost $3,618 including the ultrasound we had done.
Macy had always been a very cooperative girl, so I shouldn’t have been surprised when she went into labor around 10 a.m. instead of the middle of the night like most bitches. The first puppy was a girl. I scrambled to get a colored ribbon on her, and she officially became “Purple girl.” She arrived kicking and squealing and latched on for her breakfast before I could even cut the cord. She weighed 8 oz., on the small side of normal for a Weimaraner pup.
A good breeder identifies each puppy in some way so they can keep accurate records on them. This can be tricky with a breed that is mostly one color like Weims! I like to use different colored ribbons in the beginning. Each puppy must be weighed daily to make sure they are gaining weight.
Within the next hour, Macy delivered two more girls and a boy. I needed more hands!! “Green girl,” “Black boy,” and “Pink girl” joined their sister, latching on immediately. Talk about vigorous puppies!
Macy took a break to nap, love on her puppies, and eat a chicken, two boiled eggs, a bowl of dog food, and some yogurt. This girl definitely has no problem with her appetite! Two hours later two more puppies joined the pack, a boy and a girl. “Orange boy” and “Teal girl” were now members of the family, equally squirmy and loud as their littermates. Remember how I mentioned how cooperative Macy is? We needed two boys and four girls to make our puppy owners happy…and got just the right combo! What a girl!
Everything settled down for a while, and the puppies got their fill of colostrum. Puppies need to nurse the first 12-24 hours because that is when the milk is not really milk—it’s packed full of antibodies from mom and helps boost the puppies’ immune system. Their juvenile digestive tract is capable at this age of absorbing very large molecules that are present in mom’s colostrum that they cannot absorb when they get older. After a day or so, the puppies began to get actual milk from mom, and wow did she need to eat to produce it! Macy was eating six cups of food a day for the first weeks in order to keep up milk production to feed her brood.
Early evening came and I decided it was time to clean up the whelping room. Delivering puppies makes a mess! I took the time to notify all my puppy owners that they would be getting a puppy and everyone celebrated. I returned to find a familiar scene… puppies scattered and Macy having contractions!
Remember our ultrasound only showed six puppies? We also took an X-ray a week prior to her whelping date (it won’t hurt the puppies this late in development) and the X-ray only showed five with a possibility of six!? In about thirty more minutes we had two more puppies. “Red girl” and “Brown boy” joined the party, kicking and screaming from the get-go. And now we had a true party of eight! I hoped we were done!
Everyone settled again. All the puppies were quietly nursing, but Macy wouldn’t seem to settle. Calcium can help with contractions so I gave her a calcium supplement. She was also having intermittent contractions and seemed a little scared, climbing in my lap for reassurance. After about two hours with no more puppies, we decided a trip to the emergency Vet was in order. Just to be sure everything was okay. The list of complications from whelping a litter is astounding!
So I packed everyone up for the road trip. Eight puppies in a large Tupperware storage container with microwaved hot packs on either end. Puppies can die quickly in the first week if they aren’t kept warm enough. I brought towels in case I had to deliver a puppy on the road…and off we went!
I called ahead and the vet took Macy back quickly to get another X-ray. I stayed in the car with the puppies while my husband took Macy — she surely didn’t want to leave her babies! I needed to be super careful about exposing young puppies to anything in the first weeks of their lives as their immune systems have not developed yet. The X-ray showed nothing left inside of Macy, and a physical exam confirmed what the X-ray showed. Retained puppies or placentas can be a problem and I also worried about mom just getting tired after whelping a large litter and not being able to push out any more puppies. Luckily neither of these things were the case, and the vet explained that it was likely that she was still contracting because she had a large litter and they were nursing so vigorously, which stimulates contractions. He said she was the picture of health for a post-partum mom. So back home we went, happy to have avoided any complications thus far! But always better safe than sorry… even though the latest vet trip added another $300 to our tally (One X-ray a week prior to whelp, and a second X-ray after whelping at $125 each, plus the vet visit and exam was $50). If you are keeping track, we are now at $3,918 in expenses!
Back home, the puppies were happy to be back with mom. She gathered her brood happily around her and drifted off to sleep. We had a long day, so had a celebratory toast. I curled up next to the whelping box and it was my turn to sleep, the murmurs of happy puppies in the background. Amazingly, I didn’t hear a peep all night. We were off to a great start!
The birth went perfectly and it was topped off with an amazing first night with puppies. Macy is proving herself to be an exceptional mother and I can hardly believe that my goofy sweet girl is not only amazing in so many ways but also an incredible mommy! What luck!
The first week of a puppy’s life is extremely critical and while mom has a big job, a breeder has a big one, too. The larger the litter, the harder the work! Puppies need to be kept warm, because they cannot regulate their body temperature at all in the first week. So the A/C vents in my whelping room (aka my spare bedroom) are closed and I fired up a space heater in May. I am a warm-weather-lover but even I am uncomfortable! The puppies love it! However, if they are too warm, it can also be dangerous, since they have trouble cooling off.
Mom and pups have to be under close watch the first few days to make sure that she is showing all the right maternal instincts, and if not, the breeder must step in. Puppies can’t even go to the bathroom by themselves in the first weeks! Their mom has to stimulate them by licking them — and if mom doesn’t do it? The breeder has to — with a warm washcloth, of course!
Another danger with larger breeds is crushing a tiny puppy by accident. Macy’s puppies are all well under a pound and she could easily crush them. She often climbs in the whelping box and gives me a look like “but there are SO many!” before settling in. It can’t be a quick spin and plop, that’s for sure! Often with larger litters mom just can’t keep track of all of them, and if they crawl under a blanket she may not hear them crying.
I was very lucky in the first week, since Macy turned out to be a terrific mom from the very beginning. There were a few tense moments where she learned that she could carry her puppies around. Nothing more worrisome than seeing your girl with a tiny squealing puppy hanging out of her mouth! I should not have been surprised, great carrier of everything that Macy is, that she would also carry her puppies around! Portable puppies, how fun! I had to move my cot from the whelping room on day two as she kept moving all of her pups to “my” bed. And so it became that I slept on the floor for the entire first week…
Pups should double their birth weight in the first week. That means that Macy has to increase her food intake as well to produce enough milk for the puppies Talk about a lot of eating! Macy is eating about 6 cups of food, about double of what she normally gets, plus extra goodies since it was such a big litter. Additional food costs have now increased our budget by $200, about $100 per month extra.
A conscientious breeder should make sure that there is not a “runt” of the litter. Puppies may be different sizes as adults and vary slightly at 8 weeks when they go home, but it’s the breeder’s job to make sure that each pup is getting a turn at the “dinner table” and nobody is getting bullied.
On day three I notice that my “Teal girl” is not gaining quite as much as the others (although still gaining more than 5% of her body weight daily!) Instead of supplementing, I decide to be extra vigilant about making sure that she gets enough to eat and isn’t getting bullied at mealtime. She’s eating often, latching well, and appears very vigorous. She even crawls over to her siblings and tries to knock them off a boob! But she is now only a bit over half the size of some of them and just not able to throw her weight around. Every chance I get, I put her in a prime location, and wake her up if she’s fallen asleep while dining, as she’s apt to do. Whether picking up on my concern or something she knew about this puppy, Macy often brings me “Teal girl.” I’ll be watching TV in another room (Oh, what a blessed break to be off the floor and out of the inferno!!) and in would walk Macy, carting “Teal girl…” I still don’t know why she does it, but the maternal instinct these dogs have is pretty amazing.
On day three, I dock tails and remove dewclaws. At this age, puppies’ nervous system is not fully developed yet. (Many faculties aren’t developed yet; for example, they are unable to eliminate on their own, and their eyes and ears won’t even open for another couple of weeks!)
Many breeders prefer to dock tails and remove dewclaws at home. There is less stress on the mom and pups if they aren’t removed from the home, and there is less chance of picking up something from the vet’s office. (Despite how clean they are, it is a high doggy traffic place!) Timing can be an issue as well, if day three falls on a weekend or holiday. Finally, your vet may or may not be an expert on docking Weimaraner tails.
With the help of another Weimaraner breeder, we measure — then re-measure! — and then dock tails ourselves. We also remove their dew claws. As future hunting companions, doing both is an injury prevention measure!
From the puppy’s third day until they are sixteen days old, we will do exercises — once a day — that are designed to optimally stress their developing nervous system. Called the “Bio-Sensor” or “Super Dog” program, the US Military designed a set of daily puppy exercises that serve to increase cardiovascular performance, make adrenal glands more efficient, create more stress tolerance, and provide disease resistance as an adult. Does it work? Breeders of performance dogs across the country have started doing it, and it certainly can’t hurt!
All of this is well and good, but what if something goes wrong? What if mom doesn’t do her job? Puppies must be fed every two to three hours, and each one must be made to eliminate by rubbing their bottoms with a warm washcloth. Mom keeps the whelping box spotless the first few weeks, but if she doesn’t do this? What a mess! Can you imagine a litter of eight, or nine, or even four puppies if mom didn’t do her job? Puppies screaming because they are cold or hungry or need to potty or maybe a combo of all three? You can’t feed a chilled puppy because they will get sick. Mom knows this and will cuddle them before feeding, but we have no instinct about this as even a 96 degree puppy (dangerously cold!) feels warm to our hands. Can you imagine waking up every two to three hours to manage puppies? And if it’s a large litter, by the time you’re finished one group it’s time for the next group… a mothers’ work is never done.
And if mother doesn’t do her work, it’s YOUR job!
In Week two lots of changes are going on in the puppies. This is still technically the “neonatal period” for the puppies, and they rely on their mother (or breeder!) for warmth, food, and elimination. They are crawling around pretty well at the end of this stage of development, although my puppies came out of the birth canal ready to escape their whelping box and have been climbing like monkeys since day one.
Puppies are growing rapidly during this stage, spending most of their time eating and sleeping. Their sleep consists of “activated sleep” where they twitch and growl and bark. EEGs done on tiny puppies show that their brain waves look the same when they are awake or asleep during these first two weeks.
Their eyes will open towards the end of week two as well, and you can see perfect little eyelashes. I am beginning to see my puppies “blink” although their eyes are still closed. They are interacting with each other and sucking on body parts. They have an incredible sucking reflex and I can lift them off the ground while they are sucking on a finger! A few puppies are now able to support their bodies off the ground for a few seconds using their stubby legs—a precursor to walking.
I am starting to see personalities emerge and taking notes about how they behave in the whelping box. If a pup falls under a blanket, does he make noise, or just figure it out himself? If a pup gets pushed off a boob, does she quietly relocate, or kick and scream until she gets the same boob back? How does Macy react to all this? Are there are pups who are emerging as loners?
I begin cutting each puppy’s toenails around a week of age. They get sharp and can cut Macy while they are eating. That’s 128 toenails! I pay attention to how each pup reacts and will continue to note how well they accept this handling. I am getting them used to the sound and feel of the nail grinder on their little toes.
I’m going to use this time to catch up on paperwork—it’s easy to forget! I contact the WCA Futurity Administrator to let her know that we had eight puppies and I will need eight copies of the rulebook to include in my puppy booklet. I will be registering my puppies with the AKC as well as the North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association and since we did a frozen semen breeding we can’t register the litter online. I mail the paperwork to the AKC after making copies of everything with signatures; you can’t be too careful! NAVHDA also requires that the vet who inseminated Macy signs some paperwork, so I have to fax paperwork to her and have her return it to me. I will register the litter after they are registered with AKC, so I have to keep really good records.
I take care of all the paperwork including the registration fees for the first year for my puppy buyers. While the individual fees are not costly, they do add up! The WCA Futurity forfeit is $35, plus $30 for each puppy. AKC registration is $30 per puppy ($240 for eight puppies), NAVHDA registration is $20 per puppy ($160 for eight puppies), for a total of $675. The grand total is now $4,593.
I set up a picture page on my website and started updating this almost daily, along with corresponding with my puppy people on a regular basis. The questions were coming fast and furious as everyone realized that their puppy was only a few short weeks from coming home! Six of my puppies were to be going out of state, each of them requiring an airplane ride to get to their destination. Talk about a lot of logistics to work out!
I also return to work full time this week. “Full time” for me is only three days a week since in real life I’m a nurse. I have severe separation anxiety from my puppies! I make arrangements for someone to come by the house and check on Macy and her babies every few hours and so far so good. She’s being an exceptional mommy in every way possible!
All of my puppies are gaining weight really well, but a few are still quite a bit smaller than the others. I have to make sure that they aren’t getting bullied and are eating enough. I spend almost all of my time at home in the bedroom with the puppies, watching, taking notes, and checking things out. It looks like everyone is eating well and nobody is really dominating the “dinner table.” All the puppies are gaining weight proportionally. Just to be safe, I separate them into groups of four for feeding time when I can. I’m sure this is easier for Macy, too!
I haven’t seen my husband for a week… I suppose he’s still around?
This week I have two friends who also had litters, and they don’t go quite as well as mine did. Both of them are well-planned litters with long lists of puppy people waiting for their “dream pup.” One of them ended in an emergency C-section with half of the litter dying. Mom and the remaining pups are doing well, but it was a tense day or so. The other litter was a first-time mom who accidentally rolled on a pup and the pup couldn’t be saved. All it takes is a few seconds of looking away when the litter is large and the mom is new. There is nothing harder than losing a puppy before its life begins—except perhaps having to shatter a family’s dreams when you tell them that they won’t be getting their puppy. Both cases are reminders that breeding is a risk for both mom and pups.
At day 11 my little pup hits one pound and my biggest one hits two pounds. Guess I’m not being good enough about fighting off the fatties!
As I’m writing a few pups are taking their first real steps. It’s day 12 and their eyes aren’t open quite yet, but they are definitely walking. They look like tiny lizards, picking their feet way up in the air! I hope they open their eyes before they can walk any faster!
The third week is sort of the end of the “hamster phase” and the beginning of the “early dog” phase. All sorts of familiar dog behaviors begin to emerge. Puppies start to play with each other. Their tongues flatten and we can begin letting them experiment with a mix of softened puppy food. Talk about a mess! I tried it for the first time when pups were 19 days old. My bigger puppies quickly located the food and ate their body weight in no time flat. Some of the smaller pups played in it and took a few laps but seemed unsure. One puppy ran around the ex-pen sniffing—she was sure there was something good! I took notes carefully and will continue to do so.
My hips and legs are killing me from sitting in the whelping box for 2-1/2 weeks!
Most of my puppies are now startling to a loud sound. That means that their ears are open. The radio that sits in their room is now on almost all the time. My puppies might end up liking rap music, but they will surely be used to strange noise!
I set up another ex-pen in the living room and pups will take turns a few times a day in the living room. They will get used to different noises on TV and regular household noises. I have put all kinds of novel things in their ex-pen although they are only just becoming aware of their surroundings. The stuffed dog is a hit and they are mouthing all over it and using it to prop themselves on as they sleep.
They won’t be able to see like an adult dog until around four weeks, so you can see them taking a while to look into things. My puppies seem to be using their noses to explore more than anything else!
The pups are starting to go potty on their own, and my guys are crawling off their dog bed to go potty already. I put some newspaper down to encourage them to go on the paper. This is the first step to housebreaking them. Mom continues to clean up after them, and she’s doing an awesome job. The whelping box is spotless.
Personalities continue to emerge and this is where the note-taking really gets important. Some pups explore, others tend to watch, some are loners, others like to stick with the group more. Certain pups are starting to seek me out when I sit in their ex-pen, maybe they are seeking social interaction or perhaps they just see better than the others. The answers will emerge in the next weeks!
Then I notice that one of my boys is limping on one of his rear legs and decide to watch it as he has full range of movement and it doesn’t seem painful for him. The next morning he’s still limping, although it isn’t as bad. With a large litter he could have easily been stepped on and I worry about soft tissue injury, so I make an appointment with my vet to make sure there’s nothing sinister going on. All sorts of terrible scenarios go through my mind and I pray that it’s nothing horrible. It’s probably nothing…
I’m still taking pictures and updating my puppy people. They’re getting awfully excited now!
By Week four, the puppies will be able to see as well as an adult dog. They continue to hone their walking skills, and they play more and more. They are reliably using the paper to go potty and accidents are only because they miss: front legs on the paper but business end off or because they won’t stay in one place to potty. The pups are working out their pecking order, and as a breeder I’m watching. As a puppy lover, I think their growls and wrestling moves are adorable!
We took little male who was limping to the vet when it didn’t improve and all of his littermates were walking well—I was worried about something congenital but hoping it was just because he had gotten stepped on. Easy to do with a large and squirmy litter even when mom is careful!
After the youngest hip x-rays ever (but the same cost!) we have a clean bill of health, and the expected “just watch it and come back if it doesn’t get any better.” There were no non-narcotic painkillers or anti-inflammatories that they could give to a two-pound puppy at that age. So I launched a physical therapy quest! My puppy got stretched, massaged, and warm water therapy in the bathtub. It’s now a few days later and to watch him run around you couldn’t tell that he ever had an injury! Still, the unexpected visit ended up costing $300.
The puppies are eating softened puppy food at this point, probably half of their intake is coming from mom now. Ideally I would wait another week to really start weaning them, but Macy told me it was time. And eight pups is a lot to feed! So the mess begins a week earlier than I want it to. Macy cleans up after them and is cleaning them well, but there is plenty left over for me to clean, too. She doesn’t watch them as closely in week four, and I want to catch any pee and poop before it gets stepped in or smeared around. Yuck! So it is now my job to keep the whelping box/ex-pen spotless. If I don’t do it, the pups won’t learn that they like their “home” clean. I’m going through paper towels and cleaner faster than you could imagine. My washing machine is exhausted!
I introduce my puppies to the crate this week by putting their “favorite” bed inside a crate. They take to it immediately. I’ve taken the door off and the pups can come and go as they please, but will hopefully start to associate the crate and den-like atmosphere with their littermates and good memories. Every morning I find all eight pups curled up inside their crate, snoozing happily.
This week the pups get to go outside for the first time. The weather has been terrible here — rain and unseasonably cold! But we finally get a break and my pups get to feel the sunshine for the first time. They aren’t sure what to think about my backyard, but Macy helps them see that this is a good place by letting them nurse outside. She basks in the sun and the pups are in heaven! Her timing is perfect, and the pups will hopefully associate their first trip outside with their littermates, their mom, and a yummy meal. They have to eat quickly, these days though!
The rest of the week brings passing showers and thunderstorms. I get the pups outside as much as I possibly can and they get more and more into it. They love the feel of the grass and they apparently love the taste, too. One day we have a nice breeze going and my pups just enjoy sitting in the sun, taking in the smells. Future bird dogs learning about their noses!
We have two very rainy days this week and I spend them carting pups around in the car. First I put four of them in the crate, then two, then I carry them one-by-one in my lap for a ride. For their individual rides, I take them places that I can carry them into—the post office, the packaging store, my brother’s ski and climbing shop.
They are starting to carry toys around so I begin putting different toys in their ex-pen. They aren’t so much playing with the toys yet as they are just exploring their environment. I am starting to see stalking behavior even at this young age. Their eyes aren’t well developed yet and they won’t see as well as an adult dog for another week or two and it’s clear that their depth perception just isn’t there. They swat at each other and attempt to pounce, only to fall over because their object of attack is really a foot away. Cute!
They start really enjoying their walking legs and they are climbing all over the place. I have a couple things for them to climb on in their ex-pen in the living room, and a few of them really love walking up and down the little teeter totter, making each end hit the ground. Macy has been a climber since the day she came home, and I wonder if these pups who are even now honing their balancing skills will have that skill!? The pups interact with me much more now and are seeking human contact — I am loving the eye contact. They come to greet me when I sit in their box, licking my hands and trying to get to my face. Their personalities are really coming out now!
Everyone is eager to visit, but I don’t allow visitors until the pups are about four weeks old. I ask everyone to take their shoes off before coming in the house. My biggest worry is tracking in some disease from their shoes!
This isn’t the time I let prospective owners choose their puppies, but I use it as a time to talk to them about expectations and to answer questions. Admittedly most of the time we just coo over the adorable puppies!
I’m still trimming nails each week and getting pups used to the Dremel. And of course every evening we give each pup plenty of cuddles!
I’m in heaven. Eight four-and-a-half-week-old puppies wiggle into my lap, all vying for the “best” spot. They squirm and crane their necks to get to my face and lick my hands. I reward their eye contact with a cuddle, kissing their noses and inhaling puppy breath. They seem fascinated by my face at this age.
I feel their puppy needles on my fingers and toes. They lick my hands and my chin. Their tiny sharp claws need to be trimmed (again?!) and they rake my skin as they climb up my arms, pulling at my pants leg. Their warm fur and roly poly bellies are perfectly puppy.
I hear contended sucking on bellies, quail calling to each other from their pen in my backyard, songbirds in the trees…sounds of dawn. The faint happy grumbles of full bellies, Macy snoring from her perch that overlooks the ex-pen.
It’s 4:45 a.m. and this moment of puppy bliss didn’t come easily. I’ve been up for almost two hours, rudely awakened by my nine-week-old-puppy wailing about the injustices of her crate. This woke my other puppies and so my morning began. I cleaned eight puppy poops and took the big dogs outside.
I fed everyone. The big dogs eat in their crates, and the little puppies eat in their ex-pen, each in individual dishes now. I fend off the big dogs so they don’t eat the puppies’ food. While they eat, I go take the nine-week-old puppy out and play a quick game of chase—she chases me! She’s learning her name and the “here!” command.
I come back in and the pups have finished eating, and Macy hops in the ex-pen and cleans their dishes. They have pooped and peed everywhere again so I move them all to their living room ex-pen and start cleaning their pen in the bedroom. It’s 5:05 a.m.
While I’m cleaning I feel a little nibble on my heel. Someone has escaped. I go check it out—they’ve all escaped! They are milling around the kitchen and living room pouncing and playing with each other. There is more poop! I go on a poop search and start cleaning the floors. I put the pups back in their place and finish cleaning. I put their bedding in the washing machine and start breakfast.
Then it’s into the whelping box I go to cuddle pups. I leave for work at 6:15 for thirteen hours of my “real” job… the whole time all I can think about is coming home to snuggle my puppies.
After cleaning up, that is!
Weeks five and six are when things really start getting interesting—and fun! My pups really are little dogs at this point and I can do pretty much anything with them. While they haven’t been vaccinated yet, so I do have to be careful with exposing them to other dogs, I can take them to lots of places and I can start training them just like I would any other puppy.
At the end of week five I began introducing them to water. They had all been in a bathtub and a kiddie pool as younger pups, but now it was time to really get their feet wet! I introduce all my dogs to water in a lake with a beach and gradual drop-off. I’ve never been lucky enough to have pups this time of year when the water was warm, so I’m thrilled to get them swimming. I was shocked at how quickly they took to water! All of my pups were swimming—some of them going out on their own—by six weeks old. I truly think this is the exception to the rule, but proves just how genetic swimming is in our breed.
Puppies learn at an astonishing rate at this age, so it’s important that we take advantage of this!
What else have we been up to this week?
- Car rides, now two at a time.
- Introducing the leash to each puppy and taking notes on how they take to it.
- Loud noises — how does each puppy react? We’re entering thunderstorm season here, so I’ve had some great opportunities to counter-condition them when the big storms have come through. They now think that thunder=hotdog time!
- I’m hiding their kibble for a meal a few days a week and taking notes on who searches, how they search, and who goes back to search when there is no kibble hidden.
- Pups are introduced to birds for the first time this week, I’m using young quail. I don’t expect much but it’s all about exposure right now. I’m pleasantly surprised!
- I start working on retrieving and seeing who likes to carry things. Some pups run out and grab, then run off, others bring it right to me, yet others seem to get distracted (but the next time are perfect little retrievers!). Things are often inconsistent at 5-6 weeks which is why taking notes is an important part of the process! Some pups have “off” days and teething plays a big part during this week.
- Personalities are coming out in a big way. I have a dominant male but have yet to figure out who is my more dominant female. I always have a few ringleaders and make note of these!
- I take pups out a few at a time to different (safe!) places and take notes on how they behave.
- I switch up the groups and note how it changes and if it changes. At the end of week six I still haven’t picked “my” puppy out of three girls, so I often pair them together and compare them.
- At the end of week six we go visit my grand mom in the independent living apartment complex. The pups get to meet people with canes, walkers, hover-rounds, and who smell a bit different than normal. The seniors eat them up!
- My puppies can now climb out the doggie door and are practically impossible to contain. Some of them can scale the ex-pen as if it was nothing. They don’t like to go potty in their pen, so I attach their ex-pen to the doggie door when I’m home and they begin going outside to potty.
- I begin crating the pups two at a time when they are tired, giving them special treats while they are crated. I crate them when we watch TV, when we’re cooking dinner, and when we’re doing dishes.
- The pups get to meet a horse this week—or at least smell one. Might be useful for those few that are going to field trial homes!
- I get out the puppy agility equipment and the pups enjoy honing their balancing—and falling—skills.
I’m sure I’m forgetting something. It’s a blast!
But I’m starting to get pretty tired…
I’m not sure how it happened but my pups are eight weeks old this week. I feel like I have so much more that I want to do with them! But thinking back, I wouldn’t change one thing. They are gorgeous, well-adjusted puppies who are swimming, pointing, retrieving, and into absolutely everything. They are bold, outgoing, happy, and well socialized. What more could I ask for?!
Almost all of my puppies have had great homes lined up since before they were born and they will be helping their owners put birds in the bag come hunting season. I can almost imagine the stories now! Some good, some bad, some probably ugly as each pup learns his or her job.
Finding the right homes for the pups was serious business, both for the happiness and well-being of the pups, which is my first priority, but also for the owners. For this reason, I quizzed prospective owners and sometimes I advised them to think about a different breed if they seemed to be a bad match for a Weimaraner. As we all know, Weimaraners are not for everyone and I’d much rather “lose out on a sale” then have an unhappy pairing!
It may have seemed that I was grilling people and being nosy, but most prospective owners end up appreciating the care I put into the pups’ placement, and almost all my puppy owners end up as a part of an extended family.
I also make sure to send any prospective owners a copy of my contract so that all expectations are talked about ahead of time. That is, before the puppies are here and before any emotional attachments start swaying decisions. While contract discussions can be a little uncomfortable at times, they are there to protect the puppy, the buyer, the breeder, as well as the Weimaraner breed in general.
A week ago, when the puppies were seven weeks old, I invited an experienced Brittany breeder friend over to evaluate my puppies. I took the puppies to her house which was a new environment for them. My puppies had never met my friend before so this situation provided a way for us to see the puppies individually and without the security of a known location. I use the Volhard Puppy Aptitude Test, and in addition we test the puppies on birds.
It turned out that my copious note-taking and the test results pretty much matched up. As in all litters, some of the pups are bolder than others, some are more tuned into people, some have higher energy levels, and so on. Every puppy is different, and each pup is someone’s “pick of the litter”!
As a whole, my pups are sleeping through the night in their crates and between the eight of them I had three messes in the crate last week—my fault as I heard them whining but was just too tired to get up! They don’t protest at all at night when I put them in their crates. They are using the doggie door consistently and any accidents that do happen are on the way to the door. They love people, dogs, and riding in the car. They are comfortable being alone or in groups and are confident with or without their littermates (of course they have a big fear period coming up, but for now they are great!). They are retrieving with gusto and they love chewing on toys and on me. A mouthy group! They are all swimming by now and will go check out any body of water without fear. They are happy to have their nails clipped, ears cleaned, and teeth checked and respect that they need to be still when I ask them to. They have developed a love affair with birds over the weeks and love to carry them. All of them are pointing with style and searching with a mission.
While they don’t “know” any commands out of context yet, they understand that they shouldn’t jump for attention, and they are offering me behaviors such as “sits” and “downs” for petting or cookies. I have shaped eye contact so they give me great attention when I say “watch me.” They walk on leash well and enjoy their one-on-one time with me. They each get their own dog bowl at mealtime and I have started telling them “wait” before giving them their bowls at most meals. I think they are pretty well prepared to meet their new people—who can’t wait!
I’ve received all my paperwork back from the AKC, NAVHDA and the WCA. The contracts have already been reviewed and signed so I make copies and prepare my puppy packets which also include information on some of the common issues that can come up when raising a Weimaraner puppy. After giving the puppies their first DA2PP shot at 8 weeks per the WCA’s vaccination protocol, I also be sure to set aside two vaccines to give to each owner to administer at 12 and 16 weeks. I also prepare a care package with a few toys, a used blanked from their crates, some food, and all my contact information.
My little Teal girl is the first to go—the smallest of the bunch. She has a hilarious one-pawed 360 degree spin move that she does when she’s excited that makes us smile. She is going to Maine, and our cousins, down to visit from upstate NY, have offered to drive her to their house, and the owners will come get her from there. Our cousins aren’t dog people, but as a mom to two toddlers, she asks, “How hard can it be…she’s just a tiny puppy!” After three days she was exhausted—and these pups are easy! Teal gets to Maine, sleeping like a dream the whole way in the car, and is named Lemon. After a few days Lemon’s owners call to tell me that she is a great little pup and settling in just perfectly.
And then there were seven.
The following weekend I drive to Kentucky to take three puppies to their owners. Two are going to Wisconsin, and one to Illinois. I stay with a friend who graciously allows me and my puppy pack to wreck her home.
Pink girl heads to Wisconsin to become a duck hunter. Her family names her Ghost and is already thrilled with her retrieving skills.
Orange boy will be staying with them for a few days until his family can come get him. He is named Sigg and will be a grouse aficionado when he grows up.
Black boy heads to Chicago and his family names him Louie. This is perfect for my little man! He has lots of love in store for him and already has a vacation to Lake Michigan planned. What fun!
Green boy is the next to go. I pack his crate, his blankie, and a favorite toy and put him on an airplane for the biggest trip of his life. He arrives in California later that day. Nemo has big shoes to fill living with a great hearing-impaired guy who plans on training him as his service dog.
We had a great home lined up for Red girl, but at the last minute they had some personal things come up. Part of being a responsible Weimaraner breeder is understanding that these dogs are not for everyone and it often takes more than just a “good home” with nice people to handle their demands, so although I had other great homes for a girl puppy, Red will stay with me until I can find that perfect home for her who will give her what she needs and help her reach her potential. If it means she stays forever—then lucky me! But I hope that she can make someone else proud.
Naked girl whom we’re calling her Flower is with us for 12 weeks because of an understanding that we had with her owners. She will stay in town and we get to be involved in her training. And we’ll get to hunt behind her for years to come!
Brown boy went to a young family, eager to get their first Weimaraner. His temperament test showed that he was very people-focused and low key, and he scored high on the social attraction and following tests. I often like to place a puppy like this in a new Weimaraner home under my mentorship. Brown boy became Buddy and will be an all-around companion, and his new family will try hunting for the first time with this boy!
I have decided to keep Purple girl—who my mom nicknamed “The Purp-etrator” for good reason. She is trouble! We’ve named her “Elle” and she is a strong personality with high drive and a lovely confident way of going. She is already picking on my big dogs!
So at nine weeks post whelping I’m still at six dogs, I have my two big girls, my 15-week-old puppy, and three little puppies. I’m thrilled to be involved with all of them and the happy phone calls and emails from my other puppy owners are starting to roll in. Along with the questions…and I’m loving it. Exhausted. But loving it.
I’m also rather broke as the puppies in the last month have added another $500 to the expense sheet in the additional food, toys, gas and time that they’ve consumed. This brings the total tally to just shy of $7,000 in expenses, and that is not counting the amount of money spent to prove Macy in competition. I was also lucky that we did not lose any puppies or need a C-section, which would have increased expenses dramatically.
And I’m also not counting my time or wear and tear! My wood floors need to be refinished because I’ve raised these pups in my home. My screened in porch needs to be repainted. There are potholes scattered about my yard from puppies digging with wild abandon. My grass is almost gone. My pigeons are terrified. My garden is wrecked. The cat is in hiding. My car has at least a few thousand more miles on it from driving them all over the place. My shorts are ripped, I’m missing half my underwear and two dozen socks. I’ve been late for work countless times because my shoes are never where I put them the night before and I can’t find a matching pair.
But my heart is full and I couldn’t be more proud of raising happy, well socialized, puppies that are in great homes!