How I Raise My Puppies at Big Sky Shepherds


Every litter that is raised, here at my kennel, are born in the house. The pups are whelped in an upstairs bedroom in a 4' x 5' homemade cedar whelping box with pigrails on 3 sides. The back wall is part of the sloping roof and affords protection for the pups also, so mom cannot accidently lay on them.A heat lamp is hung over a corner of the whelping box during cold weather as this back bedroom stays quite cool.

The raising of the litter begins well before the pups are born. The female to be bred is fed a diet consisting of high quality dog food, such as Orijen , with the addition of ground chicken, deer/elk meat, yogurt, cottage cheese, fish etc. and a supplement of K9 Showstopper. It is also important to continue with her regular exercise. She is also wormed prior to breeding and in her 7th week of gestation to help insure the pups are as worm free as possible.

As the time grows near to whelping I call my vet to alert her in case of a problem. Before the first pup is born I wash and rinse the females vulva area and teats. The whelping box is lined with a thick layer of newspaper. The heat from the presses used for printing newspapers helps to cut down on bacterial contamination in unopened newspapers, it is also easy to replace with more as it becomes soiled. I stay with my girls through the entire whelping and as each pup emerges I try not to intervene but let mom do her job. I keep necessary articles within reach in the event mom needs help such as a dry towels, alcohol, scissors, sterile gloves etc.

After each pup is born I weigh it and make notations in my notebook of time of birth, sex, color and markings.

If the whelping lasts for a considerable time, I try to urge mom to go outside for a quick potty break but stay with her to make sure she doesn't deliver a pup outside. She once again she will be washed as well as her feet before coming back to her box. I also will offer her some goat milk with a raw egg for energy.

Finally the pups are all born. I then replace the newspaper with clean blankets and call my vet to let her know all is well.

A good mother will keep her whelping box meticulously clean. I help by replacing freshly laundered blankets a few times a day.Young whelps are unable to regulate their body temperature until they are a week to two weeks old. I have a heat lamp placed in the corner of the whelping box so mom has room to stay where it is cooler but the pups have access to its warmth if necessary. At one week of age I color code each puppy with different color yarn to make it easier to identify behavior at this young age.Puppies are handled gently several times daily from day one until they leave for their new homes.
Between 10 to 14 days puppies eyes will slowly begin to open.At this time their sight is not very good and they still largely rely on their sense of smell. It is a good time to introduce family members to handle the pups and different articles of their clothing with their scents. I do not like to allow outside guests to view my pups until they are 4-5 weeks of age. It is also the time to begin trimming their nails and I continue this weekly from now on.
This pic is of a 3 week old pup. The eyes are now opened much wider and they have begun to hear. It is a critical period between 3-4 weeks as their neurological senses are being bombarded with new sights and sounds. I make every effort to see that the puppies are not frightened in any way during this time. At 3 weeks I begin feeding the pups 1-2 meals a day with a thin gruel of warm goat milk, plain yogurt, and Gerber baby rice cereal. I will gradually add moistened dog food to this mixture and feed up to 4 times day as they become accustomed to solid food. Also they will recieve their first worming. Below is a picture of a litter of 3 week old pups that have mastered the art of eating on their own. 


When the pups turn 4 weeks of age they are becoming quite mobile and are moved to the large heated outside puppy house. Here they are gradually acclimated to the outside environment as well for short periods to get fresh air and the feel of the earth under their feet!They are also given toys to play with.Pups still need their mother for security at this age but with their needle sharp teeth and constant desire to eat mom will slowly begin their weaning and needs to be able to get away from them. Here the pups are playing on their moms bed, their box (now larger at 5' x 6') is to the left where they still spend most of their time for the next week or so. Pups will recieve their followup worming during this week.

When the pups are between 5-6 weeks I move them to a smaller heated kennel area. Their mother will begin to spend alot less time with them as the weaning process accelerates. This is a very fun time for me as the pups are minature adults at this age each developing their own personalities.Their socializing continues and I introduce as many new people and things as possible. In this smaller area the pups learn to use a simple doggie door and have access to a 6' x16' covered chainlink kennel. This helps pups learn to eliminate outside and away from their sleeping area. This is a picture of 5 week old pups meeting my friend for the first time by the small kennel.

After a few days of getting use to their new kennel the pups are taken on short walks around my fields to explore new and different surroundings. New toys are exchanged with old and the pups get to meet some of my adult dogs as well as view my horses from a distance. From the time they are moved outside until they leave for their new homes the pups are brought in the house to experience the sounds and smells to help make their transition to a new home an easy one.Each day they are brought back to the large kennel area for several hours to play. Here they have a 32' x 50' outside run and can now use the Pride dog door to the inside shed area with ease. Inside the puppy house I have taken down their box and replaced it with a large crate to explore. The time goes by quickly now and the feeling is bittersweet, soon they will leave my care.By 6 weeks they are fully weaned but mom still will make short appearances to play with them and teach them things they need to know.They are fed 4 times daily and can eat dry food although I still moisten it somewhat. They stay here until they are 8 weeks of age learning and teaching each other things such as bite inhibition and the social order of the pack. They are wormed one final time in their 7th week and at 8 weeks given a parvo/distemper shot. My job is now completed and it is time for them to go....If I have one puppy that hasn't sold he/she will come and live in the house and potty training will begin and socializing continued until he finds a home of his own.

Below are a few pictures of puppies between the ages of 6 thru 8 weeks of age.

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