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Dog Breeders

What to expect

Everyone who breeds a litter from their pet bitch wants the puppies to go on to live long and happy lives. There are lots of things you can do in the first few weeks which can have a huge impact on the future of your puppies and their new families. This can be a very rewarding occupation, the puppies are only with you for a short time and it can be great fun to make sure they have the best possible start in life. 

The puppies’ new families will be grateful and will often keep in touch for many years; it is good to receive a photo in a Christmas card! 

A number of factors affect how an individual dog will react in any situation, these include:

  • Inherited characteristics from breed and parents 
  • Individual personality 
  • Perception of situation – magnitude and significance 
  • Experience during early life of this, or similar, situations 
  • Later experience of this, or similar, situations 
  • Learned coping strategies (if a dog is put in a frightening, stressful situation it may learn to cope by becoming withdrawn and anxious or by becoming aggressive) 

Importance of early experiences

The socialisation period for puppies is approximately 3 to 14 weeks with a peak at 4 to 8 weeks so you can see that the owner of the dam has a real responsibility to get the puppies off on the right foot. 

Situations experienced during this socialisation period in a non-threatening context are accepted as normal, while novel situations experienced later can cause fear or anxiety which, in the worst cases, can lead to aggression and the breakdown of the relationship with the dog’s family.

Handling your puppies

This should be gentle to avoid frightening the puppies but should be carried out daily and by a selection of people with a minimum of four different people being involved. A ten minute session is probably about right but this can be repeated during the day. Start with people who are well known to the mother to avoid stressing her and gradually introduce less familiar people. 

You should aim for: 

  • Various age groups and both sexes 
  • Different ethnic groups if possible
  • Different appearances e.g. wearing glasses/sun glasses, hats, beards 

It is very important to involve contact with children in order to produce a rewarding family pet. All handling by children should be under adult supervision and control; it is possible to hurt puppies by picking them up roughly and this can result in a fearful dog. The aim at all times is to give the puppies pleasurable experiences so that they enjoy human contact. 

Handling should include gently examining feet and ears so that this becomes an accepted part of the puppy’s life. 

Environment

The puppies should be housed in an area of the house where they will experience family life, it is tempting to shut them away in a spare room, but this will lead to them missing out on vital early socialisation. Ideally they should be able to see and hear all the normal day to day activities e.g. washing machines, vacuum cleaners, radios etc. If this is difficult, it is possible to find good quality recordings of these on YouTube. It is thought that puppies can respond to sounds in the womb, so you can start this during pregnancy. 

The puppies can also be carefully introduced to other pets, keep the atmosphere relaxed and make it a pleasurable experience, if your cat is aggressive towards dogs then avoid contact or you will give the wrong message!

New Homes

It can be seen from the socialisation dates that it is important for the puppies to go to their new families earlier rather than later, ideally at 7-8 weeks. By this time they are weaned and it gives time for their new owners to get them used to their lifestyle. 

It is really important that the new owners continue your good work so take time to explain what you have been doing, and suggest they find a good puppy socialisation/training class. At Martin & Carr, we run parties that puppies can attend as soon as they have had their first vaccination. Owners can also take their puppy out to see traffic, open spaces, horses etc, although they must carry them until their vaccinations are complete. It is possible to undo all your work by not giving the puppy a suitably stimulating environment in those crucial first weeks. 

We produce a leaflet for owners of new puppies and can provide them for you to give to the new owners. It is also a good idea to give a written list of the diet you have been giving the puppies and worming dates, in the excitement of collecting a new puppy it is easy to forget verbal instructions! 

Sometimes the new owners will ask you to keep the puppies until they are older because of pre booked holidays etc, this isn’t advisable and you should really look for different families and the purchasers should wait for a puppy from a different litter.

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