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Raising A Puppy

Puppies spend all their time eating, playing and sleeping. (Oh, and that other thing that creates loads and loads of laundry!) By week 5 the pups likely will have moved from two meals to three a day. Of course, they still get most of their nutrition from Mom. Some people push weaning early so they can get the mom back in shape for the show ring. Puppies separated from their littermates too early often don’t develop appropriate “social skills,” such as learning how to send and receive signals, what an “inhibited bite” means, how far to go in play wrestling and so forth. Play is important to help puppies increase their physical coordination, social skills and learning limits. Interacting with their mother and littermates helps them learn “how to be a dog” and is also a way to explore ranking (“who’s in charge”). Most puppies seem to be duking it out right now over who will be top dog. They posture over each other. Mom will usually go knock them over and start cleaning them to let them know who is truly boss!

It is best to let Mom decide when she has had enough of them. Since the pups can get out of the whelping box now, you will need a separate X-pen set up that only Mom can get into. This gives her a place to go if she does want a break from them. The pups have sharp little teeth just erupting. They are starting to play with the toys in the box. Chewing on each other and the softer rubber toys. They will learn from each other how sharp those teeth are and not to bite too hard.

You will need lots of toys which you can rotate for the puppies. The rubber toys can go in the dishwasher with the food pans, the cloth and fuzzy ones go in the laundry with the whelping box pad in order to keep them clean.

I don’t know many adult Dobermans who tolerate nail cutting without a fuss unless they have been trained from day one and even then they don’t like it much. The pups find effective ways to squirm and make it difficult from the start!

Puppies are very predictable

They wake up and they have to go potty. They eat then have to go potty. This is important to remember when you take a puppy home. If it wakes up from a nap – take it outside quick! Once the  puppy is finished eating… again, take it outside. If you don’t let the puppy have a chance to make mistakes, it makes housetraining so much easier. Tell the pup how good it is when it goes to the bathroom outside. If the puppy goes inside, roll up a newspaper and swat yourself over the head three times! You should have been watching for the cues that would have told you it had to go out.


Here is the age old question: Is temperament the result of heredity or of environment? You have already done your homework into the backgrounds of the sire and dam; you’ve checked on temperament, trainability and stability. The job does not stop here. Do you want to take a chance that the greatest factor is not environment?

In a litter, you are lucky to get one or two good show dogs. You may even get a future top obedience or agility dog. Every pup should have a super temperament because 90 percent of the litter will end up in pet homes. Their owners will not care about how many titles the parents won, at what age they got their first major, or how many tries it took them to get their CDX titles. These people care that their dogs will be wonderful additions to their family.

When a reputable breeder plans a breeding, they devote almost all of their time to the raising of the litter. It does not matter how wonderful and independent a mom your brood bitch is, you still have a full-time commitment with each litter.

You should start working with the pups when they are 3 days old. Take each one and put it through a series of five exercises known as Neurological Stimulation In brief, this is a series of exercises that stimulates pups in a way they would not otherwise experience at this early age.

Once the pups have their eyes open and start to venture out of the whelping box, the fun begins! Over the years, many breeders have developed their own form of a “puppy playground”, designed to introduce the pups to sound, texture, movement, vibration and music. It often includes “swings” made from carpeted milk crates that hang from the ceiling. The pups quickly find these and they are not bothered by the swinging movement when they are in them. Often you may even find the swing jam-packed with pups sleeping and gently rocking! You can also have low, padded and carpeted seesaws. The pups first reaction to these is usually to be startled when they walk up the low ramp and it moves under their weight. However, the puppy urge for exploration gets the best of them and soon you see 6-week old pups trying out their “sea legs” and balancing on the middle of the sea saw like expert agility dogs.

Play is important to help puppies increase their physical coordination, social skills and learning limits. Interacting with their mother and littermates helps them learn “how to be a dog” and is also a way to explore ranking (“who´s in charge”).

The playground also can include a variety of tunnels made of tall kitchen trash containers with the bottoms cut out. The pups race through these, roll them around, and then all pile in for a nap. There are also ramps of various materials and textures, milk jugs, hanging fleece toys and short steps made by stacking large wooden blocks.

One object that the pups love is a fleece octopus with squeaky arms. It hangs about five inches from the ground, from a rope that has a long line of sleigh bells attached to the top. The noise it makes! There can also be low mirrors on the walls and an assortment of balls, toys and chews in the puppy room.

At about 6 weeks you could try introducing the pups to water, under supervision of course. Just take an extra large Vari-Kennel bottom, line it with rubber bath mats, and fill it with three inches of warm water. Place this in the puppy room, with a couple of rubber balls floating in it. The boldest pups are soon in there! There is no pushing or forcing; just let them go at their own pace.

You can also put different textures in the puppy room such as rugs, slick floor, newspapers, rubber ring matting. If you have access to any you can use iron dumbbells for the pups to use to get a boost up when getting back in the whelping box. The inside of the box has pig rails. The pups step on those to get out. There are no rails on the outside. The dumbbells are the same height as the pig rails and they won’t budge. 

Each puppy also gets individual attention every day during which they experience a variety of activities. They may drag around a short leash, go for a ride in the car, or have their toenails trimmed.

The playroom setup enables the breeder to sit and watch the puppies for hours to see which are the most adventuresome, which have the quickest recovery time, and which are more hesitant. This helps to decide on the homes that will be best for each one.

About puppies and retrieving

Puppies will carry nearly anything they can get hold of, including your good shoes, gloves, the children’s toys, and your newly-planted rosebushes. Severe scolding now, or vigorously discouraging the retrieving instinct, will quite likely result in a dog hesitant to retrieve for you later in obedience training. A much better solution is to call the puppy to you (go to him when necessary), praise him gently for delivering and releasing the forbidden object, and immediately give him o
ne of his own toys to carry and play with. If you chase him while screaming and scolding, he will only run away with the object … and next time, may just quietly take it away to be more thoroughly “investigated”.

The instinct to retrieve, and the commitment to carrying things around is in almost every puppy regardless of breed. In case some of your buyers plan to do any sort of obedience work, proper development and encouragement of this instinct in the puppies will be a firm foundation for the willingness to work with and for a person. Use a small, soft object that’s easy for the puppy to carry such as a rubber ball or a knotted sock. Show it to the puppy and move it in a wiggling motion that will entice the puppy by awakening the chase instinct. Don’t move it too quickly as puppies often don’t follow movements that are too fast or abrupt, and it is important that they maintain eye contact with or “mark” the object. While the puppy is watching the movement of the object, or attempting to take a hold of it, encourage it with soft but excited words such as “Get it! Good puppy!” and toss the object a foot or two away. Use words of encouragement such as “Fetch it! Good puppy!” as you call the puppy back to you with the object, hold the puppy gently while you praise it again both verbally and physically, and don’t take the object away too soon. Many puppies are reluctant to give up their “catch”, and run away from you with it instead of bringing it back. Resist the impulse to run after the puppy, and run away from it instead, clapping your hands, and calling the puppy by its name; this should once again initiate the “chase” instinct. Take the object from the puppy very gently (praising all the time), and let it retrieve again immediately. When the game is over (and two or three retrieves is plenty), take the object from the puppy, hold the puppy there for few more seconds of praise, and then release it.

The pups play hard in spurts throughout the day and night. They will fall asleep just as fast as they wake up! 

I don’t want anyone to get the idea this is a breeze, or that there is money to be made! . There are lots of hidden costs, and also the more obvious ones. A lot can be said about counting the cost of raising and showing the parents into the cost of the litter. I won’t even go into that part of it. I see showing and training with dogs as a very expensive hobby. A show weekend easily runs over $200 just on entry fees, hotel, gas. That’s a flea bag motel that takes dogs, vendor hot-dogs, parking, entry fees, and no frills! Breeders rarely count any of the costs of showing, training or putting titles on either parent but there is indeed a huge expenditure in that area.

Are we having fun yet? Think you want to try this at home?

Breeding dogs can be a wonderful event. You’ve got a great looking animal which is very special to you, and you have found a great looking mate who is also wonderful, and between the two of them, you reckon that you can produce some wonderful pups.

Unfortunately, the reality of life is that while beautiful puppies can result, in a large number of cases events happen during the breeding of a dog that far outweigh the much-wanted puppies.

A lot of people think that breeders make a lot of money And sometimes that thought alone is enough for some people to put their beloved friend at risk. Most reputable breeders have yet to make money out of breeding.

When you breed your dog, you put her at risk. Yes, she can die giving birth, and you don´t have time to grieve since you will be raising orphaned pups.

Regardless of how much experience you have, you can still have disasters.

Death of just one pup, even in a large litter, can be heartbreaking. It’s almost impossible to get a fading puppy to survive, and you can lose a whole litter to fading puppy syndrome.

Some of the costs you will have to budget for

  • Stud fee
  • Cost of shipping the bitch to the stud
  • Brucellosis testing on both the bitch and the dog
  • Whelping box, heat pads, heat lamps, thermometer, scissors, towels, baby scales, tweezers, hemostats, baby suction bulb
  • Milk replacement formula and/or goats milk, baby bottles, tubes for tube feeding, sterilizing solution, nail clippers
  • Puppy wormer (2,4,6,& 8 weeks), puppy diarrhea medicine
  • Food – a pregnant female may need up to four times what she normally eats, and a nursing female will also need a lot of food. Puppies also eat much more food than what you would think
  • Vaccinations
  • Dewclaw removal
  • Tail docking
  • Vet visit for health checks prior to going to new homes

Some of the hidden and not so hidden costs that you may not have thought about

  • Vet checks and health tests to make sure that the bitch is ok to be mated and whelp
  • Ultrasounds
  • Lots of extra washing for bedding in whelping box (water, detergent, paper towels, mops, bleach…)
  • Emergency vet trips (invariably late at night)for the emergency c-section
  • Emergency vet trips to save a dying pup
  • Increased electric and heat bill to keep pups warm
  • Time off from work that you need to take to help the bitch and to make sure that no puppies get squashed, etc – allow at least 5 days off work for this
  • Vet visit and antibiotics for the bitch for such things as mastitis
  • Advertising to sell puppies (puppy packets, pedigrees, pictures)
  • Lots of phone calls to and from interested and not so interested puppy buyers

Let’s look at the costs

  • Stud fee – usually equivalent to the cost of one pup.
  • Neonatal deaths — average 25% per litter — OK, so let’s say you lose two pups here. (This means that so far after the stud fee, we only really have 4 left that we can sell to make money from)
  • Vaccinations, worming, eye certifications — that adds up to another pup. (Of course, you can save money by ignoring these important steps.)
  • Food — extra food for bitch, and then food for puppies until the age of 8 weeks — that’s half a pup.
  • Emergency vet visits to try and save the dying pup, or the emergency c-section on the mom — maybe both! — that’s at least one pup, and more likely two. Let’s say one and a half pups.
  • Health checks on the bitch prior to whelping — checks for hip dysplasia, vWD, cardio, annual eye certifications, thyroid checks, etc — that’s another pup. (But if you want to cut corners and ignore these very important checks you can save money here)
  • Advertising the litter and answering numerous phone calls — that’s half a pup.
  • Time off taken from work to whelp litter — that’s at least one pup, more likely two, and in some cases, equivalent to the total selling price of whole litter. Let’s say one and a half pups.
  • Breeder support — for the life of the pup, a
    good breeder will be there to take back those pups whose owners can no longer keep them. Also a good breeder will keep in regular contact with her puppy owners. Let’s be really conservative here and say, that’s the cost of just one pup.
  • And you want to keep one pup for yourself, so you can’t sell that one.

Okay, now go back through the list and work out, realistically, how many pups you need to breed from a litter so that you just break even. 12 – maybe. And of course, for those of us that have bred litter with that many pups know exactly how much extra work that is, especially if the bitch is not a great mom, and only has 8 working tits.

If you make any profit at all, set aside some of it. You want to guarantee your litter don´t you? What is someone comes to you 2 years down the road, who purchased a show quality bitch and her hips don´t pass OFA? You will want to refund their money, and give them a pup from your next litter.

It has been well documented that about 75% of 1st time breeders do not attempt to breed again because of the cost, work and time involved.


The puppy mush is made of mostly kibble soaked in water and puppy milk replacer. It also contains ground up liver, a small amount of ground up carrot and green beans. I add a Vitamin C supplement to the pups food, and to Mom’s food. The dry kibble I use is Fromm. I’m not going to tell you its the best food. I’m not going to tell you what you can and can not feed your puppy. Everyone has to look at what good grade of balanced dog food they can get a good fresh source of. You may not have this brand in a convenient location. You may have a brand that works great with your dog that I can’t get where I live.

If you buy the cheapest food at the grocery store, change foods with every sale coupon that comes out….. your pets coat, nails, skin, muscle tone and general activity level will reflect this. You have to feed a good grade of balanced dog food. Look at the first few ingredients. You should have some kind of meat for the first ingredient. You know what happens when you eat corn on the cob… well, dogs don’t digest corn any better than we do! Corn is used as a filler, you don’t want to see that as the first ingredient.

You can look at the first four ingredients – for example:

  • Kibbles ‘N Bits: Ground Yellow Corn, Soy Flour, Meat And Bone Meal, Soybean Meal.

Compared to to these higher quality foods:

  • INNOVA Puppy: Turkey, Chicken, Ground Barley, Chicken Meal
  • Nutro: Natural Choice Puppy Lamb Meal And Rice Formula: Lamb Meal, Ground Rice, Rice Bran, Dried Whole Eggs

Which would you rather eat?

AKC Regulations

Behind the scenes, one of the big things happening is recordkeeping. For the litter to be AKC registered, records must be kept:

About the AKC, and do my dog’s papers mean he is a good dog?

AKC Registered and Quality

There is a widely held belief that “AKC” or “AKC papers” and quality are one and the same. This is not the case. AKC is a registry body. A registration certificate identifies the dog as the offspring of a known sire and dam, born on a known date. It in no way indicates the quality or state of health of the dog.

Quality in the sense of “show quality” is determined by many factors including the dog’s health, physical condition, ability to move and appearance. Breeders breeding show stock are trying to produce animals that closely resemble the description of perfection described in the breed standard. Many people breed their dogs with no concern for the qualitative demands of the breed standard. When this occurs repeatedly over several generations, the animals, while still pure-bred, can be of extremely low quality.

What Records must be kept:

All required records must be made immediately when dog is acquired and delivered, and at time of mating, whelping or death. Records must be kept on forms devoted to that exclusive purpose and must be consecutive, accurate, up-to-date and maintained for at least five (5) years after the dog has died, has been sold or has been given away.

Records to be kept by owners and breeders.

  1. The owner (and the lessee if a dog is leased) shall keep a record of each dog owned (or leased) which will show: Breed Registered name and number (or litter number if not registered) Sex, color and markings Date of birth Names and numbers of sire and dam Name of breeder Name and address of person from whom directly acquired Date of acquisition Date and duration of lease, if any in addition, the owner (or lessee, if dog is leased at that time) shall keep the following breeding records:
  2. Whenever dog is mated to another dog: Date and place of mating Names of persons handling mating Registered name and number of dog to which mated Name and address of its owner
  3. and (if a female) when resulting litter is whelped: Date of whelping Number of puppies whelped by sex and by color and markings Litter registration number Date of sale, gift or death of each puppy so described Name and address of person acquiring each puppy so described Kinds of papers and date supplied Registered name and number of each puppy registered by breeder

If you are leasing a bitch for a litter, a lease agreement must be filled out and filed with the American Kennel Club prior to breeding.

Leasing a Bitch Under the Rules Applying to Registration and Discipline (Chapter 3, Section 1) – “The breeder of a dog is the person who owned the dam of that dog when the dam was bred; except that if the dam was leased at the time of breeding, the breeder is the lessee.”

If a bitch is leased at the time of mating and/or whelping, a Report of Lease of Bitch form must be filed promptly with The American Kennel Club. These forms may be obtained, upon request, from the AKC. If a bitch is leased at the time of mating the breeder of the litter is the lessee. If the bitch is leased at the time of whelping, the lessee is the litter owner and the litter may be registered only by the lessee. Every lease must have a termination date, and both the effective date and the termination date must be entered on the Report of Lease of Bitch form. If a dam is co-owned, all owners must sign the form.

Note: It is important that the owner and lessee should each have a written copy of the complete lease agreement signed by the other party.

One must fill out the litter registration application with the date of birth, number of puppies, sire´s name and registration number, dam´s name and registration number along with the signatures of owner of sire and dam. (or lessee of dam) Then you must send in the appropriate fees.

This does not register each pup individually. You will be sent individual registration forms for each pup that must be filled out. The AKC imposes a late fee ($65) if the litter application is not made out in the timeline they give. The litter registration fee is $25.00 plus $2 per puppy. The individual dog registration will be $15.00. Again, a later fee is charged if the dog is not registered within the year, and it climbs if the dog is registered after 24 months.

These are not the only kinds of records that need to be kept. You should also keep records of the birth which includes weights of the puppies color, sex, when the dewclaws are removed, dates they are wormed, and worming medication used, when shots are administered, when they have veterinary care and check ups, what food they are eating, when Mom weaned them. Then there are the breeder notes you should keep as well such as how each pup looks and acts.

A dog has a formal or Registered name and a call name. The Registered name is longer, usually starts with the breeders Kennel name, may follow a theme, or may remind the owner of some event that happened when they got the pup, or when the pup was born. The Call name, or nickname may or may not have something to do with the registered name. Now is a good time to start thinking of a name for your pup! Here is what the AKC has to say about dog names….

Naming of Dogs

The person who owns the dog at the time the application for registration is submitted to the AKC has the right to name it, in the absence of a written agreement.

There are guidelines that determine the acceptability of a name. Some of these are as follows:

  1. Name choices are limited to twenty-five (25) letters. Spaces between words, apostrophes and hyphens are counted.
  2. All letters in a dog´s name are limited to the standard English alphabet. When registration certificates are printed, all letters are capitalized. Diacritical markings (accent grave, accent acute, umlaut, etc.) are not printed on registration certificates in a dog´s name.
  3. Registered Kennel Names cannot be included in a dog´s name unless their use is authorized by the owner of the name.
  4. Roman numerals must not be included at the end of the dog´s name. The AKC reserves the right to assign roman numerals for identification purposes. The AKC permits thirty-seven (37) dogs of each breed to be assigned the same name.
  5. There are no restrictions on cardinal (one, two, three) and ordinal (first, second, third) numbers that are spelled out.
  6. Words and phrases that may not be included in a dog´s name:
    A. Champion, champ, sieger and any AKC title or show term, either spelled out or abbreviated.
    B. Obscenities and words derogatory to any race, creed or nationality or transliterations of such words.
    C. Kennel(s), male, stud, sire, bitch, dam and female.
    D. Breed names alone.
  7. An imported dog must be registered with the same name under which it was registered in its country of birth, except for the addition of a registered kennel name. All dogs´ names are subject to AKC approval.

According to Chapter 3, Section 7 of Rules Applying to Registration and Discipline, “no change in the name of a dog registered with The American Kennel Club will be allowed to be made.”

 All dogs whelped by a breeding kennel will carry the Kennel Name prefix in the name. Some litters have themes, some don’t. Some people name a dog based on parts of each parent’s name. Sometimes an event that happened around the time the pup was born will give the owners an idea of the name. You may want to think of a patriotic name for your pup. The registered name does not have to have anything to do with the call name of the dog.