Our puppies are born under the total supervision of myself and generally our excited child who is the proud owner of the mother. The mother dog wouldn’t feel comfortable without them being present, generally whining and complaining, making her desire for her special person known. This often means many many sleepless nights as she can be in early labour for a couple of days. As we are never sure when she will progress from early labour to full labour we would never leave her.
During the first few weeks mum likes to be kept in a quiet peaceful environment. She is totally devoted to her babies, often reluctant to leave them even to go to the toilet. We generally need to carry her outside where she quickly races back to them as soon as she can. It is an intensive time for us, as we monitor them constantly in the first few days, to ensure they are drinking properly, gaining weight well, and mum is recovering from the delivery and producing enough milk and feeding each pup. We feed mum at least 4 times a day to ensure she has optimum nutrition to be able to best care for her babies. Sometimes for the first few days mums are not interested in eating, but we offer enticing nutritious small meals to ensure she is able to best care for her puppies. After the first week or so mum is feeling a little more relaxed and is generally ravenous by this stage so we continue 4 larger feeds a day for her. She is generally more content to head outside for toilet breaks and sometimes wants to rejoin the family for quick cuddles and pats, still being eager to return to her puppies should they even make a slight squeak.
By 3 to 4 weeks mum wants to be a part of all that is happening in our family so we move her and her babies to our living room, where she is still very vigilant, but happy to leave them for increasing amounts of time, often observing diligently from nearby for some of the day.
Mum is susceptible to milk fever, or eclampsia (totally unrelated to eclampsia in people), at this stage, as the drain on her calcium reserves is enormous. The demands of the puppy is the largest on mum at this stage, and sometimes the huge calcium demands from puppies drinking such large amounts cause her to develop eclampsia. We need to diligently and vigilantly watch here to detect the earliest signs that she is developing this, and treat promptly or have a quick trip to the vet, as this is an emergency. It is frightening to watch. The first signs are a slight disinterest in the pups, and being a little sooky, or following us around a little more (generally easy to miss signs if not looking for them), restlessness, followed by shaking and tremors. It progresses very quickly to full body tremors, stiff limbs, an inability to walk, drooling and can lead to fitting, coma and death quite quickly. We feed a high quality calcium diet but constant calcium supplementation can lead to a vicious cycle whereby here natural mobilisation of calcium is suppressed. Thus the need for constant monitoring.
We begin the weaning process between 3 and 4 weeks. We begin feeding with very finely minced chicken or beef mince, as well as egg and fresh goats milk, and necessary minerals and vitamins. Some puppies take to this food with relish. Some require some coaxing. We dip our finger in the food and into their little mouths. Generally mum is nearby, often showing them how it is done. Sometimes it takes a few days of enticing and encouraging three or four times a day until they get the hang of it. Other times they begin with relish on day one. Mums with smaller litters often are harder to entice as mum often is very diligent and has more milk for each pup so they are not as interested.
By 5 weeks puppies have the weaning phase well underway, and the enormous drain on mum is over. They are eating 3 meals a day with relish. Please refer to our diet information to what we feed. By 5 weeks we have introduced beef, roo, and lamb to their diet, as well as the chicken. Mum is now happy to leave her puppies for extended periods of time, and needs time away from her babies. She is generally by this age choosing to sleep back in her usual place (someone’s bed), but happy to check on her babies during the night several times.
By 6 weeks mum actively runs away from here babies lol. She chooses to be away from them most of the time and goes to them for short quick feeds. This is a very comical thing to see. All her pups race to her, and frantically try to drink while she is standing. They roll over on their backs under her tummy, or do whatever they can to get a quick drink. Mum will then try to walk away with puppies all attached to her, dragging them along. She will even occasionally growl to tell them enough is enough at this stage.
By 7 weeks they no longer want to drink from mum but benefit from playing with each other and her, learning those all important social skills only mum and siblings can teach them. During this week they become totally independent of mum who generally steers clear of them most of the time. When they are 8 weeks and ready to embark on the next phase of their journey they don’t miss mum at all. They do however miss the constant companionship of siblings.