“He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You
are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true,
to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of
such devotion.” — Unknown
Although a genetically good temperament through selective breeding is crucial, how the puppy is raised during the first few critical weeks has a dramatic impact on the temperament of the pup as well. These first few weeks are when your puppy learns about his/ her world and begins to develop social skills.
Here Miguel encourages one of the little ones to begin howling for the first time!
We use lamb’s wool for bedding to provide a soft, warm, comfortable environment and provide traction for earlier walking. We have found that with proper bedding, our puppies can begin walking a week to 10 days earlier than when left on hard or slick surfaces. In addition to almost constant interaction with our family, we provide early neurological stimulation for the puppies from birth.
When we first started breeding a decade ago, we used a handmade whelping box and set up the mudroom of our home for whelping. It was a wonderful set up, but also a many flaws that made our job either more difficult or simply not function as smoothly. When we moved out to Rottieopolis, I took all my years of experience and sat down with our contractor to address all the “issues” I had and design a unique whelping and nursery room that would provide ease of use and ultimate comfort for mother and pups. The first concern was to make a box that would last! We have used wood, tile, plastic, vinyl, and everything in between- but when you combine a bored mom stuck on 24 hour babysitting duty for up to 8 weeks and litters of rambunctious puppies with sharp eager to “explore” teeth, nothing seemed to last! I also knew that I did not want the box to be made out of wood or similar substrate because it is too porous and promotes bacteria growth. We settled on a sealed concrete wall and floor. The second biggest concern that I wanted addressed was ease of cleaning and sterilizing the box several times a day. Puppies are born immunocompromised and a clean environment is of the utmost importance. By pouring concrete floors that sloped inward to corner drains that led to the septic system, it was easy to disinfect and wash down the box as often as needed and keep mom and puppies in a sanitary box.
Next, it was a must to be able to constantly keep an eye on my moms, even if she wanted some privacy in her box. We ordered sheets of half inch thick Plexiglas, framed and then hung our doors. I wanted the front wall to be a foot high to prevent little puppies from spilling out of the box every time the door was opened, however that then created a problem. Not only did I not want a mom with a very pregnant belly jumping over the wall and possibly bumping her precious cargo, but I also did not want a mother of newborns to blindly jump into a box after going for a walk as this could obviously prove dangerous or even deadly. The simple, yet elegant solution came from my contractor. Rather than build steps or ramps in front of each box as I had suggested, he built a ramp with a step and put it on wheels that could lock. This way the ramp can be moved to which ever box required it. We also covered the ramp/step in carpet so that mom would not slip. After we had the necessities covered, it was time for some of the luxuries. The entire nursery of course has central heating and air conditioning, however, each box is also individually climate controlled with floor heating, space heaters and overhead fans. The lighting in each box can also be individually controlled so that if we have an expectant mom that just wants some peace and does not want to be too hot, we can make her box cool and turn the lights off yet still keep a litter of newborns toasty with full lighting for us and mom. Next, we
special ordered 2 inch thick, dense fleece for the exact sizes of each box. After experimenting with many different blankets, cloths, etc. over the last 10 years, we have found that this very dense fleece cushions mom who is stuck in a concrete box for the majority of the day for over 2 months, but by being so heavy with a ribbed backing, it is also difficult for mom to displace as she moves, nests and shifts in the box. This is also CRUCIAL because if the puppy gets under a blanket, it can become crushed by mom without her even knowing she is on the puppy. The compact density also prevents the puppies from sinking in despite how thick it is. (It is also comfy for the long nights that I spend curled up in the box too!)
Next, what about when I am not in the box- when mom is just on watch for 2 weeks before the pups are due or once the pups are old enough and she still needs to be supervised, but my presence in the box 24 hours a day is not necessary? FINALLY- no more sitting in a folding chair beside the box!! We have a reclining sofa!! LOVE THIS!! And so do my kids who love to hang out in the nursery with newborn puppies as well! Okay, TV with cable so that mom can watch animal planet when I am not there- check; sofa, blanket and pillows- check; all of my whelping supplies and medical supplies-check; weight table and all charts- check; loads of kids to help snuggle and bottle feed- check!! We also finished the upstairs into a fully furnished apartment with shower, kitchen and play room so that the kids can hang out with me while I must sit with the mamas. I have a stove, kitchen and fridge for making and keeping milk re-placer for the pups as well as fat balls and other organic and raw food and supplements for mom to keep her healthy and keep the pups with an excellent milk supply. This apartment is also the official playhouse for all our kids 😉 what more can you want- hang out all day and play with puppies!! No wonder they friends come over and never leave!
Next door to the Nursery is the grooming room and storage room. Here we have the grooming tub and all of our extra treats, toys and food. We also have a washer and dryer here dedicated to all of the dog towels, rags and blankets. I swear this machine runs 24 hours a day!! The only machine that might be able to keep up with it is the dishwasher. Every single dog food bowl, water bucket treat dispenser, and puppy dish gets washed on the sanitize cycle after every use. One of our next improvements to Rottieopolis will be to build and indoor playground for the puppies for when the weather does not permit outside play.
All moms are moved to the Nursery about halfway through their pregnancy. We want to not only begin 24 hour monitoring, but also start making mom as comfortable as possible and start the pampering- belly rubs, pedicures, massages, and of course loads of love and all the yummy food they want and give mom a chance to become comfortable with where they will whelp their pups. My husband, my daughters and I all take turns so that mom is never left unattended either during the final 2 weeks of pregnancy or during the first 4 weeks of a puppy’s life. These first few weeks are a critical time and when the greatest number of pups are lost either from failure to thrive, separation from mom resulting in hypoglycemia or hypothermia or inadvertently being stepped on, leaned on or laid on by mom. At birth, each puppy gets a thorough check-up, weighed and a color ribbon assigned. All puppies continue to receive an examination and weigh check daily and are tracked and monitored according to their ribbon color; this is crucial in early detection of struggling puppies or puppies exhibiting failure to thrive.
From the moment they are born, our puppies are a part of our family. They are socialized with all our children. This teaches our children responsibility and helps them learn to care for and love new life.
This also helps reinforce the bond of trust between our adult dogs and us and it encourages our puppies to bond with human companions much faster and learn to accept even children as their pack leaders and providers.
It also teaches the puppies patience and tolerance as young children are not always as gentle as adults.
Once the pups are old enough to walk, they are introduced to the rest of the pack (our other youth and adult rotties and our kitties) as well as any other animals my kids have which has ranged from bunnies, a rooster, potbelly pigs, Taz the bird, turtles, ferrets, sugar gliders, and of course neighbors goats and horses. I firmly believe that the more diverse a puppies exposure, the more balanced he will be as an adult. I cannot emphasize the importance of socialization in Rottweilers enough.