I’ve been putting all this focus on the puppies, so far, and that makes sense. Because who doesn’t love cute puppies, right? But I thought I should probably introduce their parents… there’s some real star power going on here, behind just the cute-factor. Here’s one of those times when I can just shut up and let the pictures do most of the talking. 🙂
For those of you who are late to the party and this is your first post in this series, this is my first time looking after a litter of puppies by myself. I’ve been involved in borzois (my breed of choice) since I was in middle school in Central Iowa in the mid-80’s and hanging out in Pauline McGovern’s kennels in Polk City Iowa. I got my first borzoi of my own when I was still a teenager, in 1991… but tiny little puppies? Well, all this is definitely breaking new ground for me. I’m the lady that my married friends would sneak up on, hand me their newborns, and walk away… all to observe my terrified expressions from a safe distance so they could point and giggle. I have ZERO maternal instincts. I’m the greenest of greenhorns, and although I have lots of people I can call for help, and lots of fantastic online resources I can read, Avidog Puppy raising literature, it doesn’t change the basic fact that I’m still a worrier.
So, sometimes things that are normal parts of puppy development look scary but aren’t necessarily a code red emergency. I got to learn about one of these last week.
Ah, the joy of the dreaded “Milk Poops.”
About the time they were ten days old, the pups started squirting yellow, vanilla-pudding-like diarrhea. They weren’t getting dehydrated. Aside from being a little fussy, they seemed fine. They were still nursing and sleeping, gaining steadily. But… oh, SO much poop! Poor Zen couldn’t even keep up with it. I joked to my boyfriend that I had a biological weapon on my hands… miniature “crap cannons”… if only the Geneva Convention would allow them, I could figure out how to aim!
After it didn’t clear up within 24 hours I panicked, because, hey… I’m me. By then, the poop had changed consistency, to more of a grainy texture, like tiny rice. So, mostly because I’m a big worrywart, we went to the vet.
That’s when I learned that the “milk poops” are a normal stage in a pup’s development. After the first week or so, the dam’s milk becomes richer, and has a higher fat content to help the pups really start to grow. Pups sometimes get diarrhea during this transition, as their digestive systems have never handled anything before, much less something this rich. And it’s very rich! The little rice-like grains are little waxy blobs of milk fat that they weren’t able to digest yet.
So, I learned about milk poops. I learned about how to wash newborn puppies, too. And I learned my sense of humor can stand up to just about anything.
When I was at WalMart getting supplies, I treated myself to a commemorative t-shirt I found. It was too perfect to pass up. I figure it will come in handy as my dog-walking uniform, as well.
In an earlier entry, back the first week the pups were born, I refer to the Early Neural Stimulation Exercises, and promised to talk about them in a little more detail. Some people have asked about what they are, and why we do them, so I’ll do my best to give such an important topic the kind of treatment it deserves.
Although I come at this from a “novice to puppy raising” and a “dogs as companions” point of view, I’m no stranger to the borzois and responsible dog care. I got my first borzoi in 1991. But while I’m a long-term dedicated borzoi lover, I’m not a show person. I have spent my decades in the breed enjoying the gentle grace, humor and silliness they bring into my life as pets. So, yes… I believe it’s in everyone’s interest within the breed to “build a better dog,” so to speak, and help the puppies that are born have a chance to grow up and reach their fullest potential – be that in the show ring, chasing the lure, or simply holding down the cushions of my couch.
The Avidog program advocates a few simple exercises that you do with puppies – daily – for the first few weeks of their lives. This involves holding them gently in several different postures, and handling their feet thoroughly. As sighthound people, we all know how important it is to have a dog comfortable with having their feet handled! Here’s what we do:
Head Up (where the pup’s head is highest)
Head Down (where the pup’s head is lowest)
Feet Down (where their feet hang down)
Feet Up (where they are on their back and their feet are up)
Foot Tickle (With a Q-Tip or other non-name brand cotton swab-on-a-stick-thingie). Be sure to get between those tiny toes!
Cold Surface. (Place the puppy on a cold damp towel, chilly pie plate, or ice pack for 3-5 seconds without restraining them.)
These exercises are cycled through, gently, spending no more than 3-5 seconds on each. You can read more about the Avidog’s entire system, Avidog University breeder training and their proven philosophy here – they’re outstanding. There are lots of good videos on You Tube of people doing the exercises with their puppies.
The exercises are done in a random order, so the puppy doesn’t know what to expect next, and become dependent on the routine.
This is also a good time to add in a scent for them to examine, as well. Leaves, grass, spices, fruit peels, soap, or if they are going to be a hunting dog or involved in anything that relies on scent discrimination, they can be introduced to the smells of their eventual trade, like bunnies, game birds or whatever they might be tracking in the future. Termites? Cocaine? Hidden stashes of illegal drug money? Hey, whatever you have lying around! These pups have gotten to check out some orange peels, spices from the kitchen, leaves, grass, dirty laundry, Errol the Cavalier and a bunch of other things – things that they’ll probably encounter in their adult lives in the future, that will smell comforting and familiar.
It’s a great idea to take notes on the whole process. As you handle each puppy daily, through their ups, downs, moods and growth spurts, you begin to get a really good feel for who each puppy really IS, and what makes them tick. Got a future drama queen? Or a tough, determined little scrapper? Or a sweet, pliant love bug? Well, you might just be able to tell early on, and that works to everyone’s benefit -especially the puppy! This is definitely a topic I want to come back to, because I have a great real life example of how this works together to match the right dog to the right home.
At this stage of their development, their little brains and nervous systems are growing like crazy, developing connections that will be with them the rest of their life. A little bit of healthy stress and the right kinds of stimulation AT THE RIGHT TIME can yield big results later on. These gentle, specific, strategic exercises put stress on a developing puppy’s body in such a way that it prepares their system to handle stressors in the best way, thus setting them up for excellence in their adult life. This type of system – coupled with advantages of great breeding – is the way to build a high achieving dog!
Anyway, I hope this sheds a little more light on the subject for anyone who was looking for a bit more information.
You know, I’d never seen brand new puppies before being there when Zen delivered this litter. So, I took a LOT of photos. Most were crummy, but I got a couple of really adorable ones. I’m sure you’ll agree.
I pulled an all nighter that first night… and many nights thereafter. There was no fanfare of trumpets and awesomeness when the dawn comes- there was something a billion times better. There were puppies. And some espresso. And then, a nap. Borzoi puppies are one of the best things in the universe – even better, they grow up to be borzois!
When the dust settled and it was all over, we had 5 Girls, 4 Boys and all some shade of redhead. Not surprising, given their parents. Rita said it was interesting how they arrived: Girl, Boy, Girl, Boy, Girl, Boy, Girl, Boy, Girl. She said that they were probably segregated by sex in each horn of Zen’s uterus… girls on one side, and boys on the other. Doesn’t mean anything, just interesting.
I love these flashbacks. Looking back, I can see how much they’ve grown. My GOD how much they’ve grown!!! I can hardly believe it!
Most of the puppies have their eyes open now. Still a few bumbling around in the dark, but most are awake, aware, and taking their first looks at their little piece of a big beautiful world.
It’s been the most fun day! I’ve hardly been able to take my eyes off of them. They’ve been noticing and interacting with each other as individuals now, looking up at their dam, looking at me and coming towards me. All the little hints of personality that I’ve seen are starting to blossom before my very eyes!
My goodness, they are adorable. They’re just too cute for words. They’re also getting kind of hard to photograph. I set them down, and they don’t stay put. Not even for an instant. They’re off and running, scattered in all directions. They won’t look at me when I want them to, and they come bumbling towards me when I’m trying to get side shots for identification. Looks like ALL shots are gonna be “candids” until I can get a helper.
I expect the rest of them will open their eyes tomorrow. They were born on July 5th, and are already a VERY active and mobile bunch. You can tell their parents are speedsters! They all escaped the clear Rubbermaid tote I was using to keep them cozy while I was cleaning their pen – they all figured it out within 5 minutes of each other on Sunday, and they weren’t even two weeks old yet. No one had their eyes open yet, either – it was like they shared a hive mind. A bigger Rubbermaid has since been secured.
Better brace yourself… more photos (and possibly bad puns) to come!
All right, so I talk a good game – the pups just had their two week birthday yesterday, and I promised scads and scads of photos and daily updates on their progress… and here I am, just trying to catch up.
For those of you just tuning in, this is Chelle “Chel” Griffith, reporting from The Puppy Room at Aria Borzoi, where I’m watching the Encore x Zen litter enjoy a nursing session with Zen. These little guys are making the cutest noises! Nothing in the world sounds like the chug-a-lug sound a bunch of nursing puppies make when they’re really hungry and chowing down. Zen is living up to her name this moment. She has this peaceful, half-lidded zoned-out look to her eyes.
This evening, I’m watching the little guys go about the serious business of eating, sleeping, pooping and growing while (impatiently) I wait for all the photos and video clips I’ve been taking to download into Dropbox so I can begin the great puppy photo share-a-palooza.
Sleep tight, everyone! Just like the little guy above… isn’t he adorable?
:ast post I told you all about Zen’s labor and delivery and that whopper of a last puppy. That happened about a week ago, so let’s fast forward and talk about current topics a bit.
Ever since the pups were born last week, mornings bring the same routine, and it’s come to be a routine I welcome. First of all, I’m still sharing digs with Zen and the pups, so hey, who needs an alarm clock? In fact, who needs sleep? Little Mama Needlenose and the Chorus of 9 start my day with a tag-team – a cold nose poke, accompanied by the junior hound ensemble singing me the “song of their people.”
But sometimes, she let’s them sleep in…
First up? Potty breaks! Madame Zen drinks a lot of water, and while she uses up most of it in milk production, she still does need to get outside. While she’s out, I gather up the little guys into a basket so they are safe and out of the way while I clean up their box, police their bedding into the laundry and generally tidy up. I’ve been changing their bedding once or twice a day, depending on how nasty it gets. I don’t know about the rest of you, but sleeping in the same room as the whelping box is HIGHLY motivating to keep it smelling clean and fresh!
Oh, and here’s a quick product plug. No, I’m not getting compensated to endorse this stuff, but I’m so happy to have discovered it, I can’t wait to get back home and see if they carry it in Nebraska. Meyer’s Clean Day Multi Surface Everyday Cleaner . Love it. I’m sensitive to chlorine, it makes me sneeze my brains out, so bleach is problematic for me. It’s nice to be able to have clean surfaces without the chemical smells.
When Zen comes in, I crate her a bit now, to keep her out from underfoot for a few minutes. She likes to poke that long nose into my business… especially when it’s puppy business. For the first few days, crating her for even an instant was HIGH DRAMA… all the screaming and carrying on! But, now that the pups are about a week old, she’s a lot more mellow about it. In fact, she might even be enjoying the break, some cold water, and breakfast in bed. The last couple days, she’s just been laying there watching me, silent as a sphinx. She was a little anxious as a new mother, at first, and I’m sure I’m at least partially to blame. After all, it was my first time at this, as well. But we’re in a good place now.
So, it’s time to get to work!
Rita likes to get everyone weighed and evaluated around the same time every day, give or take, and that’s a tradition I’m trying to keep. Zen’s making it easy – I can almost set my watch by her. As I take each pup from the basket, it gives me the chance to interact with them one-on one, look them over, weigh them to see how much they’ve gained, and see if they’re vigorous and feeling good.
Also, I began the Avidog Early Neurological Stimulation Exercises, to get them used to being handled in many different ways. Handle their feet, get them to accept restraint in several different positions, a 5 second exposure to a cold surface, etc. Then I take notes on their daily disposition and how they respond to these stimuli.
This helps each puppy achieve their full potential and grow into the most successful and confident canine competitor and companion they can possibly be. Also, over the weeks of doing the neural stimulation exercises, you can get a pretty good feel for who each pup is, as an individual… and what kind of home might be the best match for them in the future.
Moments like this are just an added bonus!
This may sound like a LOT of work to some people. It’s way too much work for someone wanting to sell cheap purebred puppies, but that’s a topic for another time. Maybe tomorrow?