One thing is for sure, when you are raising puppies there is no such thing as things staying the same. This past week has seen quite a bit of change for the puppies, both in their environment and in themselves.
The first thing we did was move them to a larger area. The whelping box was no longer big enough to contain the rapidly growing pups, so we made the decision to have Misaki and the puppies swap areas – essentially Misaki moved from the dining room to the living room and the puppies did the opposite. While that sounds like a straightforward thing, it was an all-day event to set up the space for the puppies because they needed a lot of things Misaki did not, like tons of padding and pee areas and stronger security. At the other end Misaki actually ended up with more space because it doesn’t need to be as secure and we’re not worried about her chewing through things.
(Side note on Misaki: her canine cognitive disorder is getting worse. It’s sad and heartbreaking to see her mind continue to fail her and all we can do is restrict her space so she feels comfortable. With a dog of sound mind we wouldn’t be doing this, but it is what it is.)
Here’s a few pics of the pups new area, which features three possible entrances for the humans and Umma, fits mostly under the dining table, and butts up against the entrance to the sunroom which leads to outside. It also allows us to segment the area into two so we can wash the puppy pads in one side while the pups are playing or sleeping in the other.
Two crates, one with two entrances so we can bridge the two areas, and lots of EZwhelp puppy pads (two layers), supplemented with a few white Lennypads and some disposable pads here and there, including in the plastic frame.
The puppies really seem to like having the extra space and they’ve taken to the new schedule of switching back and forth with ease. As you can see in the pics, we’ve also given them chew toys. They not only play with them on their own, but when their tiny needle teeth get to be too much for the humans if we redirect them with a toy it actually works – for a few minutes at least.
Pups are now running, wrestling, growling, howling, tail wagging in context, and generally turning into adorable little werewolves. Despite the craziness, they are also super polite and will drop their butts to the ground (manding) when one of us comes to the side of the pen. We try out best to not pet a pup until they sit on their own, trying to set up a behavior where calm gets rewarded.
These pups also use the designated pee area. Not always, maybe not even half, but enough that it’s more than random chance. I’ve seen them get up from a nap in the crate, stretch, walk directly to the designated area, and do their business.
Here’s the official Week 4 pics!
The biggest changes visually, apart from sheer size, are in the red girl (top right). Last week she still had quite a large black mask and black socks, but this week the mask has shrunk drastically and the socks are almost completely gone.
Now for the craziest part of the whole week. Raising puppies with no complications is extremely stressful (I imagine, since this is our first litter), but when things don’t go according to plan and you have no immediate reference point it can damn near make your head explode.
About midway through the week we started trying to supplement Umma’s milk with water to get the puppies used to lapping liquids. That went well, so we moved on to a goat’s milk and baby rice cereal paste mixture they could lick off our fingers. That also went well. However, Umma decided she was done feeding her puppies. Just done. She’d had enough of the sharp teeth and claws (despite us keeping up on nail trims) and no matter how much we cajoled her, she would only run from her pups when in the new area. (This was after feeding them in there multiple times.)
So picture this: It’s midnight. Pups haven’t had momma’s milk since 3am the night before and only had some supplemental food. The humans are desperate, cranky and tired. Umma is frustrated because we keep trying to make her go in with the pups and feed them. When we do, the hungry pups desperately chase their momma around in circles while she looks to us, begging us to let her out. So we give in. What else can we do? We can’t make her feed them.
On top of that, when nursing moms don’t nurse they run the danger of developing mastitis and Umma was showing indications of possibly getting that, so now we’re freaking out about her as well. Over the course of the next couple hours we traded many messages with Umma’s breeder about what to do, combined with a ton of internet research. As it turns out, with warm compresses and massage we can alleviate the pre-mastitis symptoms. It’ll continue for awhile, but she’s much better and back to her normal self. As we massaged we also noticed her poor tender bits have quite a few scratches and bite marks. The situation isn’t ideal by any means, but it’s understandable.
It also means the feeding them real food goal has to be moderately accelerated. The goat’s milk paste was switched to Esbilac (canine formula) and we’ve added in Wellness soft puppy food. They are doing quite well and seem to love it. In the meantime we have to curtail Umma’s food in order to stop milk production. She wasn’t thrilled about the less food, but she’s adjusted as well.
Whew. It’s been a week…
Oh, and yesterday was Umma’s birthday – she’s three! Happy birthday baby girl!
After keeping her away from the pups for a couple days and letting the situation stabilize, yesterday we opened up the sunroom and let Umma back in with the pups. I was worried about them still only seeing her as a food source, but Ayako and the breeder made excellent points on why it was worth the risk. Puppies need their momma to learn how to be good dogs. They learn proper play and how to read signals in other dogs among a whole ton of other items.
It went well! We gave Umma a couch to escape to when she felt overwhelmed and while the pups at first thought she was there for feeding, they seemed to quickly grasp she is now predominantly a teacher and not a food source. There was no growling or snapping from Umma, mostly only smiles.
That’s a relief, to put it lightly.
Over the course of the next week we’ll be introducing them to outside and more solid food. Wish us luck!