Hello, prospective owners of the Rossi x Mika owners! Before we get into the daily updates, let’s pause for a moment to acknowledge how exciting this breeding is. On the heels of Mika’s 2015 AUTOBOT litter, we’re very, very excited to welcome this next Americana batch, who, like their older brothers and sisters, should grow up to become excellent runners, hunters, swimmers, and retrievers. At home, I expect your kids to be confident, loyal, and loving. Without further ado, below is a summary of what we’re doing with these kids in the first month so they have the BEST start they can have before they come home with you. Thank you in advance for loving your kids just as much as I do. – Kim
DAY 0 (Friday July 1st) – While I get excited about EVERY litter I plan, it doesn’t really hit me until I’m on the edge of catching puppies. This litter is no different. Setting up the whelping box, pulling out the blankets, selecting the collars… the whole “pre-game routine” gets me into a head space where I’m so freaking excited I can hardly stand it. Already, I’m dreaming of all that is to come. Will some of these be field trial kids? Will someone ace their NAVHDA test(s)? Is there an agility rock-star in here? Do we have a Dual Champion prospect?! As much as I’m looking forward to the safe arrivals, I’m equally jazzed about the future puppy owners, and members of the extended Barrett family. This is going to be an amazing ride for all of you and I can’t WAIT for you to know what that means.
A note about puppy collars. I’m a collar nut. I think it makes for pretty photos. 🙂 [See also: I’m also a photo nut.] For those interested, I buy these for $1.00/roll at JoAnns Fabrics, and use velcro stickers to hold them together. Because they’re velcro, they will easily un-attach if a puppy gets caught on something (like the arm of another puppy). The primary purpose of puppy collars is to identify who everyone is from the get-go. The first boy is always blue, the first girl is always pink, and then it’s just a “what do I want next?” approach when the next one arrives. At about 4-5 weeks, we’ll switch to solid colored collars (shout-out to our friend April who makes these for us!) so we can easily identify who’s on the move from across the lawn. Over the next two months, these collars will help me geek out on recording daily weights, individual coat markings, personality, temperament, structure, etc. and know exactly which puppy is which.
DAY 1 (Saturday July 2nd) – Typically, about 24 before the first puppy is delivered, mom’s temperature drops below 100 degrees. On Friday night we were at 99.4. By Saturday morning we were at 98.5, so I knew today was going to be the day. After lots of panting and pacing, the first puppy arrived, butt first in his sac, a little after 3PM. Mika ate off the placenta (it’s good for them and encourages contractions to continue), I dried off the pup with a towel, set it down to nurse (which also encourages contractions to continue), and for the next nine hours, we repeated this process until all nine puppies were delivered. At 1:00 AM, I was exhausted and went to the bedroom for a nap, letting my husband Barry take over babysitting duties. In the first 24 hours, mom and pups are continuously monitored to keep puppies from being rolled on/squashed/suffocated.
A note about where the puppies are raised. Weimaraner puppies can be born in lots of places. Breeders who have kennel space might raise them there. Others might elect to use a garage, bedroom, or side room of the house. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with any of those choices, I’ve had plenty of friends raise puppies in kennels or bedrooms, and there are great reasons for each (cleanliness, quiet, etc.). Since our house is TINY, and the kitchen is the heart of our home, we’ve elected to raise every Barrett in the kitchen. The skylight makes for bright, natural light, someone’s already in the vicinity to look after the pups, and if something happens, we can hear it from the adjacent living room. This is also a great place for the pups because once they’re about 3 weeks old and can hear and see, there’s a LOT of activity that they’ll get exposed to (which is great for them): the beeping of the microwave, running of the vacuum, the television (and whatever we’re Netflixing), doors opening and closing, dishes being washed, meals being cooked, etc. Bonus, there’s a side door that will give puppies direct access to the yard… which will come in VERY handy when it’s time to potty train them.
DAY 2 (Sunday July 3rd) – At 4:30 AM, I resumed my babysitting duties and sent Barry back down to the bedroom for HIS nap. (Thank you honey for taking the overnight shift!) Barry was pleased to report that all the puppies nursed well and not only made it overnight, but appeared to be thriving as well. If you’ve followed us for awhile now, you’ll notice that puppy announcements aren’t posted online until at least 24 hours after the first pup arrives. Superstition aside, so much can go wrong in these first few hours that it’s just smarter to know how we’re doing before we officially make it public. By 4:00 PM, families on the interest list had been notified, and a Facebook announcement had been made. We also spent the day counting, and making sure we were able to see ALL NINE in the pile, breathing, and eating or sleeping. By evening, I was comfortable that they were going to be okay, so I disassembled my box-side cot, pillow and blanket and headed off to bed.
DAY 3 (Monday, July 4th) – Everyone continues to do well. (Woo hoo!!!) Today’s agenda includes making sure that all puppies gain weight (we weigh them daily and record it on a log), nurse well, and otherwise appear healthy. Puppies will get their nails trimmed for the first time, so they don’t claw at mom too much. [See also: it’s never too early for good grooming.] We’re also making sure mom gets enough to eat and drink as her nutrition level will directly affect what she’s able to pass onto her kids. Since it’s the Fourth of July and I have no plans to go anywhere, today is also a good day to think about a litter theme (Americana?!?!) and clean house. Beginning today and for the next two weeks, early neurological stimulations will be conducted on the puppies. Read here to learn more about it. We’ve done this with every litter and believe it gives them a good head start.
A note about grooming. I don’t get freaky about a lot of things (okay, maybe I do), but I am somewhat of a nail Nazi. Dogs who have really long, untrimmed nails drive me insane. For my own dogs, we trim nails once a week. Sometimes we use clippers, and sometimes we use the Dremel (mine is the Dremel 8820, which is cordless!) with the sand/grind bit. Also, here’s an article from The Whole Dog Journal about the importance of trimming nails. In summary, JUST DO IT. I will go as far as saying that if you don’t think you’ll be keeping nails short, I can’t sell you a puppy. It’s that important to me. (You can always take your dog into PetSmart or your vet and they’ll be happy to do it for you.) And c’mon, our breed is short-coated! It’s not like we’re Poodles and we have to scissor trim everything. I will also share that my Old English Shepard breeder friend spends THREE HOURS before every show grooming her dog. All we have is nails. Easy peasy.
DAY 4 (Tuesday, July 5th) – Today, the kiddos got “Weimarized.” In English, that means removal of the dewclaws and shortening, or “docking” of the tail. This is typically done between 3-5 days of age, and we primarily do it because it’s consistent with the breed standard. Secondarily, these dogs are working dogs and the last thing I need is for a dewclaw to get caught in a bush and ripped off, or a tail to be caught in a bush and broken. Tails and dewclaws for the first two Barrett litters were done by local long-term breeder, Joan Valdez. By the time litter # 3 came around, I was comfortable doing the procedure myself, and have been doing it ever since. Sometimes, I get asked, “why don’t you take them to the vet and have a professional do it?” For me, the most obvious reason is, “vets are full of germs,” and I don’t want to take in young, un-vaccinated puppies unless I absolutely have no other choice. This also eliminates the logistical need for packing up a litter of NINE and driving them, and their mother, clear across town, and interrupting her nursing schedule for a couple of hours. Also, I’m a freak about tail length and I don’t trust that my vet (who is not a specialist in Weimaraners) would get the tail done at the length I want it. I’ve also seen more than my fair share of botched jobs (including those done by vets on other local breeder litters) and know that if I’m comfortable doing it myself and know I can do it right, why not?! #efficiencyforthewin
DAY 5 (Wednesday, July 6th) – Today, we “upgraded” collar sizes for the first time, a true sign that puppies are nursing well and continue to grow. I’ve also been trading a LOT of emails with folks who are looking for a puppy and had hoped to get one out of this litter, but were told, “I’m sorry, I just don’t have enough puppies available.” For the record, let me tell you that I HATE that I have to tell people there’s no puppy for them, especially if it’s been months that they’ve been waiting, AND they were rolled over from the Spring litter. But my priority is to these puppies: kids out of this Rossi x Mika litter were bred specifically for hunting and field ability, so homes that would give them the best chances of doing exactly that have to be prioritized. It’s good for the dog and it’s good for the breed. By the time the puppies are old enough to be evaluated (7-8 weeks), my hunch is that I’d only be willing to let 1-2, maybe 3 go to “companion homes.” That’s not a lot, especially when the interest list for this litter included 85 interested parties. EIGHTY-FIVE. That’s a lot, folks. That means that there are bunch of you out there looking for pups, and at the end of eight weeks, only eight or nine of you get one (I may keep one for myself). That means I have to tell at least 75 of you to keep looking. #ihatethispartofbeingabreeder
DAY 8 (Saturday, July 9th) – We’ve made it past the first week. !!! I can finally relax a little bit because I think the kids are big enough now that they won’t get rolled on and squashed by their mother. (In the first week, this is very possible and consequences could be very serious.) I also marvel at how quickly these little guys grow. For the first time, there’s also a big size difference between siblings. Roughly the size of an extra large baked potato, “Stripes” is by far the largest boy, and roughly the size of a Twinkie, “Cupcake” is the smallest girl. There’s also differences in coat; some puppies have thicker coats and some have shorter, thinner coats. Some are light gray, and even tan, and some are dark gray, more silver in tone. I attribute all of these “differences” to the fact that this was an outcross breeding (the COI is 4.7% over 10 generations). Also, in every litter, I have early “favorites.” In the last litter, it was the Jumbo Jet, who I later kept and named Graham. In this litter, I have my eye on “Aqua” (for his dark gray goat) and “Stripes” (for the extra wrinkly face). Logical choices? Absolutely not. 🙂
DAY 18 (Tuesday, July 19th) – Apologies. Another week and a half has gone by and I’ve been mostly MIA (because the office is insanely busy right now and I’ve been putting in 12-14 hour days). Kids are about two and a half weeks old now. Eyes are open, ears are open, and they’re up on their feet toddling around the whelping box, wrestling and playing with one another. They’re also a bunch of nursing piranhas and mamma Mika is eating double-time just to keep up. It actually might be time to start supplementing their meals with goats milk to give them a little boost until we get to soaked kibble this weekend. Late at night, we plop down in front of the sofa to watch mindless television, they like that. Hopefully, I’ll be around enough this weekend to get some more photos and send some more updates.
DAY 24 (Monday, July 25th) – Aaaand, another week has gone by. Sorry, my day job is sucking the life out of me. Mika is definitely not able to keep up with how much the puppies need, so on the 21st day, we started supplementing with puppy formula (Esbilac). It started with 1.5 cups on Thursday night and by Tuesday night, we had upped their rations to 3 full cups, and they lick it up in less than a minute. Mom is still feeding them throughout the day when she feels like it. When she doesn’t, you can find her under the piano on a dog bed (nowhere near the puppies). By this weekend, we’ll be incorporating ground kibble into their food (Taste of the Wild High Prairie), and then the fun begins! because we’ll also be moving the kids to larger accommodations in the dining room.
DAY 26 (Wednesday, July 27th) – If everyone’s collars fell off at the same time, let the record show that I can still figure out who’s who, based on the following notes: Arnold is the giant puppy; he eclipses the others and is a very light gray. Black Boy is the one who’s almost as big as he is, but more tan in color. Green Boy is the smaller, tan colored puppy. Blue Boy is the small gray colored puppy and has more pigment than his brothers. Yellow Girl has a white “S” shaped mark on her chest. Cupcake (also known as Danny DeVito) is tiny and also has white hairs on two of her back toes. Dottie has more pigment than the others and a cowlick on her face, Navy Girl has white hairs on her pasterns (the backside of the front wrists) and Pink Girl has NO white, anywhere. Since this is an outcross litter (COI is less than 5%), it’s been fun to see puppies that vary in size, shape, and color.
DAY 29 (Saturday, July 30th) – We are FOUR WEEKS OLD now!!! To celebrate the milestone, the kids were upgraded to larger accommodations in the dining room. Perks include natural lighting, a view (and eventual direct access) into the backyard, an endless supply of blankets, and a 20″ wire crate with a bed in it… all ready for “introduction to crate training.” This is where we’ll also begin potty training. We’ll start by laying blankets down on one side of the pen, and taping down potty pads on the other side. Since puppies don’t like to potty where they eat, sleep, or play, (isn’t mother nature awesome?!) they’ll naturally seek out the potty pads (in other words, some place NOT their blankets) to do their business in. Once they get the hang of this, we’ll add a litter box and get them litter trained. Just like kitty cats!
So… what’s it like for a litter of Barrett puppies between weeks 5-8?! Stay tuned… 🙂