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When I have a litter of pups, these are some of the things I do to ensure that I give them the best start in life I can.
First of all, I sleep in the same room as the bitch for a week before and up to a week after the birth of her litter. I also use homoeopathic remedies to aid the bitch with the birthing. You can get help on this from Hilary Jupp's site at http://www.irishwolfhounds.org/homeopathy.htm.
When the puppies are approximately three weeks old they start getting scraped meat (lamb) in pieces the size of a pea once a day to begin with. They suck at this and thoroughly enjoy it. The balls of scraped meat are gradually increased in size and given twice a day and then, when they are eating reasonably well, they are changed on to minced meat. By the time they are ready to be weaned they are already half-way there. They also get ewes' milk, as this is the nearest in composition to a bitch's milk. Also at three weeks of age they are given a chicken wing. This helps tremendously with their teeth and it is something they com pletely enjoy, besides being very nutritious.
Around three weeks of age I start getting them swimming, which I do by filling the bath with lukewarm water and putting a puppy on my hand and lowering it into the water. Then I just move my hand and the pup through the water. After a very short time they are "doggy paddling". I do this at this early age because the memory of being in the womb is still there and it makes it easy to teach them. They also become utterly fearless of water and I personally think it is a very necessary step for the wellbeing of a pup, whatever it does in life. Also, in the case of a pup which is going to become a working dog, there is one less thing to have to teach them later. It is also a wonderful way to waste part of a day! I carry on with the bath and swimming until they are at a size where the bath is not big enough for them to play in.
Once the puppies have opened their eyes and ears I start putting the radio on, and the occasional hoovering is done to get them used to household noises.
At about four to five weeks they are moved out of the house and into the summerhouse, which is heated. One of the first things I then do is take them out in the car. This is done so as to help with their journey to their new homes. At that time they have enough to think about and being used to going in the car helps. It also helps to prevent their being car sick.
Then, until they are ready to leave for their new homes, it is a case of exploring the garden, hearing and seeing the grass being mowed, introducing them to cows and sheep - we are very lucky as we have them in the fields around us - and anything else we can think of.
Because they get the homoeopathic nosodes at two weeks of age, I start letting people see and handle them from about three weeks. Obviously this is only close friends, so that the bitch is not upset by any of it and is quite happy. Then children are introduced, so that, by the time the puppies leave us, they are used to as many things as possible that I can introduce to them.
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