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I'm going to summarise on weekly basis, some of the problems and challenges my client breeders are experiencing in the 'real world' of dog breeding! Originally streamed via the Canine Family Planner Facebook Page .
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There’s no easy answer to this; weaning will depend on the health of the puppies, the size of the litter and the quality of the milk the dam is producing.
What’s the best weaning schedule?
Typically weaning does not need to be rushed if puppies are growing well, gaining weight daily and the dam is content to feed them. The majority of breeds commence weaning around three weeks of age because the puppies will have started growing their teeth, supporting the ability to eat tougher textured foods.
From the introduction of weaning food, there should be a slow transition over the weeks until the puppies are fully weaned at six or seven weeks. Some breeders still allow a daily milk feed until they leave for their new homes if the mother allows; this slow transition reduces the likelihood of engorged teats and mastitis. It’s not unusual for mothers to resist wanting to feed the pups or restricting access sooner, which may increase your weaning schedule pace.
Weaning may need to happen at a faster rate if the puppies have been hand-reared, it's a large litter or milk production is inadequate. It’s acceptable to start weaning puppies once all eyes are open in the litter, this is typically around 10 to 14 days old. Weaning this young can be a bit messier as they may not yet be able to stand steadily and typically more training is required in the behaviour of moving from sucking to licking.
Take care that the puppy’s nostrils are free of food to ensure unrestricted breathing and to prevent food being inhaled. A packet of sensitive baby wipes are generally required to tidy them up to post feed.
What’s easiest weaning method?
You can start weaning by letting the puppies lick a dab of weaning food off the tip of a finger, suckling a fingertip is similar to them sucking a teat. I recommend initially starting to wean on a one to one basis, ensuring the correct feeding technique and to monitor the amount they are eating.
Once the pup can stand steadily unsupported, you can tempt them to eat from a shallow bowl, tray or soother Lickimat. Once every pup is able to stand and eat, you can introduce feeding numerous pups at the same time whilst being monitored.
You may find the best milk feeders aren’t keen to transition to food, while the poorest ones fully appreciate the alternative food source. For this reason, I typically introduce the weaning meal as the first feed of the day; they should be hungry from no night feed making the food more enticing to them.
You have the option to top them up with a shorter milk feed after if you don’t feel they consumed enough. One weaning meal a day for the next 4 to 6 days should be sufficient. You then have the open to replace another milk feed, depending on your schedule lunch or dinner feed might be preferable.
What should you wean them on?
There are many options for the type of food to wean. I believe in keeping it simple. Using a transitional food such as a weaning mousse, that’s flavoursome and easy to digest and adding soaked kibble to make a porridge once confidently eating. You can add puppy milk replacer to help create the correct consistency along with grinding the kibble or blending it.
You may find the porridge becomes thicker the colder it becomes, it’s worth having a ‘top up’ bottle of warm milk to keep adding it to help keep a favourable consistency. Puppies may avoid to feed if the food it cold, it should be body temperature, not hot if placed on your wrist.
You may noticed that your puppies shiver and shake after feeding, this is normal as digesting food alters the body temperature.
Over time reduce the mousse, change the milk to water. Eventually you won’t be required to mash it as much or pre-soak the kibble for as long making it a harder texture that will need chewing.
Any breeders that plans to wean to fresh or raw food can use a weaning paste that’s finely ground and super smooth food, with the transition to a lesser ground puppy complete raw. Raw feeding puppies can help significantly with quality and size of stools along with improving the ability to toilet train and help reduce odours.
I’m not a fan of making DIY puppy gruels, such as Weetabix, egg yolks and goats milk combinations. These are not nationally balanced, and my preference is always to use puppy milk replacer rather than goat’s milk.
What’s the quantities that need to be fed?
The rule of thumb for hand-rearing a newborn puppy is 1 ml of milk per 1 oz (28g) puppy weight.
1 ml of milk is the same as 1 gram of food.
With the above ratio in mind, a 2 lb puppy is around 900g (divided by 28g) suggest 32g per weaning feed. That’s just over two tablespoons maybe three give or take the amount that will end up on their face, on the floor and over you.
This amount will all depend on your breed and their weight, there’s no right or wrong, but you want the puppy to have a comfortably full belly, not too full that it’s hard and uncomfortable. If in doubt, start will less and increase each weaning feeding.
The food will need to eventually increase to be in line with your food manufacture recommendations for an eight-week-old puppy ready to leave for their new home. It's strong advised that once puppies are competent eaters that they should be fed from individual bowls to reduce competition and possible future food aggression issues. Weanafeeda Products offer an easy to manage and clean system in a wide vary of bowl numbers and sizing to cater for the majority of breeds.
If you pre-order the book, Not Born Yesterday for a limited time is available with a FREE Home Breeders Playbook an 50 age A4 colour printed wiro bound booklet packed full of visual templates, breeder tools, tasks, tips plus video links.
Basically everything you need to successfully plan and produce great quality pups including a Puppy Feeding Guide with recommended feeding timetable and transitional pace.
Thanks to the clients and followers of HomeScan with Sara for providing such wonderful puppy weaning pics!
It’s believed around 2,000 stolen dogs are reported per year and the number just keeps increasing.
“Dog breeder offers £50,000 reward for her 11 puppies that were stolen by a gang of thugs armed with knives.
Just seeing social posts about missing animals makes my stomach flip with concern. For many of us, our dogs are one of the most precious things in the world!
As breeders and owners it’s imperative you keep them protected and secure. Dogs have become highly desirable and over recent years dog theft has significantly increased, mainly driven by the fluctuation of the monetary value of animals. A Belgium racing pigeon called ‘Armando’ sold for £1.1mil to some Chinese bird fancier's, I think this proves my case!
It’s easier to steal and distribute a litter of puppies then adults which are easier to identify and more likely to defend themselves.
Microchipping is one of the most effective ways of reuniting dogs with their owners, as long as the contact details are current.
Breeders can be at an extreme risk when selling puppies, typically if litters aren’t chipped and puppy viewings have started. This is an area of risk that you need to manage. Completing the four vetting stages will help deter any possible undesirables but it’s not foolproof.
Puppy viewings involve you allowing fairly unknown strangers into your home, which could potentially leave you a victim of crime.
Don’t provide your exact address, until 24-48hrs before the viewing. Your vetting process should have meant you have the visitors full contact details including address and contact numbers.
Explain to them that there are safe guarding procedures which will be carried out before any puppies are viewed and regardless of if they decide to purchase a puppy.
Request that the visitors provide identification in advance, copies of identification e.g. Passport or Photographic Driving Licence with a utility bill registered at the same address.
This is easily done by taking a picture using their mobile phone and forwarding the image with apps such as Whatsapp, Messenger or email.
You can also request they bring the originals on their visit, so you can check they haven’t been edited or counterfeit.
I have known breeders to also take note of the visitor’s cars registration during their visit.
Consider how much of your house the visitors will see. Possible criminals ’acting’ interested in viewing a litter, could be ‘casing your premises’ to return uninvited later.
Never have visitors when you are the only person on the premises. Two strangers could soon dominate a situation and you’ll have no help or immediate backup.
Consider investing in a security system to protect you, your house and your dogs. There are many types of surveillance systems and it’s worth seeking professional, advice due to the huge array of options.
Always have yours and your dogs safety and protection at the forefront of your mind. Treat every visitor with vigilance to prevent becoming part of ever increasing the ‘dog theft’ statics, particularly if you breed high value puppies.
Michelle Ramson of the Redimorose dogs started breeding Pugs after being besotted with them as a child. Her husband bought her a black Pug as a Valentine's gift back in 2014. Michelle comes from a farming background and has many breeding practices instilled from watching her family rearing Suffolk Sheep.
First Pug Betty Boo, stole Michelle’s heart and she soon wished for a companion for Betty. A friend who bred Golden Retrievers suggested to Michelle that she should consider breeding Betty, rather than buying in another Pug and her dog breeding interest started.
Michelle’s breeder friend, Lisa Hayes mentored and supported Michelle guiding her to become a Kennel Club Assured Breeder which she has been since August 2015 (and Lisa since May 2007!).Michelle was taking proactive steps to breeding by fulfilling the required breed health tests, kennel club paperwork and found a suitable stud. Betty Boo’s litter was textbook and resulted in five lovely pups. Michelle kept a puppy from this litter, called Ellie and continue to breed her Pugs.
In the meantime, another dog walking friend of Michelle had rescued a Bulldog called Snuffy. Michelle admired his character and persona so much that she was starting to think she would love a Bulldog to join her family too. This time her husband took a little convincing. Once new Bulldog puppy Winnie was settled, it seemed he had a soft spot for her!
Michelle first used HomeScan’s canine pregnancy scanning services in April 2016. I asked Michelle why she thought scanning was so important.
Michelle shared that her most challenging litter was her experience of water puppies where she lost three pups in a litter. She observed no signs of the condition but had changed a few of her breeding protocols. She wondered if not giving the Canine Herpes Vaccine or continuing to walking the dam during her pregnancy due to her high energy levels, both deviations from her usual practices, may have contributed to the condition. She was aware that Bulldogs are also predisposed to the condition.
Michelle also talked about her traumatic experience of unknowingly rearing a puppy with an undiagnosed cleft palate, that later was put to sleep at 10 days old. This experience formed part of Michelle’s decision to no longer breed the Pugs and refocus on a breed she had previously owned, Golden Retrievers.
Michelle shared the importance of ensuring the female eats post birth and if needed, she will hand feed until they are back to their usual self. Michelle also feeds goats milk as an easy way to increase the female’s calorie intake after the birthing experience. She also ensures the puppies suckle every hour because of her farming upbringing and the importance of colostrum having been taught in her family’s farming rearing practices. Over time the space between feeds are increased, Michelle is comfortable to do this because of a daily and simple process of puppy weighing which confirms the pups are thriving and gaining but also to quickly to identify any poorly pups.
I asked Michelle what was her most essential piece of breeding equipment? The one thing she couldn't do without.
“The whelping box, the Warrick plastic type. I love it. I can get the jet washout on it and really scrub it properly. I'm really not a fan of anything wooden, not at all. For a one off, I have also used a cardboard box."
I asked Michelle what would be her best tip for another breeder?
“My best tip would be only using a health tested sire. Put your investment into researching. When you first start out and you think to yourself ‘I'm going to mate my dog’, you need to make sure she’s health tested too.
This blog is just a bite-size portion of the smorgasbord of breeding knowledge and advice we discussed. Listen to the FREE audio of the interview below, where you’ll find out:
The next issue of the Home Breeder Herald includes Michelle’s full load down on her experience of applying for the Dog Breeding licence, plus:
Socialisation: The activity of mixing socially with others and the process of learning to behave in a way that is acceptable to society.
So what's puppy enrichment?
This goes some way toward improving their lives and replacing activities they might do in the wild, such as foraging for food. Its purpose is to maintain physical and mental health. It helps prevent boredom and behavioural problems which often stem from a lack of mental stimulation
Enrichment: The action of improving or enhancing the quality or value of something.
This form of stimulation should help prevent developmental issues, resulting in a happy dog and owners. This investment of effort should support keeping dogs out of rescue or being returned to breeders.
So it's vital that breeders not only understand and participate in socialisation and enrichment practices but also educate their puppy owners as they need to continue this development as the puppy grows and as an adult in their care.
Being stuck behind two!
I was recently trundling behind a stream of cars at 11mph, when my eye followed the line to the leading cars it was not one, but two learner drivers. It was apparent these were causing the tailbacks.
Now to be fair, when I’m behind a learner driver I’m always patient, all drivers know how difficult learning to drive initially is.
When I had my first lesson with the family instructor he asked me ‘Do you know how to drive?’ , I thought it pretty apparent I couldn’t otherwise why would I need lessons? I answered ‘No’, and he replied ‘Oh both your brothers did!’ well that figures!
NUMBER 1 - Don’t test if you are on a tight budget.
It will be more cost effective to run a full set of blood tests, then receive multiple matings to cover the biggest possible window of fertility. Multiple matings may require multiple trips to the stud costing time and fuel. It may also result in the stud being over used and by not identifying the optimal time to mate could result in a smaller litter, if any at all.
It’s more efficient to spend money up front on identifying ovulation and need only one mating.
NUMBER 2 - Don’t test if you want to guess when she's ready, by doing just one test.
Blood testing doesn’t predict when she’s going to ovulate, it only identifies whether she has ovulated or not. Be prepared to run on average three tests to pinpoint the optimal time to breed.
You should I start from day 6 - 9 of season, day 1 being first day of blood, unless the season is silent/dry or previous history suggests otherwise.
NUMBER 3 - Don’t test if you’re not prepared to take the advice that’s given, regarding the results of the test.
There’s little purpose running the test and ignoring the results. If you need to retest because the numbers are too low, then retest as advised! Don't get disappointed if the result is too high and you’ve gone past day 9 of season, take it as a lesson to start testing earlier.
When sharing your results, make sure that all parties are all talking the same language! There are two scales of results:
NUMBER 4 - Don’t test if you haven’t prepared and planned.
Vets aren’t particularly helpful when it comes to breeding. You need to have the discussions regarding asking for a blood draw only appointment in advance. This can be conducted by a vet nurse negating the need to see the vet and incur consultation fee, as your dog is not ill and you do not need their assessment. This is pertinent if you plan to use your own independent Laboratory, particularly for same day results.
You’ll need to pre-order your kits from (if they provide them) from the Lab to take with you and it’s always good to keep the stud own in the loop!
If you want to do things right…
You should learn what the results mean and how a female cycle progresses. Independent testing of the stud will ensure no conflict of interest regarding the results. Only 1.2ml is needed of whole blood to the fill line of a microtube suitable for testing, the quality of blood is better before food. The tube should be white or clear topped, its fine that the blood clots and the tube should have no gel separator as it can lower the results.
If you want to know the full load down on efficient blood testing then register for the FREE 1 pager on “Everything you need to know about Progesterone Testing”.
1. A.I stands for artificial insemination, this is the technique of collecting from the male and artificially inseminating the female by directly placing the semen inside the vagina (trans-vaginal). Semen placed through the cervix (trans-cervical) should only carried-out by a vet with the use of an endoscope.
2. The male is collected by imitating that he is locked onto a female which causes a tie, is not the equivalent of human foreplay and shouldn’t be collected in such a way!
Thankfully Ben Holt of HighHolt Labradors, Pugs & French Bulldogs and owner of Highlands Kennels Ltd (Horam) agreed for me to interview him as part of gaining HomeScan Master Breeder status. The interview took much longer than I had imagined in this bustling reception of the boarding kennel that he owns and managed for the last eight years and a reason why his breeding programme evolved so quickly. Ben shared some great information that any breeder would benefit from!
This is where Sara Lamont the Canine Family Planner founder of HomeScan & Pet Mate Services will be sharing her observations in the world of canine breeding accrued from three decades in the field.