English Labrador Retrievers: Weeks Five and Six
Beginning of their 5th week
Monday, when the girls had reached the seasoned age of 4 weeks and 1 day old, they escaped from their interior home to the fenced area outside. Yes, they used the doggie door! Their mother kept a close eye on them looking for all the world like a crocodile lying in wait for some unsuspecting wildebeest just inside the door with only her nose and eyes outside, ever watchful should something try to get her babies. How adventurous one must be to go beyond the boundaries, out through a door and into the outside! What must they be thinking?
Later that day Tina noticed them getting into their mother's food pan, sampling this and that from the Taste of the Wild Puppy food we are feeding her. It is very high in protein and good for her while she is producing milk for them. Anyway, she thought now would be the best time to give them some soft food so she went inside to prepare some dinner for them.
I came home as she was doing this and started my own meal for them consisting of baby cereal and warm milk. We each took our plates outside and set them down before the girls to let them decide which they wanted.
I didn't win.
Seems they really liked the soft food. Tina picked up a couple of cans of a brand named Pure Balance. She researched it on the internet and found it was made for Wal-Mart and is a fairly decent food as it is rated four stars on the Dog Food Advisor site and is available for a reasonable price; about $1 a can. One can will give each puppy two meals so this is a doable proposition for the time being, with the added benefit of them really liking it. We will supplement their milk with a meal per day for a couple of days before weaning them off Abbie and onto real food this week.
Middle to End of Fifth Week
We gave the girls their second dose of worming medicine and boy did they need it! I don't know where these things come from but it appears as though they come from nowhere. Abbie doesn't have worms yet her puppies, which have been exposed to nothing but their mother have them. Oodles and gobs of them. But the medicine works well and they are "pooping" the bad things out.
We played with the girls after Madison's graduation from college on Saturday. They are running around, playing and jumping like puppies should. Usually Kate is more reserved and Ziva is outgoing but today Kate was chasing her sister around, biting her tail and ears being the aggressor. Ziva just howled and growled at Kate but that wouldn't stop her. I intervened and moved them apart a bit, tossing a tennis ball for Kate. She would drop down into a crouch then take off running for the ball, trying her best to get it into her mouth. Not yet, but soon; very soon.
We are taking Abbie out daily and placing her in her area next to Duckie for some time away from the puppies and time with Duckie. She loves it but not for too long. After a short time she is back at the door wanting to be put back with the girls. We are stretching it out longer each day, from a few minutes to a couple of hours. This gives her the time she needs while creating some independence for the girls. We are keeping the Taste of the Wild Puppy Food in their area just in case they want to snack and we have caught them several times doing just that. They are also drinking water from their mother's water pan daily. It won't be long before they are off her milk completely; maybe next week.
They have also discovered that there is more to their world than just their little area and are desiring to get out more often. When we come outside they whine and bark, wagging their fat little tails and trying to entice us take them out to play. More often than not we do. They run around, exploring here and there but never go too far.
We brought each of them inside the house for the first time on Saturday. Kate came first, and she was tentative. She sniffed around cautiously, under the coffee table and sofa before coming back to me. Once she came back she was all wiggles and waggles, smiling and enjoying herself. She began acting a bit suspicious shortly after she came in so I took her outside for a moment, setting her on the grass and saying "Go potty" to her and I was pleasantly surprised when she did! She squatted and peed and I praised her and loved on her for a good job.
Ziva was not so cautious, sticking her nose here and there and running about seeing what she could see. Her demeanor is fearless for the most part. She did not show any signs of wanting to go to the bathroom just of wanting to play.
What should I do?
Beginning of Week Six
As the girls grow one thing is becoming more and more apparent: Kate is a bully. She was born a little bit bigger but in the beginning she was a little more hesitant at latching on to feed and would only feel comfortable if she was sleeping on top of Ziva. As they grew Ziva has been the more outgoing, preferring to spend her time with people more than Kate has. Ziva will run to you when you call her as opposed to Kate running to mama.
But now it appears as though Kate takes every opportunity to pick on her sister. She will grab her tail and clamp down, eliciting howls and piteous cries from Ziva. Kate will bite her ears, her nose, her hind end: anywhere she can grab a chunk of hide or fur, she grabs and hangs on until Ziva begins crying. Abbie just lets them sort it out so I suppose this is normal, this sorting out the pecking order. But it seems strange to watch the more outgoing puppy be the underdog in the scraps between siblings.
We are continuing to pull Abbie away and place her back into her normal area near Duckie. Every day we stretch the time out more and more as we focus on the weaning process. By weeks end I hope to have them completely off Mother's milk and on a combination of soft and dry puppy food. Both are drinking from the water pan with no issue so I think the only remaining obstacle is that comfort they are getting from nursing as they want.
I have to make a comment here about Duckie. When Abbie is not around him, he refuses to eat. It is as though he misses her and is sad which is both possible and probable. They love each other so much and when separated he is lonely. The girls are out of sight but I know he hears and smells them because he constantly sits in the area closest to where they are at. Once we put them close together he is bounding around, happy as can be. After they reunite and are comfy he eats every single bit of food he can. Abbie is as happy to see him and runs straight to where she is supposed to be whenever we take her over to see him. She also has stopped having bowel movements inside the puppy enclosure, instead saving them for when she goes back to her area. These dogs are much smarter than I ever gave credit for. I knew they could be trained, but this is beyond what I ever thought of. It is a continuing education for me and I am loving it.
Their size shows me they are doing well when I compare it to their parents. Both are growing more rapidly than their father and are at least as big as their mother. As for intelligence, I will say they seem to be able to catch on very quickly. When we take them out to play, they know their boundaries. They understand that they do not potty inside the house (so long as we watch them and take them outside to the grass) and when the time comes to put them back they do not want to go! They will do their best to escape back into the yard. It is funny to put one up, shut the gate then try to put the other up. The first one will come back to the gate and stand, waiting to get back out again. It becomes a revolving door as we try to keep one in and put the other up. For such bouncing bundles of fur they can be quick!
After weighing them several times a week since birth they have come to understand the process and no longer fight me when placed on the scale. They will set down, front paws on the lip of the bowl I have to keep them in place and look at me, waiting until I take them back out. Then a love while holding them on their back (to have them understand to relax and not fight us when we need them to be still) before setting them down onto the floor. They will clutch my fingers to their chest in a hugging motion as I rub their chins. It is so cute!
7 lbs 12 oz
8 lbs 4 oz
5 lbs 6 oz
4 1/2 weeks
8 lbs 10 oz
10 lb 6 oz
10 lbs 12 oz
5 1/2 weeks
11 lbs 6 oz
11 lbs 6 oz
12 lbs 8 oz
12 lbs 3 oz
12 lbs 3 oz
9 lbs 10 oz
Middle of the Week
Well, I weighed the girls on the scale I purchased to weigh them on as puppies and found they have outgrown it. The maximum on the scale is eleven pounds and they maxed it out. So I brought out our bath scales. They are electronic and are fairly accurate. I tested a known weight on each scale and they are very close so going forward I will be using this scale to document their weight.
Oh, what did they weigh today, at five and a half weeks? Eleven pounds six ounces. Both of them. Yes, both; Ziva caught up with Kate at least for now. We'll see come Sunday at a full six weeks of age if they are still the same or if Kate has retaken the lead.
After weighing and their evening meal we sat and played with them outside on the grass. Both are running well, tugging one another's ears and tails, forcing the other to cry out. We continue to call them by name, clapping our hands and calling to them until they come.
Which one is your favorite?
Approaching Six Weeks Of Age
We continue to stretch out the time Abbie is away from the girls; it is now up to several hours, which is good for both parties. She gets to begin resuming a normal life while the girls become more independent. I know Abbie and Duckie enjoy this time as they frequently play together until they tire then lay down close to one another and nap.
Thursday evening after work I went out and collected Ziva to bring her inside for a bit of one on one play time. She sniffed around a bit before coming back and playing with both Tina and I. I had to take our daughter to her NASP (Archery) awards ceremony right after dinner so we were unable to play very long but we enjoyed the time while we had it.
After twenty minutes or so I took Ziva back out to where Kate waited. Once Ziva hit the ground both puppies were wagging their tails furiously, licking one another in a happy reunion.
After the awards ceremony (in which our daughter received an award for the highest score shot by a female and the Yee-Yee award for being a great encourager to the other participants) I brought Kate in. As usual she was more tentative and preferred to snuggle with whomever was holding her or playing with her at that moment. She particularly enjoyed Tina's cuddling, placing her head upon Tina's shoulder in the crook of her neck and closing her eyes in bliss, tail slowing swinging from side to side as Tina stroked her head and back.
After a little while I took her back outside and heard Ziva moaning as she missed her sister. Tina told me that every day, when the girls hear her step outside they begin barking at her, intent on catching her attention and enticing her to come visit them. They are truly people puppies! They love the attention, all the attention one can give. This is a lesson for all who are thinking about getting a puppy: they want you. Your time, your attention, your love. Be sure you have it to give before committing to this relationship because once begun it is difficult for all concerned to have it fail.
Saturday and Sunday near the end of their sixth week
On Saturday we went to town to purchase their first round of shots. We went with a 7 way shot which includes distemper and parvovirus among others. That afternoon we went out to give them the shots. As I have never given shots before I was the designated holder. While I picked them up and held them Tina prepared the shot and administered it. They have plenty of loose skin at the back of their necks so she pulled some of it up and slid the needle home. A gentle push of the plunger and the shot was done. As the day wore on we kept an eye on them for any possible side effect including excessive saliva or other unnatural reaction, but there was none.
We left Abbie with Duckie for most of the day, only placing her back with her puppies while we went to town and overnight. They are still Mama's little girls and she their protector but they are increasingly independent. Their rough and tumble play strengthens them and allows them to build needed tools for their future lives.
Sunday morning I went out to take Abbie and Duckie outside to their respective pens and feed them. I then took fresh water to the girls and gave them both the wet and dry puppy food. Kate jumped right on the wet while Ziva started on the dry.
Playtime was short today due to chores, smoking a pork shoulder roast (watched Pioneer Woman Saturday and cooked it the way she did. Best ever!!), weed eating the yard, painting the deck and having our youngest daughter's seventeenth birthday. Just another day in the life around here.
Even though the girls are eating both wet and dry food, the minute I put Abbie back in with them for the night, both puppies tried to nurse. And good mother that she is, Abbie stood still long enough for them to fill their bellies. I know their teeth are sharp and have to be uncomfortable but she maintains a calm demeanor and lets them drink away.
In my next, and possibly final Hub regarding the growth of these two wonderful little girls I will relay my decision on what we are going to do with them. On one side is keeping both of them because they are sisters and we have their Father and Mother here with us, so we could keep it one big happy family, showing the girls and Duckie at various conformation shows in the area. On the other hand is keeping one of them to show while finding a good home for the other one. Then, on the OTHER hand is finding a home for both either together or separately.
The cost (financially) of keeping both would be high. The cost (emotionally) of giving up one or both will be high. I posted the question above which will allow you the reader to weigh in. I am interested in your thoughts on this.
How do breeders and owners of kennels do this? Is it easier when there are more puppies, more litters? Is it easier when the mother has the puppies naturally and there is less involvement required by the owners? I honestly did not expect this to be so difficult. I hope and pray this series of articles I am writing helps someone, somewhere, sometime in their decision making process regarding having puppies. I also hope it provides some valuable insight into the wonderful world of breeding and caring for pets. I know that if I had something like this to read and research my road might have been different.