Written by Samary Birkline, © 2020
After whelping, the pups need warmth and nourishment, as provided by the dam. They are kept indoors, inside the whelping box with the dam twenty-four hours a day; seven days a week. The dam is, of course, encouraged to leave the box several times each day for food, water, and elimination. They will see a veterinarian before the first week is out. Their tails will be docked and dewclaws removed, as well as each one given an examination. Concerns, if any, are discussed with the vet at this time. The litter is monitored closely during the first week to ensure the dam does not accidentally harm them. Even the best of mothers can make a mistake, and careful observation reduces the risk of early puppy mortality.
For the first two weeks, the puppies are kept at the bottom of the bed in the main bedroom of the house. This is the best way to avoid smothering or accidental injury. She’ll do the majority of the cleaning up after the litter, but she’ll be making her own post-natal mess of the area, so we keep up with it by changing the bedding twice daily; replacing the linens and keeping the box itself clean and dry. She’ll spend every minute she can with them until the second week, when their eyes will open.
Another advantage The Kennel Birkline gives its pups is the benefit of (Early Neurological Stimulation (ENS) and Early Scent Introduction (ESI). From day three through day sixteen, each pup is stimulated in very specific scientifically proven ways to improve cardiovascular performance, promote stronger heart beats and adrenal glands, a more powerful sense of smell, higher tolerance for stress, and a greater resistance to disease. Decades of study have proven these techniques to maximize the pup’s potential.
Entering the third week, the box and litter are moved into our living room. The dam naturally begins to taper off the amount of time she spends with them. She will willingly leave the box to visit with her humans and the rest of the pack. Consequently, she will stop cleaning up after them as much, and the bedding is changed more often to keep the litter clean. The pups’ nails will be clipped for the first time.
As the fourth week begins, the puppies begin to climb outside the box. They make the move into the solar-powered, climate controlled outdoor kennel system. (We keep the air between 70F and 80F.) They are cutting teeth and toys are offered to build a healthy foundation for proper chewing habits. They are also offered puppy porridge at the beginning of the week. This is made by mixing very hot water with large breed puppy chow, raw milk, and NuVet supplements and allowing it to sit out in room temperature for several minutes until the chow had absorbed much of the water. This is a supplement to their mother’s milk they receive through the end of the fourth or sometimes the fifth week (dictated naturally by the dam). She will still actively lie down and nurture them, but their teeth hurt, and she will nurse them for shorter and shorter periods towards the end of the week. They are given porridge twice daily. Again, their nails will be clipped.
Once we make the move into the outdoor kennel, a daily routine is established. In the morning, the kennel is typically quite messy. They have soiled the puppy mat (and the bedding, too, in the early weeks) and they need replacing; the floor beneath the mats are scrubbed and disinfected. Pups are fed outside in the yard while the kennel system is reset and disinfected. We used freshly laundered blankets for bedding and washable, liquid-proof puppy mats on the floor to stay green.
After the puppies finish cleaning their bowls, they are naturally ready to eliminate and by repetition, they learn to go potty out in the yard in the morning. Toys are thrown into the yard during this play time, and they are observed closely. Developmental leaps and bounds are made at this time, and personalities bloom. Notes are made and the Birkline Doberman website is updated with information and photographs.
Once the play behavior begins to slow down, the puppies are placed back into a clean kennel, with fresh bedding and clean, fresh water. They almost always go directly to sleep.
Several hours later, they are roused and taken back outside to eliminate and play with toys again. During this break, the dam is encouraged to walk among them, though she many times is running away from their sharp teeth. After snack time and play time is over, elimination has naturally occurred outdoors in the grass. Again, having spent their spurts of puppy energy, they will go back to sleep when put back into the kennel, to grow and recharge. This pendulum system, we find, is extremely effective at establishing potty-training cornerstones, which usually sets in later, towards the end of the seventh week.
The fifth week is an exciting week for the puppies. The dam is still nursing them some, but there is a shift in most puppies’ focus from milk to porridge this week. As immunity from the dam’s milk fades away, we give the first set of base inoculations. Training begins this week in the form of gentle handling by responsible, canine educated children. Their nails are clipped again, much to the dam’s relief, since they can begin standing on their hind legs to find “meals on heels”. She no longer has to lie down to nurse them. She will only allow them to nurse for a few minutes at a time, such is the strenuous nature of feeding a frenzied five-week-old pack.
In the sixth week, the second set of inoculations occur and cornerstones for potty-training begin to dawn on most of the puppies. The litter is carefully kept on the pendulum schedule. Based on eating, elimination, and sleeping, the pups natural instincts and behavior are used organically, to encourage human interaction, litter mate socialization, and play with a variety of toys. Ears are also cropped during the sixth week, and the aftercare is overseen by our local veterinarian with pain medicine, anti-inflammatories, and antibiotics.
The seventh week begins with a big day. Because the seventh week is the best week to bond with your puppy, and it is also the best week to perform a puppy aptitude test. At the beginning of the seventh week, the tests are issued and the results posted online for client review. The Kennel Birkline has a world-class veterinarian crop their ears during the seventh week, also, making it the busiest week so far.
As the eighth week begins, the puppies get their first heartworm, flea, tick, and internal parasite prevention. Stitches come out usually 12 days after the cropping, and their final visit to the vet is around 8.5 weeks. After this, we go home!
As our pups go home, they go with a warning with regards to fear imprinting. Much of our work centers around eliminating new, frightening experiences for puppies, because that seventh week is a great time to transfer ownership, but the time during the eighth, ninth, and tenth week are the physiological fear imprinting stages. This means that any new, potentially frightening experiences should be avoided, if possible.
What does that mean for your pup? This means that the exposure to external stimuli that could be potentially frightening should happen either by the end of the seventh week or as the eleventh week begins. The hard work we put in ensuring that each puppy is exposed to sights, sounds, and smells they will encounter later limits the potential frightening nature of these objects or situations. Special care should still be taken not to frighten any puppy for these three weeks. Neglecting this physiological fact can have lasting effects on a puppy.
Because of this, puppies that can be described as “shy”, “timid”, or “bashful” are kept beyond the end of the tenth week and extreme care is taken not to imprint any fears upon them. These pups benefit greatly from the additional time with their mother and in the company of people they already know. After the eleventh week begins, the fear imprinting stage ends and just like that, a potentially fearful animal gains the confidence he or she may have lost if encountering a frightening experience in those short twenty-one days. For an animal like this, we’ll also recommend confidence building exercises for the new family. What an incredible thing science is!
This is why we do what we do. We do everything possible to set you and your puppy up for success, and we’re here for the entire lifespan of your dog, for advice, guidance, or even for another family member. You’ll want another… That is the Birkline experience.