Happy Friday! We had a busy, but very good week, and I hope you all are looking forward to your weekend!
One month old unofficially marks the end of the “newborn puppy” stage and the beginning of the “little puppy” stage. The puppies are fully mobile, their eyes are open, and they are ready to begin learning new things and drift away from their dependence on their mom. Here are the things we have been working on this past week.
1- As the puppies gain their mobility, it’s time to begin potty training. In the puppies’ pen, I have a removable and washable liner. This get changed and washed daily to keep it smelling clean. This is done, obviously, for general cleanliness and sanitation. However, it serves another purpose. By keeping the nest area clean, it works in favor of a dog’s natural instinct not to soil the area where they sleep. As puppies begin to walk, they naturally seek a different area in which to do their business. When I see this happening, I add a “potty area” to their pen. I usually use newspaper in the potty area, and I add a clean layer on top several times a day. This keeps the potty area sanitary, with clean and dry paper on top, but it maintains a faint smell, teaching the puppies where they are supposed to do their business.
At this age, I do not expect full success. I would say, 70% of the time, the puppies make an effort to go to the right spot, even though only half of the time they actually get there. But, it gets better every week! And soon, the puppies will be big enough to begin pottying outside. Once this happens, they really start to catch on. Usually, by eight weeks old, the puppies are pottying outside successfully 99% of the time! (They certainly are not house trained at 8 weeks old, but they have a foundational knowledge that usually makes the house training process easier in their new homes.)
2- This week began the very exciting weaning process! This starts very slowly with only one small meal a day of Life’s Abundance Large Breed Puppy Food. I soak the food in water or goat’s milk for the first week or two. I do this until the puppies’ teeth are fully grown in. The soft food is easier to chew, and it also provides a source of liquid to prevent dehydration for the puppies that may be slower to learn to eat and drink from bowls. Over the next two to three weeks, I will gradually increase the amount of solid food they get and decrease how much time mom spends nursing them. I will also begin to limit mom’s calorie intake, so that her body is encouraged to slow its milk production. That helps keep her comfortable during the weaning process.
Excellent quality nutrition is the number one thing that keeps puppies healthy at this age. As they begin to wean from the protective antibodies in mom’s milk, puppies can become more vulnerable to illness, digestive upsets, infections, etc. Their young immune systems and digestive systems don’t fully mature until 18-24 months old. To keep puppies healthy and allow their growing bodies to develop properly, it is very important to provide them with excellent quality nutrition.
Not all dog foods are created equally. For example, while all dog foods contain protein, the kind and quality of proteins vary significantly. Foods like Purina Dog Chow, rely heavily on corn to add protein. But dogs don’t digest corn, and therefore, all the protein in there is useless. Life’s Abundance food uses chicken meal (a highly concentrated protein source) and eggs (a source of not only protein, but also essential amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats). All the ingredients in this food are of excellent quality and high nutritional value for dogs, and they work to keep puppies healthy and growing well from the inside out!
The puppies have been very excited by getting to eat solid food this week, and they have needed no encouragement! I place the plate of food in the pen, and it is usually devoured and licked clean in less than a minute.
3- Probably the most fun part of this stage is the socialization training! Basically, this means daily interacting with the puppies and gently exposing them to new sights and sounds. I personally think children provide some of the best socialization. The puppies become very accustomed to children’s loud and shrill voices, sudden and unpredictable movements, and over-bearing love in the form of rough hands and tight cuddles. I also bring the puppies into a small pen in my kitchen to help them get used to normal household sounds, like pots and pans, vacuum cleaners, ect. I also play music and other sounds for the puppies most of the day. This gets them used to a variety of sounds. Right now, I am mostly doing just music. Soon, I will start sounds like thunderstorms, traffic, fireworks, etc. This helps give them calm and positive experiences with these sometimes scary sounds, which sets them up for success later in life when they hear these noises for real.
This socialization will continue daily until the puppies leave for their new homes! Each week, they will get to experience a few new things, and I do my best to give them a good foundation for their new families to continue to build on.
And that is what four weeks old looks like at our house! It is full of soaking puppy food, washing bedding, and snuggling puppies. I am excited for the next weeks, since the weather is turning warmer. The puppies will be able to spend more time outside, which is always fun for them and for us!