Nearing the End!

We are in the final stretch of raising Timber and Duchess’s puppies! Next week marks the time when they are ready to go to their new homes. It has been an exciting two months.

The last two weeks in our home brings a lot of changes for the puppies. The weaning process is completed, and they each receive a health exam, vaccinations, and a third round of de-wormer. We also begin crate training and some more intentional socialization.

For the crate training introduction, I put half of the puppies in a crate in our living room. The first time is usually met with some whining and crying (from the puppies, not me!). I dish out a dose of tough love, and simply let them cry. I make sure the room is quiet and calm; and usually after 15-20 minutes, even the most stubborn puppies quiet down and accept this new place. After all, they are snuggled in a warm place with their siblings, so it’s not a very scary experience. Once everyone has settled, I turn on some music or run the vacuum. This helps them get used to different noises. They usually watch the vacuum curiously but don’t give much other reaction.


Watching Roomba vacuum


Calm and snoozing a few minutes later

And let me mention food. A large litter of growing puppies eats a lot of food! I am feeding about 15 cups of food per day. The puppies eat three times day, with each of them getting approximately 1/2 cup at each meal; and they are growing beautifully! This is what the puppies are currently eating.


As the puppies get older, it’s becoming much more difficult to let them in the yard to play. I now only let half the litter out at a time, because I can no longer keep track of ten setter puppies! They are so curious and have started to wander further and further as they explore their big, exciting world. They have an undeniable fascination with our chickens, but they are bird dogs, after all! They love leaves and anything they can chew on whether it’s toys, sticks, or my toes.

It’s been fun to note the differences between Irish Setter puppies and Mini Goldendoodle puppies. Irish Setter puppies are more independent, exploring farther away by themselves. This is very typical of the breed, which is known for it’s far quartering range while hunting. Some of them already have exhibited the point and stalk behaviors used in bird hunting. Seeing that makes me very happy! We chose to breed a working field line of setters, ones that are worth their salt as gun dogs. Field dogs are usually too small to use in the show ring, but they can out hunt your typical show setter (commonly referred to as “bench” setters). Both bench and field lines of Irish Setters make wonderful family companions; but since both my husband and I come from families that enjoy the outdoors and participate in various forms of hunting, the field dogs appealed more us.

This next week, I’ll be soaking in all the wiggly puppy snuggles that I can! As always, we are excited to see them go to their new homes, but we do miss them when they leave. I’m satisfied, though, knowing I am helping to add a loving companion to so many different families!


Puppy Update- 5 Weeks

It’s amazing how quickly puppies change from three weeks old to five weeks old. There is this sudden explosion of awareness and curiosity. It is such a fun stage!

In the past couple of weeks, the puppies have begun exploring more of their surroundings. They are learning to do their business outside, which is GREAT! They are puppies, and they don’t get it right all the time, but every puddle that ends up in the dirt rather than on their blanket is a success. 🙂

The puppies are now eating three meals of solid food every day. They are still nursing from Duchess a few times a day, as well, but this will be slowly cut out over the next week and a half. The puppies are eating Life’s Abundance Small and Medium Breed Puppy food.


I love feeding Life’s Abundance to our puppies! I know that I am giving them one of the very best foods on the market. It has all of the good stuff (animal based fats and protein, antioxidants, Omega- 3, Omega- 6, probiotics, and prebiotics) and none of the bad stuff (corn, wheat, corn gluten, wheat gluten, artificial flavors, and artificial colors). I know I am giving my puppies everything that their growing bodies need.

For the first few days of the weaning process, I soak the food in raw goat’s milk. This makes it soft and easy to eat, and the puppies LOVE the goat’s milk. After a few days, I start soaking the food in plain water. Over the course of a couple of weeks, I soften the kibble less and less. Around 7 weeks old, I like to have them crunching away on unsoftened kibble.

Now that the puppies are fully interactive, I am seeing their individual personalities begin to blossom. I have a couple of puppies that are my fun and spunky initiators- Winchester, Magnum, and Meadow. Then I have Benelli and Nova who are a bit more mild-mannered than some of the others. They are all so sweet and fun in their own way.








Winchester & Riley







As a quick bunny trail, did you even wonder how I get such cute individual pictures of the puppies? It’s quite a feat, let me tell you. I find it best to perch them on some kind of box or basket. This puts them up off the ground in hopes that they will sit still for a second or two before leaping off to go play. But for every good picture like this…

IMG_6138 Riley

… I have a few dozen of these!




Oh my, I really do love these little guys! 🙂 Some of the puppies are still available! If you are interested in adding an Irish Setter to your life, get in contact with me! This is one of the most fun breeds of dogs you’ll ever meet. I promise, you’ll never have a day without a laugh with an Irish Setter in your home!

Have a blessed weekend!

National Dog Day 2017

Happy National Dog Day! In honor of this special day, here is a mish-mash of pictures of my dogs from today.


I just love that happy Golden smile and the distracted setter stare.



Timber and Mia having a good chase.





I finally got some decent pictures of this handsome boy. He’s always on the move, so it’s hard to catch him in a nice pose.


There’s nothing quite as beautiful as a setter on point! (This isn’t a true point, but he’s alert and scenting something interesting.)

Of course, I can’t do a blog post without a puppy update! Duchess and her babies are doing very well! Duchess is back to her happy, lively self; and all the puppies are growing and active. In comparison to the first week, the last two weeks have been a BREEZE! I feel like we are back on track and back to normal. Praise God! The puppies’ eyes have opened, and they are on their unsteady little feet. We have added a potty area for them, and they are already beginning to use it and keep their bed a little cleaner. (These setters are going to be some sharp little pups!)







This is my happy place.




Enjoy this beautiful, sunny weekend! Post a picture of your dog on National Dog Day in the comments- I love seeing your furry friends!



One Week Old

I don’t think the word “stressful” quite captures the emotions that we’ve experienced over the weekend. I didn’t really want to share this happening, but I decided it would be a good opportunity to celebrate God’s protection and grace.

On Thursday, I was feeling really optimistic. The puppies were doing very well, and even Nova was gaining weight and looking much healthier and filled out. Duchess was being a great mom and was recovering very well from pregnancy and delivery. I was still bottle feeding Nova around the clock, but she was definitely getting stronger and able to nurse on her own more. I was planning to lengthen the time in between her night time feedings on Thursday night, so I could get a decent night of rest.

Duchess was in the kitchen getting a special “mommy snack” before bed, when she noticed that the screen door was open just a few inches. Before I could stop her, she zipped outside, and I assumed she needed to go to the bathroom. She wasn’t wearing her collar for the underground fence. When I went outside a few minutes later to call her back inside, I didn’t realize she had already wandered across the road in front of our house. When she heard me calling, she began crossing the road to come back, but she got hit by a car before she made it across.

It was a very sickening feeling when I realized what happened. I was amazed when I found her still standing on the side of the road. We didn’t see any outward injuries, but we took her to closest 24-hour emergency vet to have them check for internal damage. Miraculously, she has only minor injuries that don’t require any treatment besides time and rest.

We still don’t know what prompted her to cross the road. She has NEVER bothered with the road before. We still don’t know how she escaped with only a brush burn and some bruising. Actually, that statement is incorrect. I do know how that part happened. We serve an awesome God, one who created our vast animal kingdom. Although I believe human life is infinitely more valuable than that of an animal, I also know God has created every animal with a purpose. He cares for each and every one, just as He has asked us to do, as well. He cares enough to spare the life of one sweet mama dog.

Duchess was back at home and caring for her puppies again in less than three hours. We did some extra bottle feeding overnight to give her a break and allow her body some time to rest. The following days (and nights) were filled with nearly constant observation of Duchess and her puppies, but everyone is doing well. Again, this is nothing short of a miracle.

Our God is an awesome God.

I still haven’t posted individual pictures of the puppies, but I will try my absolute best to do that very soon. We currently don’t have any clean towels, our yard is morphing into a hay field, I’m not sure when my daughter last got a bath, and I could probably use a shower myself. Once those things are checked off my list, I’ll spend some time behind the camera.

Have a safe week, and take time to thank God for life. He holds all life in the palm of His hand, and nothing happens that is outside of His control. I’m grateful to place my trust in God who is so much bigger than I am.


Puppy Update: The First 48 Hours

We have passed the first huge milestone- the first 48 hours. These two days are such a critical time for puppies, and I always breathe a sigh of relief when we pass this point.

Overall, it’s been a very good start. Duchess is doing well as a first time mama. She’s diligently caring for her babies. She’s drinking the well dry, and eating us out of house and home, but those are good things. 🙂 Feeding ten babies requires a lot of calories!


Nine of the puppies seem to be doing well. They are gaining weight, nursing well, and are acting like healthy puppies. Some signs I like to see with puppies are round bellies, hydrated skin, a strong suck reflex, activated sleep (twitching while they sleep), the ability to crawl to their mom, the ability to stay close to their littermates for warmth, and steady weight gain. By those signs, we have a healthy, thriving litter.

The tenth puppy, the runt I’ve named Nova, isn’t thriving quite as well as her siblings, but the fact that she is still alive is huge! I’m honestly amazed that she has survived. I was pretty unsure about her when she was born. Some people say it’s possible for a few puppies from a litter to be conceived several days later than the others. This means when they are born, you’ll have a set of large, older puppies and a set of smaller, younger ones. With puppies, even just a few days in the womb makes a very significant difference. I have two puppies that are noticeably smaller than the others. This litter was born fairly early on the time table. If these two puppies were indeed conceived later, then that means they are a few days premature. Another possible explanation is that the placentas were attached at a place that didn’t have as much blood flow, limiting the nourishment that they received. Either way, Nova had nature working against her.

In comparison to her siblings, Nova is TEENY! It’s hard for pictures to show just how tiny she is. Currently, she is no bigger than an iPhone 7. I am a petite person, so my hands are very small in comparison to most.




However, she does have some things going for her. Besides being small and weak, she appears healthy. She was also able to nurse some from Duchess during the first 24 hours. This means that she got some of the antibody-rich colostrum which will be a great benefit and protection for her in the coming days.

When she was born, she weighed 5.5 ounces. I could pinch her skin and it stayed in a pinched ridge, meaning she was dehydrated. She kept getting pushed away by the other puppies, which meant she struggled to stay warm. She could hardly hold her head or crawl.


Zach put up a heat lamp to keep her warm. I gave her Nutri-stat regularly and helped her nurse. This helped to hydrate her. I also started bottle feeding her raw goat’s milk every few hours from a slow-flow baby bottle. A wonderful friend of mine gave me a recipe to pump up my goat’s milk. I added plain yogurt, Karo syrup, and a raw egg yolk. This makes a rich, creamy formula full of fat, sugar, and calories. I feed her one milliliter for each ounce of body weight at each feeding. Right now, she is guzzling about one teaspoon each time.


Nova’s weight dropped in the first 24 hours to 5.4 ounces. It’s not uncommon for puppies to lose a bit of weight in the first day, but little Nova doesn’t have any weight to spare. She held steady at 5.4 until last evening. This morning, Nova tipped the scale at a whopping 5.8 ounces!


Now, she has the strength to hold her head and crawl. She stays with the other puppies and doesn’t get pushed away. She can even latch on to nurse by herself sometimes. She takes a bottle well, but her suck is still weaker than that of the other puppies. But she is a fighter! She squeals now when other puppies try to push her away when she’s nursing. She has a bit of strength to compete with them. Based on how far she has come in the first two days, I’d say there is a reasonable chance she will pull through. I’ll be bottle feeding for a while yet, but I’m hoping to wean her back onto nursing from Duchess full-time as soon as possible. If that’s not possible, I’d like to at least back off bottle feeding so that it’s only a supplement and not her main source of nourishment.


I am hoping to get individual pictures of the puppies very soon, so check back in a day or two to check them out!

And Then There Were… Eleven?!

Instead of publishing a Munchy Monday post yesterday, I spent my day caring for Duchess as she delivered her very first litter. It was an exciting (and exhausting) 24 hours! Things didn’t go quite according to plan, but everything seems to have turned out well.

I was expecting the puppies to be born the end of this week, so I was a bit surprised when I started noticing some signs of labor Sunday, only 58 days from her first breeding. This is not unheard of, but often delivery happens closer to days 61-63, or if it’s Mia- 65. I was expecting 5-8 puppies, based on an ultrasound done at 4 weeks pregnant.

Duchess lost her appetite over the weekend, and I noticed that her belly dropped. Her waistline and hips were a bit more prominent, suggesting the puppies were getting in position to be born. This meant delivery was close, but not necessarily imminent. Things could still drag on a few more days. I hadn’t seen the temperature drop that indicates delivery within 24 hours, but I had also missed a few temperature readings, so I couldn’t be sure.

Then Sunday evening, I saw green discharge, which is usually not a good sign. Green means that a placenta is detaching. Premature detachment can mean a dead puppy, which can create labor complications. Usually, the only time there is green discharge is after the birth of puppy. If it’s before birth or, in this case, before labor even, it’s not a good sign. It’s not necessarily an emergency, but it’s definitely a red flag.

Sooooo, I stayed up most of the night Sunday, thinking that the puppies would be coming that night. Duchess was restless, but clearly not in active labor. I went to bed around 3am. I was extremely grateful for the small blessing that Reese decided to sleep in until 9! That gave me a few precious hours of rest.

Monday was a tiring day. One cup of coffee wasn’t really enough. Not only did Duchess need a lot of attention, Reese is currently teething. So I had two very needy companions for the day.

Monday morning brought a tough decision. It had been 12 hours since I saw green discharge, but we still didn’t have any puppies. I finally saw the temperature drop, though, letting me know that labor was definitely beginning. Should we take her to the vet for an ultrasound and x-ray to try to diagnose a problem or should we wait to see if nature would take care of things. Dead puppies aren’t all that uncommon, although they can cause problems. Many times, everything is fine. The dead puppy is delivered and causes no harm to mom or siblings. However, if the puppy dies too long before birth, it can create problems in utero. Also, dead puppies are harder for a mama to deliver, possibly resulting in a c-section and/or the death of other puppies due to stress.

Duchess didn’t seem to be stressed, so we decided to take the “wait and see” route. I don’t like to rush into things like c-sections or other interventions. If nature is allowed to take its course, it often does a fine job. I like to give it the chance, but I was prepared to make an emergency trip to the vet if things didn’t progress well.

During the day Monday, Duchess was restless and uncomfortable but not stressed. She wanted to go out to the bathroom frequently. She was nesting. She was clingy. I was desperately hoping for birth to happen during the day, so I could get a decent night of rest.

Around 6:30pm, active labor began. The first four puppies were born alive and healthy. The fifth puppy, however, was the trouble maker. This puppy had died before birth. Thankfully, it was recent. The puppy looked almost totally normal, indicating it hadn’t been dead very long. The longer a puppy is dead in the womb, the greater the chance of it creating other complications. I do think, though, that this puppy’s death triggered labor a few days early.

After the dead puppy was born, I could tell Duchess wasn’t finished. But I wasn’t prepared for just how many were still waiting to be born. They just kept coming and coming and coming until approximately 9:30pm. She had eleven puppies total, with ten of them surviving! This is going to be a busy place in a few weeks!

I have a couple of smaller puppies, with one in particular I am concerned about. The smallest puppy was born very weak. She kept getting pushed away, and she didn’t have the strength to try to nurse even with my help. She was dehydrated and fading quickly. Even in just two hours, she was becoming weaker, so I made an emergency trip to get Nurti-stat from a friend, a high-calorie liquid supplement. I gave her a small dose around 10pm, and she was soon able to nurse a bit. It was very weak, but it was better than not at all. By the time I gave her the next dose at 11pm, I could already tell a difference. Her body was warm, and her skin no longer looked dehydrated. Her sucking was significantly stronger. We will see what the next day or two holds for her. Runts in a large litter like this often struggle to survive.

This is one of those instances where intervention is necessary. I’ll be bottle feeding her and continuing with the Nutri-stat, but I am currently leaving her with Duchess and her littermates. I don’t want to bottle feed her full time. My goal is to give enough supplementation to give her the strength to nurse. Mama’s milk, especially the colostrum produced in the first 24 hours, is the best thing for puppy. Colostrum is what gives puppies immunity from diseases like parvo until the puppies’ own immune systems are developed. No other supplement or milk replacer can come close to mama’s milk. Even if this puppy only nurses half of the time, she is still getting some beneficial immunities from Duchess’s milk.

This is what breeding and raising puppies looks like. I am currently minus nearly two nights of sleep. I’ll be spending majority of the next few days hand-raising a weak puppy and weighing and monitoring the others. I’ll be carefully observing Duchess and tracking her temperature to make sure she recovers well. Breeding is not an easy business, but it’s definitely a rewarding one. I know there are a lot of people out there who criticize breeders, thinking that they only care about money. I really wish those critics could see behind the scenes. I know there are some bad breeders out there who do view their dogs and puppies only as a money source; but most of us really do care. Our dogs are our family. We pour an immeasurable amount of time and tears into each dog and each puppy. We lose sleep and sometimes sanity in an effort to help a puppy pull through. We spend hours each day caring for the daily needs of our adult dogs. We are always searching for ways to make our dogs happier and healthier. We are rewarded by the love of our dogs, by the warm snuggles of a puppy, and the by the happiness of the families who take our puppies. Yes, we depend on the income from our puppies to help support our own families, but it’s so much more than that. It’s a demanding job, but I love every step of way.

Here are some pictures from yesterday.


Duchess getting ready. She insisted on carrying around the stuffed puppy and having it in her nest.


First puppy!


Trying to help the runt nurse



All the babies! Can you count ten?


A very tired mama getting some well-deserved rest


That’s all for today, folks! I’ll post an update on the puppies in a few days! Have a happy week!


Summertime Happenings

Believe it or not, I do have a life outside of my puppies. Some days, anyway. So here is some photographic evidence of my life all crammed haphazardly into one post.

Zach loves to garden, so each spring we plant a large garden. This year we planted strawberries, lettuce, potatoes, carrots, onions, green peppers, sugar peas, hull peas, corn, green beans, yellow beans, sweet potatoes, broccoli, and sunflowers. (The sunflowers are just for fun.) This is in addition to our apple trees, black raspberry patch, and concord grape arbor. Even though I didn’t grow up with a garden, I have learned to enjoy gardening. It’s so rewarding to pick the produce that we planted and maintained ourselves.

Summertime means a lot of time spent outdoors. It’s not unusual to find Zach, me, Reese, and all the dogs outside in the evenings. Sometimes we are working, and sometimes we are playing. Especially since having a baby, I have really begun to cherish the time we can spend together as a family, even if it’s just a few minutes after working outside.


Life is a gift, you know. I’m thankful for every day that God gives me to spend with these two wonderful people.

Last weekend, we took Reese and Jade hiking on some trails near our home. It was a bit humid and sweaty, but the ice cream afterwards made up for it. Unfortunately, Reese and Jade missed out on the ice cream.

And this little girl is growing so quickly! At five months old, she is rolling like a pro, reaching for toys, giving slobbery kisses, and being the best and smiliest little human I could ask for.


My days are busy, but my heart is full. And, it’s about to get fuller… because, guess what, MORE PUPPIES ARE COMING! (I try to tell myself I have a life outside of puppies, but these puppies are honestly trying to take control.)

My beautiful red fur baby is going to be a momma for the first time in a few weeks.


She’s looking pretty good for halfway through pregnancy, don’t you think? Our vet confirmed her pregnancy today, and we are so excited to welcome our first litter of setters later this summer.


This handsome boy here gets to be a daddy, although I question whether he’s emotionally mature enough for the job. What do you think?


Hmmm, it’s a good thing mom does all of the work. 🙂

Well, that is a look at my normal summertime life in a very small nutshell. I hope you all are enjoying your summer and taking advantage of the time to spend outside and with your family! To close out this post, here are some pictures of the puppies playing this afternoon.




You’d think some day I would say enough is enough. At some point surely I won’t have enough love and energy for any more furry friends.

Well, I haven’t reached that point yet.

Meet Timber. 🙂


We had been planning to get our own stud at some point, but we weren’t in a rush. We were more so leaning towards a mini poodle, since both Mia’s and Jade’s litters will be sired by a mini poodle. Yet, we also liked the idea of having a male setter. (Setters are such fun!) Then Timber kind of fell into our lap, and we couldn’t say no!

Timber comes from the Celtic Irish Setter line. It’s a bloodline I have been envious of since we got Duchess. This line is known for excellent field dogs, and they have also been used in therapy and agility. The Celtic setters are a great combination of gorgeous form, excellent hunting instincts, and jovial personality. We had inquired about using their studs for Duchess to bring some of their bloodline into our own setter puppies.

However, we were also checking around with some other people who have Irish Setters studs. And that brings us to Timber. His owner bought him from the Celtic breeder as a puppy. His owner also had another Irish Setter stud which fell more into the “show” line of setters rather than the “field” setters. (Show setters are larger with much longer hair. We prefer the field setter which are smaller, leaner, and have stronger hunting instincts.) Timber’s owner, however, liked the show setters, and rarely used Timber as a stud. He was actually considering selling Timber. This proved to be a great opportunity for us. This is the bloodline we like, and Timber is a full-grown, proven male. So we brought him home!

And let me tell you what an adventure that has been!

Timber has the sweetest, happiest personality. Nothing fazes him, frightens him, or upsets him. He assumes everything and everyone in the world is good.


See that happy, smiling face? That is Timber 100% of the time. You really can’t help but love him. The only unfortunate thing about him is a general lack of training. For anyone with a dog, especially a hunting breed, you can understand the difficulties that can come with an untrained, adult dog. The only command he knows is “sit.” We are working on teaching him “come,” but he’s so independent and energetic it’s difficult to catch and maintain his attention.

This problem is compounded by the fact that he is a real Houdini! It took us several weeks to modify his pen in order to keep him contained. In fact, we have had him nearly two months, and just this week he contrived a new method of escape. This has given rise to a new phrase around our house- “Timber-proof.” We are still Timber-proofing his pen!

I’m ready for the day we can just let this happy boy run! We have an underground fence on our property, and we love it. Our dogs can spend the whole day running and playing together as they please. All except poor Timber. He’s not totally trustworthy with the underground fence, and he doesn’t respond consistently to the command “come,” so he’s been a on a figuratively short leash. I always keep one eye on the yard when I am in the house to make sure Timber is still in his pen; and when I’m outside with him, I can’t let him out of sight. We’ve made a lot of progress, but he still has a ways to go until he can be given free range of the property.

Here is one more picture of this handsome guy.


And here are some recent pictures of our girls! Jade is getting prettier every day.


Not quite as recent of a picture, but Duchess is as goofy and energetic as usual!


And sweet Mia is starting to get a little swelly belly with her puppies that are due in May, although it’s not noticeable yet in these pictures. She is still eager to play fetch, though, whenever someone is willing to throw her ball!


Have a great week!


Looking Ahead at 2017

There is something about a new year that is fresh and inspiring. A whole year ahead to see where God will take me. This year in particular, I feel some excitement as well as some apprehension over some of the many, many changes that will be taking place. It’s most certainly going to be a year of trusting God’s provision. That means physical provision, emotional provision, and spiritual provision. In all three of those areas, if I simply look at what I know is coming and my ability to handle it, I can get overwhelmed pretty quickly. God will definitely be stretching me this coming year and asking me to trust Him in ways that I never have had to before.

Instead of fearing the known (and the unknown) of 2017, I am resolving to trust that God will provide. I am resolving to take my worries and my inability to securely plan all the details and place it all at His feet, knowing that He promises to “supply all my needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19). Having needs that will need to be met will allow me to experience God’s blessings in a new way.

When I take away the fearful part of looking ahead, it allows me to focus on the very good and exciting things of the new year. The first of which is BABY! We are less than three weeks away from my due date, and reality is slowly sinking in. However, I can’t fully comprehend all the changes that will happen in our home with a new baby until I’m dealing with those changes face to face. I’m not sure what to expect in the next couple of months. I’m trying to keep an open mind and calm spirit.

As for the four-legged members of our family, we have the potential for an exciting year! We are eagerly hoping for another litter from Mia and the very first litter of Irish Setters from Duchess! As some of you know, Mia’s first two litters were very small- two and one respectively. These very small litter sizes are uncommon for dogs like Mia, and we have been baffled  as to the reason for her below average litter sizes. It’s actually concerning when a female is only carrying one puppy. It raises the chances for labor complications significantly, not to mention that some females can’t care for a single puppy due to a lack of milk-producing hormones. So the fact that her last litter was only one puppy had me a bit concerned. After some discussion about her with another breeder, I am very suspicious that we are not timing her breeding correctly. It seems as though she may be on the very late end of the “normal” breeding time schedule. For her next litter, we are planning to do some testing and adjust our breeding schedule in hopes to achieve a more normal (and safer!) litter size.

As for Duchess, I am ready for an adventure! She is beautiful dog, and I am so excited to have Irish Setter puppies. We are expecting to see some puppies with great hunting and competition potential. We also plan to continue her hunting training and keep her active in the field. She thrives on the thrill of the hunt, and we thoroughly enjoy working with her.

And we can’t forget Jade. My happy golden girl is still growing, and I love her dearly. She is so affectionate and sweet. We are considering training her for upland bird hunting this year. We haven’t quite decided if we want to tackle it yet. She would be a different style hunter than Duchess- a “flusher” rather than a “pointer.” We have heard different theories as to whether or not you should hunt a flusher and a pointer together. She definitely has a hunting instinct, which is why we are considering getting her out in the field. However, because Goldens are more of a water retrieval hunter by nature, she would have to be taught to search for upland birds like pheasants. Jade would have to be taught that scent and the whole process of searching for it. Duchess always had a nose for upland birds; we could rely quite a bit on her natural instincts. Jade’s instincts aren’t nearly as defined. Needless to say, that topic is still in the discussion stage. 🙂

That’s a brief view of my upcoming year. It will definitely be a year of change and new opportunities! I am hoping to grow my Etsy shop this year with some new items that I’m really excited about. The shop will be closing soon for a few weeks, because of the coming little one. I am planning to reopen in March with some new items ready to go!

I wish you all a blessed and happy 2017!

Dewclaws: Do ‘Em or Lose ‘Em?

Dewclaws are those odd thumb-like nails found partway up a dog’s inner forelegs. You have probably heard that they are useless and that dogs don’t need them and shouldn’t even have them. But how much do you really know about dewclaws? Are they really as useless as you think?

Dewclaws: Should we do ’em or should we lose ’em?

In recent years in the United States, dewclaw removal has been pushed and recommended, because dewclaws were believed to be a “useless, vestigial” part of a dog’s anatomy. An attitude has even been developed by some people in this country that good breeders remove dewclaws, but irresponsible breeders try to cut corners and don’t remove them to save some money.

I want to shake up that idea a little bit. There have been some veterinarians and doctors making observations about dewclaws and how dogs use them that have begun to reshape our opinions on whether or not they should be removed.

As a side note, did you know that it is illegal in the UK to dock tails, dock ears, and remove dewclaws? In the UK, these are viewed as painful, cosmetic procedures with little to no medical benefit. Tail docking and dewclaw removal are usually done to puppies at only a few days old without anesthesia.

So today, I’d like you to put aside any biases and previous opinions about dewclaws, and let’s take a look at the pros and cons of dewclaws. As with any medical procedure, there are always risks and benefits. It is up to you as a dog owner and me as a breeder to wisely weigh these risks and benefits and decide which option is best for a particular breed or a particular dog.

Let’s begin with some of the reasons that dewclaws are removed. Dewclaws are usually removed when puppies are just days old. It is done to prevent dewclaw injury as an adult. Sometimes, adults with dewclaws have a serious injury or repeated minor injuries involving a dewclaw that makes it necessary for it to be removed.

Here are three problems that dewclaws can create:

  1. They can become overgrown or even ingrown if not properly maintained.
  2. Like any other toenail, they can become infected. However, because of their not as noticeable location, owners may not identify the infection as quickly.
  3. They can catch on something and be torn off. Obviously, this kind of injury is quite painful and will bleed.

The first two problems are easily prevented by proper care. The third problem is unpredictable. Some dogs will go a lifetime without experiencing any injury, while some may be subject to repeated injury. I will touch later on what can make a certain dog or certain breed more prone to injury than others.

Now let’s look at what purpose dewclaws serve and the benefits of keeping them. Most of the quotes and information presented here come from the article “Do the Dew(claws)?” by Christine Zink DVM, PhD, DACVSMR. She has worked for many years with sporting dogs used in hunting, agility competitions, and other athletic events. (You can download the PDF and read her full article on dewclaws here.)

First off, let’s debunk that widely-believed myth that dogs don’t use their dewclaws. Take a look at these two pictures.


In these pictures, you can clearly see how much of a dog’s foot actually touches the ground. When running, a dog’s dewclaw does touch the ground, especially when navigating a turn like in these pictures.


After a good romp, it’s not unusual to find grass or dirt on a dewclaw. This picture shows the points of a dog’s foot and leg that contact the ground when running. Notice the two distinct green patches- one at the dewclaw itself and one higher up on the leg at the pad.


Did you know some highly active dogs that spend a lot of time outdoors can wear down their dewclaws naturally?

This picture comes from Christine Zink’s article. It shows the anatomy of a dog’s foreleg.


There are five tendons that attach to the dewclaws. This means there are five muscles associated with the dewclaws. If the dewclaws are removed, these muscles will atrophy from disuse. Removing the dewclaws prevents the leg muscles and joints from fully functioning as they were designed to do.

Zink says, “Those muscles indicate that the dewclaws have a function. That function is to prevent torque on the leg. Each time the foot lands on the ground, particularly when the dog is cantering or galloping, the dewclaw is in touch with the ground. If the dog then needs to turn, the dewclaw digs into the ground to support the lower leg and prevent torque. If the dog doesn’t have a dewclaw, the leg twists. A lifetime of that and the result can be carpal arthritis, or perhaps injuries to other joints such as the elbow, shoulder and toes. Remember: the dog is doing the activity regardless, and the pressures on the leg have to go somewhere.”

“I have seen many dogs now, especially field trial/hunt test and agility dogs, that have had chronic carpal arthritis, frequently so severe that they have to be retired or at least carefully managed for the rest of their careers. Of the over 30 dogs I have seen with carpal arthritis, only one has had dewclaws (emphasis added).”

Dogs also use dewclaws to grab and hold things, much like we do with our thumbs.



Here is a link for a fascinating video about how dogs can use their dewclaws.

The video shows waterfowl hunting dogs retrieving birds on partially frozen lakes. (Don’t panic about the dogs in the icy water. Remember, these dogs are bred and trained for it. The hunters with them know how to properly care for their hunting dogs.) The dogs use their dewclaws as ice picks when they are pulling themselves out of the water and onto the ice. You see them turn their legs outward, dig their dewclaws into the ice, and use them to pull themselves out of the water. The dogs without dewclaws have a much greater struggle getting out of the water, as their legs continually slip on the ice. They have nothing with which they can grip the ice.

I’m going to guess that most of the people reading this don’t have dogs that regularly swim in frozen lakes, but it’s very interesting to note the way God has designed dewclaws to function. Useless and vestigial? I think not.

I’m sure you have already assumed from the tone of my post so far, that we have made the decision not to remove our dogs’ dewclaws. Is this the right decision for everyone? Not necessarily. Here is why we have decided it is best for our dogs and puppies to retain their dewclaws.

We have an Irish Setter, a Golden Retriever, and a Mini Goldendoodle. The setter and retriever are both sporting breeds. We regularly have these dogs out in the field hunting or hiking. Even though a goldendoodle isn’t a pure sporting breed, she is still very active and does well in high energy activities like hiking and agility. Our dogs spend much of their time outside running and playing. They get a lot of exercise. When out in the woods hiking or hunting, they are going through thick underbrush, brambles, and high grasses. They navigate steep banks. When swimming, they are on slippery river banks.

Because of the lifestyle our dogs lead, I firmly believe that they need their dewclaws. They use them! With the high activity level, they put a lot of stress on their legs, and it’s best for them if their muscles and joints are able to function properly to prevent unnecessary strain. (I especially think of this with Goldens. Because this breed is already genetically prone to bone and joint problems, I want to avoid any unnecessary strain and torque on her joints!)

We have also decided it is in our puppies’ best interest if they retain their dewclaws. The great thing about dewclaws is this: if need be, they can always be removed later in life. If you don’t agree with our stance on dewclaws and would prefer to have your puppy’s dewclaws removed, it can easily be done later. Many people spay or neuter their pets, and it can be convenient to remove dewclaws during that procedure if you chose to.

I do believe, though, that there are times when it is necessary for dewclaws to be removed. Some breeds are known to have dewclaws that are very loosely attached. These dogs may be prone to repeatedly catching their dewclaws and tearing them. It’s very important to keep dewclaws trimmed short. Because they get less wear than other nails, they will need to be trimmed more frequently. Less active dogs will not wear down the dewclaws at all. Some breeds even have dewclaws on their rear legs. Often these rear claws are loosely attached and more prone to injury. Sometimes, sporting or working dogs will tear their dewclaws in the normal nature of their work, simply because they are using their dewclaws a lot. In some cases, if the injury is severe, the dewclaw may need to be removed. Most times, this is not the case; but it can happen. Although many dogs go a lifetime with no injury, these injuries are very painful if they do happen.

Conclusion: It is important for pet owners to be aware of the risks and benefits of dewclaws. Do your research. Know your dog. Understand that dewclaws serve an important purpose in a dog’s leg and movement, but also know the potential problems to watch out for and work to prevent. Every medical decision regarding your dog has risks and benefits, and the decision that is right for one dog may not be the decision that is best for another. Be a responsible owner, and educate yourself!

For this household, though, we have decided to “do the dew.” 🙂