Feature Articles

Volume 1, Number 4

The Breeder's Perspective

How to Have the Perfect Litter

A Practical Approach to Whelping your Puppies

Home Brags Cabbage Patch Show Results

Breeder Perspective

The Breeders Perspective is a personal interview with Springer Breeders to understand individual breeding programs. This interview is provided to inform and educate all of those who love the breed. The candid responses of breeders are invaluable for anyone considering breeding or cultivating their breeding program.

The Springer Showcase is proud to present an interview with Vern and Peggy Johnson owners of Marjon English Springer Spaniels.

SS-Who was your first ESS and where did you get her?

Our first springer was, Marjon's Regal Roxanne, a well bred black and white bitch who we purchased from Myra Perley of Altadena, Ca. as a pet at 7 weeks of age.

SS-Where did you get your kennel name Marjon?

Peggy's legal name is Marguerite Johnson and "Rocky" was purchas-ed as a gift for her, so with her name we became M-A-R-J-O-N.

SS-How many years have you been breeding ESS?

More than we care to count. Our first litter (and "Rocky's") was born in1962.

SS-How many Champions have been bred or owned under the Marjon Kennel name?

Seventy-two (72) and we have also had two Marjon bitches that were "Obedience Springer of the Year" but we didn't do the work ourselves. Kitty Thistle Wray and Art Stewart did that.

SS-How did you get involved in show dogs?

At 6 months of age we enrolled "Rocky" in an obedience class and the trainer, who was also an Irish Setter breeder, felt that she was show quality and encouraged us to try showing her. Novices that we were then, we never finished "Rocky" but we learned with her and bred her well. She produced 4 champions: one a Group Winner at Santa Barbara when it was the largest show in the country; two, from different sires, who were Winners Bitch at our National Specialty Shows and one who was a group placer and earned a CD as well.

SS-Have English Springer Spaniels always been your breed?

Peggy's family bred and raised some Collies, but springers have always been "our" breed.

SS-How did you develop the Marjon breeding program?

"Rocky" got us started. Our first litter was sired by one of Fred Jackson's dogs Ch. Bit of Old Blighty, CDX. From there we added several other Champion

bitches from the best bloodlines and then bred them to the finest stud dogs we could find that we felt had the qualities we wanted to produce.

SS-Who were some of your early mentors with ESS?

Dorothy Klokke (Hunter's Hill), Ken & Marguerite McDonald (Kay Emm), Kenny & Lorraine Hayes (Kenlor), Bea Brown (Melilotus) and Julia Gasow (Salilyn).

SS-Who are some of "your" all time favorite Springers?

Of our own dogs to name a few: Ch Marjon's Sparkling Challenge, Ch Marjon's Woodruff, Am /Mex Ch Marjon's Miles Standish, Ch Salilyn's Headliner at Marjon and Am/Mex Ch Marjon's New Years Toast, but all that we kept were always our "favorites".

SS-What dog or bitch you bred, do you feel established your family?

Marjon's Sparkling Lace. Lace was Rocky's daughter. She never completed her championship. (At a show, she was jumped by a German Shepherd that grabbed her by the back and shook her. After that, she wanted no part of dog shows.) She was the continuation of our line and produced 4 Champions by 2 different sires and was listed as a top producer by Irene Phillips in her system. One of her Champions was Ch. Marjon's Peppermint Patty who started our successful breeding to Aristocrat and continued our line.

SS-Which litter accomplished the most for you?

Probably the first litter because it was very good and it really hooked us and turned our whole lives around. From that time on, we were seriously looking for kennel property and we built Marjon Kennels with Springer patio plus 100 runs for boarders and a grooming shop.

SS-Do you believe that you have developed a distinguished line over the years?

We have never been "big" breeders as to numbers. Over the years we have averaged about a litter and a half a year and while we always had a type in mind, it never got set in stone the way some bigger producing lines have been, but many people have come up and said "That's a Marjon dog isn't it?".

SS-Is there any one dog who you are particularly proud of?

Am./Mex. Ch. Marjon's Miles Standish. Miles, was born in 1972, and established a record as the top winning tri color in our breed and that record to our knowledge hasn't been equaled to this day.

SS-What do you look for when planning a breeding?

Type, temperament and soundness (Don't we all?) and do the dogs compliment each other?

SS-What is your breeding philosophy?

"There are lots of sound dogs in animal shelters". Our dogs must look like a springer as well as being sound of mind and body.

SS-What is your goal in your breeding program?

Years ago we had many goals and we feel that we accomplished most of them. Now we just want to breed an occasional litter of typey, sound springers with great dispositions.

SS-Have you collected from any of your stud dogs?

No. Now we wish we had collected from a few, but it was not so easy a few years ago.

SS-At what age do you evaluate your puppies?

Eight weeks. We love and play with puppies from the time they are up and around, but Vern is adamant about not evaluating until eight weeks.

SS-I know you recently bred a litter, did you find this litter to be as enjoyable as some of your past experiences?

Probably more enjoyable. We had not had a litter in 8 years and it was fun again. Also we had more time to spend with the puppies. One problem, could the two we kept be spoiled?

SS-Raising a litter is a lot of hard work, but, what is your favorite part?

Watching the puppies grow and seeing them come together with the things we hoped for when we did the breeding.

SS-How many ESSFTA Nationals have you attend over the years?

Our first entry was with "Rocky" as a Novice Bitch at the 1960 National Specialty in Los Angeles. We haven't missed too many since that time and Vern has been Local Chairman for 3 Nationals. We've also attended several National Championship Trials as observers.

SS-How have the ESSFTA Nationals changed over the last several years?

The National Specialties have gotten much larger and longer with many more competitive events and many more entries. The 1960 National Specialty was completed in one day with a total entry of 142 dogs, 9 were Field Trial dogs and 11 competed in Obedience.

SS-Do you prefer Specialties to all breed shows?

We like any show where there are lots of springers to watch and lots of springer people to visit.

SS-Vern, I know you have had knee surgery and therefore no longer show your dogs. How do you like having a handler show your dogs?

This is not new for us. When we had our kennel, we always had a handler, at least for some of our dogs. Walt Shellenbarger and Corky Vroom each showed for us. After we sold the kennel Vern did all his own handling and loved it. One dog, Am/Mex Ch. Marjon's New Years Toast was never in the ring with anyone but Vern. Together they earned numerous Group 1's and Group placements and three all breed Best In Shows. Now again today, we have handler and friend in Nancy Amante.

SS-Do you find it harder to watch someone else show your dogs or showing them yourself?

Watching someone else if definitely harder.

SS-How often do you go to shows?

The last few years we have tried to attend at least one local show a month and the National Specialities, even when we have had nothing to show, just to keep in touch. When our puppies grow up we intend to start going much more frequently again.

SS-What advice would you give to new beginners in this breed?

Practice the 3 "L" Look, Listen and Learn. Don't become an instant expert!

SS-How do you think temperaments compare today to what they were when you first started?

They have improved, especially in the last few years when everyone started recognizing that the breed had a problem.

SS- I know you have produced the ESSFTA Springer Spotlight for the last few years do you enjoy it?

It's a lot of work, but yes, we enjoy it. It hasn't only been for the last few years. We have been involved with it since it's inception eleven years ago. It's our goal to keep the entire springer world as informed as possible and to bring all springer fanciers together in their common goals. Only thing we wish is that more people would send us articles and stories that would be of interest to all.

SS-You have continued to be involved with ESS have you ever considered becoming a judge?

No. Long ago we decided that we were breeders and exhibitors and wanted to remain that way.

SS-How have Springers contributed to your life style over the years?

In all ways: where we have lived (Are our dogs legal and do they have enough room?), what we've done for our hobbies (many dog related events) and who most of our friends are. We have loved every minute of it!

How to Have the Perfect Litter

A Practical Approach to Whelping your Puppies

Home Brags Cabbage Patch Show Results

 

HOW TO HAVE THE PERFECT LITTER

By: Stephen C. Rafe

The first steps to having a perfect litter are obvious, so we'll dispense with them quickly. Then let's move right into the technique that will help you give every pup in the group the kind of disposition that will make it marketable.

 The Obvious

Start by breeding top-quality dogs. Don't count on having one of the pair offset a fault in the other. Pay close attention to all the things you would want in a top puppy: Physical structure, natural instincts, health, temperament, and so on.

The Not-So-Obvious

Make certain the male is chronologically, emotionally, and sexually mature - generally at least a year-and-a-half old. Don't breed a female until at least her second heat cycle. Avoid breeding dogs that may have lost some of their potency through age, stress, or infirmity. Make certain you breed the pair at the right time, and repeat the breeding within 48 hours for maximum insurance that the breeding will take.

Prepare a proper whelping box for the female and place it in a clean, dry place that is free from drafts and extreme temperatures. Locate it where you will be sure to see the pups at least twice a day - where family members can come and go without disturbing the mother. (We remove the table from the nook in our kitchen and whelp our litters there.)

Even while the mother is carrying the pups we make "contact" with them by frequent rubbing and stroking. This helps build a bond with the mother for handling the pups later. As the pups grow inside her, you can actually feel them move closer to your gentle massaging action.

We also play our Calm Music System ™, which reduces stress for both mother and pups even during the gestation since studies find that pups do respond to music even before they are born. From this point until the last pup goes to its new home, we play this tape as often as possible, at home, in the car on the way to the veterinarian's, while they are being examined, and so on.

When the pups are being delivered, we're right in there with mom for the deliveries - assisting only if needed (say, with a breech birth), allowing her to open the sacks, clean the pups and eat the afterbirth (which stimulates the mother to produce milk). As she delivers each one, we towel it off and keep it where she can see it. It's important for her to know where her pups are as she is delivering others. (We also prepare several photocopies of a drawing I made of a top view of a spread-eagled pup. On each sketch, we record time of birth, order of birth, sex, markings, and any significant information regarding delivery.

From there on, we stay involved. For example, we pay close attention to which pups routinely seem to get the best feeding stations and make certain every pup gets about equal time on the premium ones. This is part of a large amount of handling we do with the pups, always being careful not to upset the mother.

By the second day, we are taking the pups out of the box one at a time and gradually increasing the number of minutes we keep them away from the mother. This helps prepare her, and them, for day three or day four when we pack the pups into a large, towel-lined wicker basket, cover them, and take them to the veterinarian's.

By the end of the first week, we encourage visits from close family and friends whom the mother knows and likes. In the second week, we take the pups out of the box and handle them more frequently - still one at a time. We generally hold them close to us for their warmth and security.

Even Less Obvious

By the third week, most pups have their senses working in a primitive way. Once their eyes open, we start introducing them to ground puppy food blended with warm water (about 95 degrees), a tablespoon of powdered milk and a teaspoon of brewer's yeast. We put this in a wide, flat plastic tray with a low edge that they can step over. Sometimes Mom will want to share it with them. At first this is okay because they tend to follow her example. Later on, however, you will need to feed her separately. Most important, we watch to see which pup is pushing in and which one is being squeezed out. We move the pushy one back from time to time and move the other one forward. This not only ensures that they all get enough to eat, it also starts putting a little balance into the pups' dispositions. The bold one learns to back off and the more-timid one learns to move up. Of course, this is all happening because you are present to take charge. That, in itself, will help moderate the pups' behaviors.

We also start our more-formal "disposition" exercises just as soon as the pups are able to open their eyes. If everything else has been done right even from the decision to breed, this is what will make the difference and help you turn every pup in your litter into a well-balanced adult dog. In fact, you can even use the same techniques to change the disposition of adult dogs, regardless of their personalities. It's all done with methods researchers have proven with people for centuries.

Temperament Testing

Tests for dominance and submissiveness developed decades ago by Drs. Scott and Fuller are now offered by organizations such as the Temperament Testing Society. Scott and Fuller's tests examine social attraction, following, restraint, social dominance and elevation dominance. We adapted these tests so they could be used to measure and modify pups' temperaments.

Our Approach

At three and four weeks, newborn pups begin to acquire individual "personalities" through learned behaviors that could affect the rest of their lives. Even at four to eight weeks of age, they're figuring where they stand in the pecking order. Thus, a pup that mouths and bites on people's fingers may not be "just teething" as owners might think. It may be doing a natural form of testing to see how dominant they will be allowed to become.

At this young age, puppies' dispositions may change from experience to experience and from day to day. Each time you test them, you may see different results depending upon whether they have just awakened, eaten, played, been startled, and so on. In fact, even the tests, themselves, can influence a puppy's dominance or submissiveness. After a few days of testing, however, patterns begin to emerge.

Test each pup at least once a day in a quiet area free from distractions. Write the results down immediately on a chart you started for each pup when it was born. This will give you a reasonably accurate tracking. Before moving from one test to the next, always return each puppy to the whelping box and allow it to rest for at least five minutes. This helps the reliability of your measurements.

Test One - Social Attraction - Place one pup at a time in the center of a floor where you won't mind if it relieves itself. Walk about ten steps away, kneel down and make squeaking sounds by pursing your lips and sucking in small amounts of air. Observe whether the pup:

_ A Came readily, tail up, jumped, nipped at hands

_ B Came readily, tail up, pawed at hands

_ C Came readily, tail down

_ D Came hesitantly, tail down

_ E Ran off

_ F Remained still and trembled

Test Two - Following - Place each pup in the center of the floor, one at a time, and walk away. Note whether it:

_ A Approached readily, tail up, got underfoot, nipped

_ B Approached readily, tail up, got underfoot

_ C Approached readily, tail down

_ D Approached hesitantly, tail down

_ E Went away

_ F Remained still and trembled

Test Three - Restraint (30 seconds) - Lay each pup on a towel on a table, roll it onto its back, and hold it there firmly but gently. Note whether the pup:

_ A Struggled fiercely, flailed, nipped, screamed

_ B Struggled fiercely, flailed, screamed

_ C Struggled, flailed

_ D Struggled, then settled

_ E No struggle, licked hands

_ F Became nervous and cried

Test Four - Status (30 seconds) - Lay each pup on a towel and stroke it from the top of the head, down the neck and back, and to the haunches in one continuous motion. Observe whether the pup:

_ A Jumped, pawed, nipped, growled

_ B Jumped, pawed

_ C Squirmed, licked hands

_ D Squirmed, cried

_ E Rolled over, licked hands

_ F Went away and stayed away

Test Five - Elevation (30 seconds) - Surround the pup with your hands by lacing your fingers, palms up, under its belly. Lift it a few inches off the ground. Note whether it:

_ A Struggled fiercely, nipped, growled

_ B Struggled fiercely but that's all

_ C Struggled, settled, licked

_ D Did not struggle, licked

_ E Trembled and cried

_ F Became nervous and urinated

Scoring These Tests

For accuracy, rank each test on a scale of 1 to 10. Make 1 the lowest behavior listed for each test and make 10 the highest. Under each heading, circle the letter that best describes the pup's behavior and assign a number to indicate the strength of that behavior. Do this for each puppy daily.

Interpreting the Scores

As a general rule, the more A's and B's you find after a week on any given test, the more dominant that pup is likely to become: The higher the numerical ranking you gave those A's and B's, the stronger that dominance is likely to become.

Left unchecked, a pup with a lot of high-scoring A's may mature into an extremely dominant dog that refuses to follow direction and tries to take matters into its own "hands." It would not be a good candidate for most situations where control is important since it tends to become too independent. It is also not a good idea to put a pup like this with families with small children since dominance biting frequently occurs in a dog this extreme.

Conversely, the more E's and F's you find, the more submissive - even timid - that pup is likely to become: The higher the numerical ranking you gave those E's and F's, the more pronounced those submissive or timid behaviors are likely to be later on. A pup in this category could become shy of noises as well as harsh (or even firm) voice tones and training methods. Such dogs often fear strangers and startle easily. Fear biting is not uncommon in such dogs.

The C's and D's tend to indicate a middle-of-the-road disposition. High numerical scores for C's and D's indicate a leaning toward dominance; lower numerical scores indicate a tendency toward submissiveness.

Helping Dominant Pups

As we noted, we periodically remove the more assertive puppies from nursing on the most productive nipples and put the more submissive pups there instead. On occasion, remove the dominant pups from near the mother and put the more submissive ones there. From time to time you might even remove the most-dominant pups from the litter and carry out the following behavior-modifying activities for about five minutes at a time:

* Periodically restrain the more dominant pups and hold them until they stop resisting. If a pup shows any signs of aggression when you play with it to socialize it, you should respond at once.

* Keep the pup in contact with the floor and restrain the pup by lightly grasping the scruff of its neck (the loose fur and skin behind the head and above the shoulders) for about one second. 	

* As you do, you should "growl" the word "enough" under your breath at the pup.

* Do nothing that will either heighten or reward its attempts to growl, paw or mouth at you.

Helping Timid Pups

In the whelping box, give the more submissive pups preferential treatment when it comes to nursing or being in comfortable places next to the mother. Once the pups are weaned, give the more timid ones preferred opportunities to eat, as well as the best positions around the food pan.

Outside the whelping box, gently encourage the timid pups to come to you when you get their attention, and to follow you as you move away. Get down to their level. Lie on the floor if necessary to attract them to you. Gently reward even the slightest improvements in their willingness to approach you.

Stay physically closer to them when you carry out these steps:

* Pet them lightly in the chest area under the chin as you hold them.

* Start cradling them in your hands and lifting them off the ground for a second or two. 		

* Build up their tolerance gradually with reassuring praise.

* Gradually accustom them to being handled and petted. Only restrain them while you are carrying out the Restraint test.

Summary

You should test litters daily from three to four weeks of age right through the day the pups go to their new owners. These techniques give you more control over the dispositions of your pups than you may have thought possible. Use them and you will be on your way to producing the "perfect" litter - giving every puppy the best chance to develop a well-balanced disposition.

Copyright, 1992, Stephen C. Rafe. Revised, 1999. All Rights Reserved.

 

 Stephen C. Rafe is the author of Training Your dog for BIRDWORK, Your New Baby and Bowser, and numerous manuals and pamphlets on training and behavior. His cure systems for dogs that fear gunfire, thunder or fireworks are considered the most effec-tive available. He takes no personal income from the outreach program he has maintained since 1982 to help dogs and their owners.

For free information on Steve's products and services:

Starfire P.O. Box 3119

Warrenton, VA, 20188.

Tel/Fax: (540) 349-1039

E-mail: steve-rafe@erols.com.

The Breeder's Perspective

A Practical Approach to Whelping your Puppies

Home Brags Cabbage Patch Show Results

 

A Practical Approach to Whelping your Puppies

By: Carol M. Roe-Getty, DVM

There are three very important things you need if you going to whelp a litter of puppies. You should have a well stocked whelping area, your veterinarian's home phone number and a best friend who has tons of experience whelping litters who actually wants to stay up all night and help you. On second thought, I guess there are actually four things, since you probably should have a pregnant bitch due to whelp.

Let's start with your whelping area. You should probably start with some sort of a whelping box-something large enough to give the bitch a little room to move around, but not large enough to need it's own zip code. It can be made of any suitable material, and should have pig rails to protect the puppies from their mom crushing them, and in case you decide to take up pig farming after raising the litter. It really doesn't matter what the box is made of, because "Princess" isn't going to like it anyway when you drag her off her customary perch on the pillow of your bed and tell her she sleeps in a box for the next (4) four weeks. The box should be lined with something soft and absorbent that will also allow newborn puppies to get some traction. Don't even try to find something the bitch will like because she's just going to wad it up in the corner of the box anyway. You should also have some sort of fence around the box for confinement when "Princess" tries to make a break for it. An exercise pen works well, or a baby gate across a doorway if the whelping area is an entire room. Don't underestimate the ability of a full term bitch to leap impossible heights to get away from her carefully planned whelping area so she can go deliver the puppies on your bed. You can help keep her in the planned area by selecting a relatively familiar place and introducing her to the concept of sleeping there about a week before the puppies are due. Don't put the whelping box somewhere that resembles Grand Central Station. It should be relatively private, after all would you want everyone you know staring at you while you were delivering your kids? And breast feeding in public places is still a fairly controversial topic, so it's best done in private-you don't want to offend any of your other dogs. You should also make sure that your whelping area is warm and draft free. If you don't have central heating and the wind whistles through the chinks in your log cabin, you can use heating pads, heating lamps, thermal conservation devices and strategic placement of blankets to conserve warmth and cut down on the drafts. Be careful with the heating pads and heat lamps as you can easily overheat your new puppies-never turn the heating pad above the low setting, and make sure there is an area where the puppies can move away from the heat lamp if they need to. Once you have everything set up for the bitch, start stockpiling things you'll need during the whelping. A whole bunch of clean, dry towels is a must, and can be kept warm by running them in the clothes dryer during the delivery. I recommend that you volunteer to run back and forth from the dryer to the whelping box while your friend delivers the puppies. That way you can say you helped, but you don't have to do anything hard. Scissors, dental floss (or thread) and an iodine solution are important to keep on hand in case you need to help with the umbilical cords. Yeah, I know that nature should cause the bitch to handle the umbilical cords, but nature doesn't come with any guarantee. A small box or laundry basket lined with a soft blanket and covered with a towel can be placed over the heating pad (on low) in order to provide a place to put puppies who are here while "Princess" is delivering the next puppy. This can cut down on confusion and possible trauma to the existing puppies. Make sure they get a chance to eat a little something in between deliveries though-we don't want unhappy puppies-do we. You should have a few pharmaceuticals on hand in the whelping area if possible. I recommend some sort of electrolyte solution (Pedialyte or Ritrol are excellent), Dopram is a potent respiratory stimulant and a drop or two under the tongue of a puppy can save it's life, Oxytocin, when used properly, can save puppies lives if the bitch becomes exhausted. You can also feel free to add any other pharmaceuticals that you feel you might need to help you get through the delivery (for the dog, of course, not for yourself). Last, but not least, put a rectal thermometer in your kit (unless you have taught your bitch how to hold a thermometer under her tongue, in which case please call me, I want to know how you did it!). This way, you can start checking "Princess's" rectal temperature daily one week before the litter is due, so you'll have some idea of when she is going to whelp.

The next part of the whelping process is the veterinary part. Hopefully, you have dedicated your very existence to being really nice to your veterinarian, so that they will think fondly of you and be willing to give you their home phone number when your bitch is due to whelp. However, if this is not the case, you just need a vet who's home phone number is on a National Breed Club Membership list. Seriously, if you have a good relationship with your vet, they are a lot more likely to get you things like Dopram and Oxytocin, and also a lot more likely to let you call with any questions, and even do house calls for emergencies or difficult whelpings. By the time "Princess" is ready to whelp, you hopefully took her to the veterinarian for a pre-whelping x-ray. I recommend waiting until about a week before she is due, so that the skeletons will be fully calcified, for a very accurate count. Remember, the puppy you don't know about is the puppy that might die before it is delivered (and you know it would have been that perfect specimen of the breed that would have brought you fame and fortune). This is a good chance for the vet to check "Princess" over and make sure she looks like she can survive whelping the litter. After this last visit, it is up to you to monitor the bitch up to the point where she starts whelping. As long as the delivery goes OK, you won't need the vet again unless there is a problem. I'm going to skip to the bitch's part in this whole thing for now and we'll catch up with the veterinary part a little later.

Now for the most forgotten about part of the whole process. "Princess", the most important dog in the whole world to you, is now just a storage unit for her precious puppies. But she does have feelings about this whole process (no, you really don't want to know what she's thinking right now). How will you know she's about to whelp? Well, hopefully you've been checking that temperature daily, and you should see the temperature drop to below 99o degrees. Just for fun, the temperature can drop below 99o, then rise again, then drop again. Usually, once the temperature drops, labor begins in 12-24 hours. Labor is divided into three stages. Stage I is where you and the bitch both worry tremendously. "Princess" may act restless or nervous, she may stop eating, pant, shiver, vomit or pace. You may actually do exactly the same. The cause of these symptoms for the dog is that the uterus is contracting imperceptibly (to you - "Princess" knows full well what is happening), and the cervix is dilating. If your bitch (or you) act like this when the bitch is not in labor, you are both on your own! The bitch will also start nesting in a secluded place, which almost never will be the whelping area you created. I'll place my bets on under the bed, on top of the bed, in your closet, or in a dirt hole dug in a planter in the back yard. This stage lasts for 6-12 hours, and you don't need to do anything special for "Princess" at this point in time. You might consider trying some counseling to convince her that the whelping box is the place to be, and that she really wants to be a mother. The other two stages of labor are Stage II and Stage III. These alternate back and forth until whelping is complete. Stage II is the delivery of the puppy and Stage III is the delivery of the placenta. If you don't mind bad breath and diarrhea, you can let your bitch eat her placentas. They are a source of hormones that help stimulate milk let down and uterine contractions, but they are kind of icky too. During stages II & III, you see "Princess" actively pushing and contracting (she may also be swearing), resulting in delivery of a puppy within 10-30 minutes. If she's working hard, and hasn't delivered a puppy in 45-60 minutes, you get to use your vet's home phone number. Don't give Oxytocin to an actively straining bitch as you can rupture the uterus (never a good idea). If all goes well, and a puppy is delivered in the 10-30 minute time frame, "Princess" may rest anywhere from 15-45 minutes between whelps. If she seems very content to rest and is not straining, she may rest up to a few hours. She may deliver several relatively quickly, then take a long break before finishing up. Any pause in whelping of 3 hours deserves a call to the veterinarian, no matter what time it is or how the bitch seems to feel. She may just be resting, but she may also be in uterine inertia and be unable to continue without help.

Here's where your very experienced friend comes in handy. While you are busy warming towels, pacing and possibly vomiting, your friend is going to deliver the litter for you. She's going to help "Princess" get the fetal membranes off the puppies' heads so they can breath ("Princess" may or may not have any idea what to do with the puppies-do you really want to leave it up to her?). She's going to wrap the puppies' in your warm towels and rub them vigorously to stimulate them to breath. She's going to clear their airways of fluid and mucous so they can breath, by "swinging" them. In case you don't have a friend who can do this for you, you cradle the puppy in the towel (use both hands), raise it over your head and swing it down sharply in a chopping motion. If you cradle the puppy properly you will allow fluid to come up out of the lungs but will not break it's little neck. Back to assuming you have a friend, she's going to tie some dental floss around the umbilical cord and cut it and dip it in an iodine solution (see note about "Princess and the fetal membranes). She's going to place the puppies along the teats and allow them to nurse and get their first colostrum. She'll check for cleft palates and other birth defects that will potentially be life threatening. She'll move the pups to the warm box while the next littermate is born. But, best of all, she'll be able to help asses how "Princess" is doing. If she seems like she's becoming exhausted, the knowledgeable friend will know to offer her a drink of Ritrol or Pedialyte to help correct a potentially low blood sugar or electrolyte levels. Your vet will love you if you can fix this problem yourself and not have to call her in the middle of the night. The knowledgeable friend will be able to differentiate between straining against a stuck puppy as opposed to uterine inertia from exhaustion. She will be able to clue you in to when you should call the veterinarian.

We are getting back into veterinary care, but before I leave the subject of this precious friend, there really is no substitute for experience. If you can't find anyone with experience willing to be there for you as a friend, hire someone (seriously). You can usually find someone through dog shows, or even some vet offices can offer referrals to canine midwives. The cost will be made up for if you save even one puppy that might otherwise die. If you are already experienced, get a newbie who's interested to help you. The newbie gains valuable experience, and you have someone to get towels for you! Or, even better get 20-30 people with lots of experience to be there to help you (don't laugh, this really happened once when one bitch decided to deliver 5 days early during a human baby shower for Springer people). At least you won't be lonely.

Back to the veterinary stuff assuming you called your dedicated vet, and the bitch is definitely in trouble, several things might be tried. If there's no obvious obstruction, the vet might give intravenous glucose or calcium to replenish low supplies of either causing inertia. If this fails, one to three injections of Oxytocin might be given intramuscularly to jump-start the uterine contractions. If there is evidence of obstruction, or if medical treatment fails to restart labor, a Cesarean section may be required to rescue the puppies and to save the bitch. At this point that great relationship you have with the vet will allow you to assist delivery as the puppies will need to be resuscitated and most regular vets don't have a staffed office in the middle of the night for C-Sections (here's another place where your friend comes in handy - she can help revive puppies). Hopefully, you won't ever need this service, but be prepared, make sure you know exactly what you will do if you need a C-Section for "Princess".

Well, at this point, theoretically, your litter is happily nursing away while "Princess" is dreaming about getting her figure back and working her way back to sleeping on the pillows again. I tried to mix a little humor into this article as whelping puppies can be a scary subject. The information imparted is real, and should be useful if you are contemplating the delivery of a litter of puppies. The take home message is be prepared! (and be nice to your vet). If 'anyone really can't tell where I'm serious and where I'm joking, call me (but not at home in the middle of the night). And, yes - I really did whelp a litter in the middle of a baby shower...

 

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