Day 21-3 Weeks Old; The Learning Curve Gets Steep!

Friday was a BIG day for all of the puppies-they had a lot of new activities to experience like their FIRST meal, first bath, officially beginning potty training, time for them to wear T-shirt’s/onesies to help desensitize them for wearing capes, and some enrichment games to continue to build their brains! It was a busy day as I was trying to give the puppies all of these “firsts” but also knew my day was filled with other “life” events that were more important than a puppy being potty trained.(It’s hard to imagine, but it’s true!)  Life continues on even when we have puppies in our home as much as we want to just sit and play with them all day!!

Yesterday’s event was that I had the pleasure of attending my daughters PH.D. graduation.  She received her doctorate in Animal Science with a focus on Nutrition(Equine).  She has spent her entire life exploring through science and has completed countless research projects, had her research published and is in a completely different place as she was before she began her college career in the science field.  What she was convinced of 8 years ago is completely different than what she knows now through her education and research.  I believe this is exactly what life is like! You think you have the answers to most everything, but when you look back you realize that what you know is not as important as what you chose to DISCOVER over the course of time, what you learned through listening to the experiences of others, and through what you’ve tried in your quest to make something better.  I’ve learned that through research, scientists have to keep an open mind because often the truth that is revealed is much different than their initial theory of the problem. And the opportunities to discover new and better ideas is HUGE with puppies!  Every litter that has been in my home has been completely different in one way or another, and I have learned incredible new things from each one that has actually taught me lessons that I apply in my everyday life. I have learned to interact with people in a different way, I seek to look for better ways, more efficient processes and to enjoy the moment.

Every litter is different, but the biggest challenge for me as a whelping home is to learn from past litters in order to make this litter more successful!  I don’t rest on the excuse that “every litter is different’, but instead my time with these puppies becomes one HUGE science experiment.  One of the biggest mistakes I believe people make in life is that they get comfortable in what they know so they never continue to ask the big question of “why”? They don’t choose to learn from what’s in front of them, from the insight of others, or from what others have discovered through the value of research.  Something may have worked in the past, but WHY did it work and WHAT could work better are important questions as well!

One example of this is in the picture below.  I did some research and studies show that if you put out more bowls than the number of puppies you can reduce the future incidence rate of resource guarding that dogs display.  Since resource guarding is one of the things that can career change a pup in training, I figured I would try this method.  Does it mean that none of these puppies will resource guard in their futures? No. They have many other life experiences along the way that can develop or inhibit this behavior.  I’m just one tiny piece of the puzzle, and every piece and experience along the way continues to develop their personality. Does it mean that this is the ONLY thing that will help them with this? No. But…..and here is the important part of this; there is NO evidence that I could find showing that having more bowls of food than puppies EVER will harm the puppy or detrimentally inhibit the puppy in any growth areas, so with only positive opportunity and no negative ramifications why WOULDN”T  I do this? Research is so extensive, and for most studies you can find opposing viewpoints.  But there are some studies where there is only an upside to the research and it seems obvious to add it to my daily routine.  Rather than bore you with the actual research studies, I have provided a link that discusses much of the same thinking about providing extra food bowls.

Link: Preventing food aggression in puppies begins when they are young

Here is also an excerpt and a link on how to work with food/resource guarding with a series of training exercises to use with the dog if they already show some of the signs:

An Ounce of Prevention

Young puppies are prone to guarding behavior because they often have to compete with their littermates for limited amounts of food. Breeders often feed puppies from one large communal pan, and the puppy who manages to eat the most will grow the quickest and become the strongest. If a breeder is not observant, this situation can deteriorate into one or two puppies monopolizing most of the food. A history of being rewarded for aggressive behavior can become firmly established in these puppies.

ASPCA training a dog with food guarding issues

Watching the daily interactions of the puppies can teach you so much!!!  You learn all about the intricate behaviors of each puppy and you start to feel like you have an insight into their future and what problems and successes they might experience along the way!  I’ve always said one of my dream jobs is to track a litter of puppies from birth throughout life and to track all of the things they’ve experienced along the way, looking at insights from the whelping home and beyond and seeing how accurate those thoughts are in the adult life of the dog.

And this is a brief look into my life as a whelping home!  I love research, and I love to improve upon processes so that I can feel like this litter has even more benefits than the previous one in my home. I never think I have THE answer and there’s no other way.  I take each experience and determine if I can positively build upon it to improve the outcome.   It’s a bit of a personality flaw, but I actually enjoy the intense nature of my mind, so it’s all good!

This is what I love about science and research.  There is an unbelievable amount of research that is at our fingertips!  We get to choose if that interests us to look it up and discover something new that might possibly improve some problem that we want to avoid.

It’s not all fun and games! Sometimes the puppies walk through “areas” that make them very dirty and stinky, and they need to get cleaned up!!! Bathtime for the litter happened before 7am!!!! I was a bit surprised at how much they loved it!!!

As I was listening to the keynote speaker at the graduation (he was the one who studied and invented Baked Lays and is an incredible entrepreneur), I’m sure the majority of people were thinking of how the speech applied to some aspect of their personal lives.  I was also doing this, but what I realized is that frequently my thoughts drifted back to the 7 little puppies in my care and I was surprised at how much of the speech applied to my time with them as well!

So, I figured I would share the key points of the keynote speaker that he gathered from some of his students which I feel are a fabulous way to start a new day! Although these aren’t puppy related, they are wonderful to consider!

  • The best four-letter word is FACTS;
  • Make sure your curiosity and interests change as a function of time;
  • Look for an opportunity you can grab; that can be anything from how to think, live or act smarter, or to help someone else;
  • Learn to be comfortable being uncomfortable, but don’t just accept it without exploring your options. It’s not a destination, but rather a point in time;
  • Learn to listen to ideas you disagree with-in the end you are the one who gets to decide how you want to live, but hear what others have to say about topics that affect you and keep an open mind;
  • Use logic and facts to do the analysis, but use the situation in front of you to draw the insights
  • Look to solve any problem by looking at nature;
  • Never settle; always problem-solve and innovate. This is what has developed our world and allowed us to realize things that were never thought possible;
  • Dare to be different;
  • Change is always predictable;
  • Not taking a big risk is still a big risk;
  • Focus on the problem you want to solve, not the job you have in front of you;
  • Facts are the key in decision making;
  • Quit thinking outside of the box, just create a new box;
  • Always value the lessons and messages of others, even if you don’t share the same views;
  • Keep re-learning how to be curious;
  • Develop a clear set of guiding values and remember those values you pick are a skill that needs to be mastered

What a busy day!!!!

Day 19-The Name Game~

Sugar’s litter is officially the “N” litter; all this means is that her puppies will have names beginning with N, but they don’t get their official names yet.  The organization will determine their names when they get closer to the time of going into official training.  So, in the meantime, whelping homes are allowed the opportunity to give the puppies nicknames so that we don’t go around calling them simply by their collar colors!

We get to give these temporary names around the 3-week mark, and since this litter will be three weeks tomorrow it’s time to start calling them by (temporary) names!!!  So here they are! They are officially Lady, Mindy, Roo, Tanner, Jax, Chase and Boomer!

Mr. Orange-Boomer, as he was the biggest pup born and continues to lead the charge in the weight category.  He needed a BIG nickname to go with his size! He’s 2169 grams, approx. 4.75 pounds

Mr. Aqua-Jax, he’s the smallest of the boys at 1937 grams, approx. 4 1/4 pounds

Miss Green-Roo, named after the nickname of our youngest daughter; she is 1956 grams, which is approx. 4.3 pounds

Miss Purple-Mindy, after the nickname of our oldest daughter; she is 1900 grams and the smallest in the litter currently at 1900 grams, approximately a little over 4 pounds

Mr. Blue-Chase: weighing in at 2113 grams, approx.  4.65 pounds

Mr. Red-Tanner; 2123 grams, approx.  4.65 pounds, just like Blue.


Day 18-Freedom Like Never Before!

Yesterday and today the puppies will be able to see, do and experience a variety of things that they have never done before!  And once they find out how big their world is, there will be no stopping them-the whelping box will no longer be seen as a place of security but instead a place they want to leave; 4 white walls will be replaced with sights, sounds, toys and lots of different interaction with “things”!!!

They’ve graduated from bio-sensor training and now they need to do things to build their tolerance, adaptability, and overall resilience so that when they grow into their role as assistance puppies in training they are ready for the task at hand as much as possible!

As whelping homes we do as much as we can to ensure their success, and so it’s difficult in my opinion if one of our puppies doesn’t make it to graduation; there are so many things out of our control that can derail the trajectory of the puppies-personality, allergies, medical issues and simply not having the desire to work.  None of these issues mean the dog isn’t wonderful, it just means this career isn’t the right path for them.

So we pour our hearts and energy into these mini-miracles in the hopes that one day they will pour THEIR hearts and energy into someone else. And for me, that’s the only reason I can happily go without sleep for many hours or days, be content for weeks mostly in the confines of my home, wash laundry like it’s a fine art, and be okay with pooper scooper duty of 7 pups for 5+ weeks:). The hope fir them is what fuels the passion for me!

Here are some pics of their last 24 hours of firsts!

First field trip to the dining room


Special mom time on their first field trip

First protest about weigh-ins-Miss Green decided to take matters into her own hands and block the scale, then promptly go to sleep!

First group escape and coming when I called them!

Blue got the honors of the first cape wearing opportunity!

Miss Green loved the bright colors of the first “big puppy” toys!

First long field trip to the living room “headquarters #2” complete with train sounds, honking geese, birds tweeting, trucks and cars, and of course some new musical artists with some crazy beats on Alexa!!!  Our house has officially become an obstacle course around x-pen living spaces for the pups, and it will continue to expand over the next 3 weeks to essentially consume our entire home 🙂 

Day 15-You’re Never Too Young to Learn!

Once the puppies eyes open and they are reacting to noise, it’s time to add enrichment to their living space!  This is one of my favorite times because the puppies absorb things at such a rapid pace that you can barely believe what you are watching!

At this point, they are getting up on all four legs and walking (stumbling) around the whelping box; their eyes have only been open a day but you can tell they are already starting to look at things around them regardless of how blurry it might be; they are startling at noises and lifting their heads when I come into the room and talk to them; and that just means they need some opportunities to interact with colorful objects and they need to continue building their motor skills.


Throughout the day, various items get added or removed to encourage brain stimulation-but during the night, toys get removed so they only have to worry about getting rested and ready to learn again the next day!

So now they get some additions to the whelping box!  They get the puppy play gym-I intentionally made it with lots of colors so it was bright and enticing and I fill it with a variety of puppy and baby toys.  They will crawl all around it, under it, through it and as they gain play skills they will stop and chew on the different items because they will seem too irresistible to pass by!  This will help them in many more ways than just having toys to entertain them.  The brain enrichment that they get from adding things to their living space will help build them into confident dogs that will want to explore and not be afraid of their surroundings.  As they grow, every few days new items will be added to their living space including a ramp, a wobble board, various flooring surfaces, noisy toys, a slide, and a myriad of other items to keep their brain learning and developing!


This is a critical time for neurological development and all of the things that they are able to do during these initial puppy weeks build the foundation for a solid dog that’s happy, confident and willing! The variety in flooring pads that create different textures to crawl on, the tube snakes, the puppy pods, the puppy play gym – all of these items may seem like no big deal, but they are all part of the big picture of creating happy and well adjusted pups that will be able to take in the rigors of training to be assistance dogs!

I have to admit, knowing that every moment during these weeks in my home can help change the physiology of these puppies’ brains is pretty amazing, stressful and unbelievable!


Of course, there is science to back up what we offer the puppies from the very earliest stages!  And while I am sitting in the whelping room keeping an eye on the beautiful puppies that I get to do my very best to build a solid foundation for,  my mind decides that I have to learn a bit more about the research on how to create a complex environment for the puppies so that they have the very BEST start they can have!


Here is some of the information that I read about and that I implement in the living spaces for the puppies while they are in my home:

They found that the dogs reared in the more complex home environment not only learned faster but seemed to be less fearful and considerably less stressed in the testing situations.

Over the years researchers have proven that these behavioral changes are the result of actual changes in the physiology of the animal’s brains. The brains of animals that have lived in changing and complex environments actually become larger.

New connections develop between existing neurons in the cortex as a result of experience. Recent evidence demonstrates that it is even possible to grow new neuralcells in important areas of the brain that are associated with learning, memory and the organization of behavior.
The important aspects of the animal’s experience which cause these positive changes in their brains involves exposure to a wide variety of interesting places and things that novel, and exciting experiences. It is best when these are combined with frequent opportunities to learn new things, solve problems and to freely investigate, manipulate, and interact with objects and environmental features. The data is unambiguous in showing that this leads to individuals who not only tend to be more inquisitive and are more able to learn quickly and perform complex tasks, but also who are less fearful and emotional.

Recent research by psychologist Norton W. Milgram and his associates at the University of Toronto have shown that the benefits of such experiences are not restricted to growing puppies. Adults and even elderly animals, not only benefit from having richer environments, but these problem solving experiences seem to help to offset the usual decline in mental efficiency that is seen in older dogs.

So, if you are interested in reading more from the article by Psychology today including some of the research, clink on this link to find out how you can continue to work with dogs and build their brain power even after they are out of the puppy stage!

Building a better brain for your dog – Psychology Today Research

Here is an excerpt from a website about the first 7 weeks of a puppy’s life:

First 4 Months of Age

The Imprinting Period

Imprinting PeriodLike children, puppies have a small window of time during brain development when they are most impressionable. This is called the imprinting, or critical learning period.  For puppies, the imprinting period is during the first 16 weeks of life. Puppies learn more during this time than they can learn in a life time. Therefore, the quality and quantity of what they experience will have a huge impact on their future personalities and determine the formation of many of their “good” or “bad” behavior tendencies. In fact, such vast change in development happens with each day that passes, the Imprinting Period is further sub-divided into multiple distinct puppy-stages.

First 7 Weeks

(Neonatal Period, Transition Period, and 1st Socialization Period)

In the first 7 weeks of life, puppies gain use of all the senses, become mobile, start growing baby teeth, transition to eating solid foods, and become completely weaned (independent) from their dog moms.

Learning is already rapidly occurring, making it important that human caretakers provide puppies with specific neurological stimulation, a complex environment, and careful, yet thorough, socialization for proper development and adjustment to living in human society.

Excerpt taken from the following –

Day 14-Oh, say can you SEE!!!!

Well, the puppies have been working on it for a couple of days now, but this morning in a matter of TWO hours 3 puppies have opened their eyes!!!! Purple, Blue and Orange!!! I completely suspect that by the evenings close all puppies eyes will be open and they will start exploring their new world!

Their personalities are really starting to shine as well!

Miss Pink is the sassy one (why is it that Pink collared girls are always the sassy ones in the litter?????) She’s independent and fierce in her opinions about her unhappiness with the bio-sensor training, letting me know that she REALLY doesn’t think that I should be maneuvering her body the way I do and that Q-tips in the paws should be outlawed! Ironically enough though, she is the snuggly one who is always scootching up to her siblings to sleep with them, preferring company over being alone. She also loves sleeping UNDER things, and I am constantly doing a head count looking for her before I step into the whelping box! But by far she loves snuggling with her Mama Sugar the most!

Miss Purple loves adventure!  She is the first one to follow the tube snakes in the whelping box to get to another destination completely on the other side.  She navigates puppy pods, the snakes, and fellow siblings to make her journey in record time! She seems to already be a problem solver and I can’t wait to see how she progresses!  She’s fabulous at her bio-sensor training, I’m guessing she’s figured out the quieter she is when I’m doing it the quicker it will get done!



Miss Purple trying to focus so hard her tongue fell out…..


Mr. Blue is our rock star-literally!  His hair on the top of his head is shorter and spiked and when you look at him he looks like a rock star from the 80’s! (see photo below) He is super friendly and quiet, and he seeks out humans for attention already!  He loves to snuggle in my arms and when I talked to him this morning he wagged his tail for the very first time!!!! It was a heart-melting moment to be sure!  Of course, I gave him extra snuggle time for that!

Yes, I know-my spiked hair is a chic magnet….Rock On pupsters…..

Mr. Red is apt to use his voice to show her displeasure:)  He also loves to snuggle with the tube snakes, preferring to have his head lifted off of the ground-he will even use a sibling if necessary! He’s more independent, and he’s the one most likely to sleep through feeding time:)  And Red is very particular about the whelping box climate; he wants it between 74-77 degrees, no more, no less. If it’s outside of HIS comfort zone I have to adapt his sleeping space-like today when I had to put a cool towel down for him to sleep on because 78 degrees just wasn’t acceptable….

Mr. Red trying to stay cool as the whelping box didn’t meet his 3-degree range of expectations….

Mr. Orange is the one who will NEVER miss a feeding! He will climb THROUGH his siblings to get to the milk bar and nothing stands in his way! That makes total sense because he was the heaviest at birth and he still holds the title for heaviest pup in the litter!  Orange loves to find a tighter space, and roll on his back to sleep. (Probably to rest his belly!) He isn’t quite aware of his size, so when he tries to stand up, walk, or crawl it’s sure to make you laugh. I can’t wait to see this big boy grow!

Orange Resting his belly to be ready for the next feeding time!

Mr. Aqua is a sweet, sensitive, snuggler.  He likes a quiet whelping box and he loves hiding in the corners.  He loves to snuggle with Miss Pink and they seem to make a concerted effort to find each other in the box, going around other siblings and stopping when they get to each other.  He’s an active dreamer and his legs make me think he is doing a lot of running in those dreams!

Mr. Green is the unassuming one. He goes with the flow; Bio-sensor training now? ok, whatever…..whelping box change, sure………feeding time? “Hey, I’ll get around to it when my nap is over” type of attitude.   Green loves the puppy pods and the cat bed for his naps. Nothing seems to stress him at this point so it will be fun to see his personality change over time!

They are really REALLY fun to watch and I’m amazed that they are so different already at 2 weeks old! What’s even more amazing is that they were showing signs of these personality traits as early as a couple of DAYS old!  Of course, that immediately makes me want to research puppy development even more….



Those eyes are working hard to focus!

And just in case you wanted to know more about puppies and their senses developing, here’s some of the science behind the last two senses to develop in a puppy….

According to a variety of veterinary websites, here is the basic information about their last two senses to develop and how that is part of the canine evolutionary process:

Puppies lack two senses at birth: sight and hearing. It takes a minimum of 10 days to two weeks for their final two senses to develop. Although lacking their sight and hearing might seem odd to human beings, puppies develop in a way that is advantageous to their species.

Eye Development

Puppies’ optical nerves are developing along with the rest of the central nervous system, making them very sensitive to light. In addition, the eyes themselves are still forming behind the lids. Sealed eyelids protect the nerves and membranes of the delicate organs from hazards such as light or grit. Once the eyes have fully matured, puppies’ lids start to open.


Newborn puppies bear little resemblance to adult dogs. They have massive heads with pronounced muzzles suited to nursing. Their legs are short and possess only enough power to scoot their bodies along the floor or ground. Newborn puppies cannot stand. Neither can they hear; their ear canals remain sealed shut. Finally, they cannot see because their eyelids are also sealed. 

Dogs as Predators

According to Stanley Coren, Ph.D., this helplessness makes perfect evolutionary sense. Newborn herbivores emerge fully functional after their mothers’ long pregnancies because they have to be able to run with the herd, in part to escape predators. However, long pregnancies would interfere with predators’ ability to hunt and to survive. Puppies continue to develop after leaving their mothers’ wombs because doing so is in the best interest of the canine species in terms of survival.

The Nervous System

Puppies’ central nervous systems are incompletely formed when they are born. The brains, spinal cords, and nerves are all present in their bodies, but the nerves cannot transmit electrical impulses in an efficient way because they have not been coated with enough myelin yet. Myelin is the fatty layer that carries messages along the nerves. In normal, healthy puppies, the myelinization process takes several weeks, after which puppies can make more purposeful movement.

Day 12-Developing at the Speed of Light! I blinked for what seemed like a moment today and all of a sudden these “kill you with cuteness” puppies decided that crawling was too easy, so they got up and started walking all over the box!!! Mr. Green is the first one today to try to engage in play with a sibling by chewing on another pups paw, and their eyes noticeably continued to darken and they have blinking reflexes! I bet their eyes will be opened by tomorrow morning!!!! Purple is leading the pack and I hope I will get to see her beautiful eyes in just a few hours!

Tomorrow should continue to see more incredible developments!!!!

Miss purple is getting ready to open her eyes and see this big, beautiful world for the very first time!

So many developments today it’s crazy!!!

Sometimes you have to work extra hard to get your mom’s attention!

You can see a whelping box full of obstacles-or opportunities for growth!

The puppies have created their own buddy system, snuggling up in the same pair combinations day after day!

Day 8-What Blizzard? It’s Sunny, Warm, and 80 Degrees-At Least in the Whelping Box! (Perspective is Everything)


As you can see by the picture below, it’s hard to remember it’s spring right now……


But perspective is so important!  We may not be having the nicest weather currently, but hopefully, everyone will be able to settle inside somewhere and enjoy some good music, television, family time or just catching up on their to-do list.  This won’t last forever….at least that is what I keep telling myself day after day after day…… 🙂

Perspective is also important when it comes to assistance dogs. There are all sorts of storylines regarding assistance/service dogs in our everyday world-from those who make training service dogs much more difficult because they try to pass off their pet as a service dog, to those who ask us questions about if assistance dogs are happy and ever get to “just be dogs”, to the dogs who have “made it” and are happily serving clients all over the world, changing their lives and wagging their tails! And let’s not forget the dogs who started in the journey of becoming an assistance dog and for a myriad of reasons were unable to complete THAT journey, but have gone on to lead wonderful lives of purpose as comfort dogs, therapy dogs, and precious pets. The great thing about dogs is that they change lives everywhere they go, and it’s not limited to those in only in the assistance/service dog world! They are truly amazing, and if you haven’t had the opportunity to see that then just take time to stop and observe one day and watch the dogs around you. They read their humans like no one can; they adjust to the changing world around them that’s out of their control with a calm stride and they make others laugh and smile-sometimes they are the only ones that can do this with such little effort!

People ask me why fake service dogs are a problem and I talk to them about how poorly behaved dogs that aren’t qualified to be out in public give ALL dogs a bad name in public places, not to mention the safety factor which is unfair to the dogs who aren’t adequately trained to be in all of those situations as well as the humans who encounter them.  Just like you wouldn’t pay an untrained person to be your doctor or fix your furnace due to safety issues, having people who aren’t trained to handle public situations with dogs is a recipe for disaster in my opinion. Dogs that are put in environments that they haven’t been exposed to regularly can suffer from stress and anxiety, and that can lead to a bad reaction or interaction in a crowd.  One bad experience with a fake service dog that you think is a legitimate service dog will taint the viewpoint of how these dogs serve clients in public spaces.  The more issues that people and businesses encounter with fake service dogs, the more they question us volunteers about the dogs we are training in public. That’s exactly why it takes assistance dogs 2+ years to get enough experience and training to be successful in their careers and that’s why it’s so frustrating for fosters, puppy raisers and volunteers to have to endure the increased challenges of justifying why we have the dogs we are training out in public.  If assistance dogs in training don’t have the opportunity to get out in public and experience all of the things they will need to know about before they go into service, this can decrease their confidence and make them less able to perform their tasks as needed.

As for dogs in training “just being dogs”, I can assure you that the dogs in training that I have personally fostered, short or long term puppy raised or have been a breeder host for have more opportunities, more fun times of play, more one on one attention, more toys (just ask my husband how many baskets of dog toys he begrudgingly has to tolerate in our living room) and more “just being dogs” than other dogs I have owned in my entire life!  We experience life as a TEAM, and they get to enjoy things with me that I never got to enjoy with my own personal dogs.  Movies, restaurants, cafes, parks, buses and light rail, pancake breakfasts and the list goes on!  They’ve allowed me to see the everyday things in my life from a completely different lens and my perspective has changed in ways I could have never imagined!

When I had ankle surgery and was in a wheelchair and on crutches for 4 months, I realized how difficult it was to get places, how hard it was to open doors and how every task for me seemed so much more difficult to accomplish.  I also realized that people are so busy in their lives that sometimes they don’t take the extra few seconds to help someone around them-not wanting to “offend” them by offering help or they are just too busy to stop. But when you watch clients with assistance dogs, part of the difficulty in some tasks gets removed but their companionship also provides comfort, and these dogs draw a great sort of attention that makes people react differently which is so incredible to watch!

And, don’t ever feel TOO bad for a career changed assistance dog; their lives are full of people who love them, families who play with them, and opportunities to continue changing lives!  Many become certified therapy dogs and bring joy to another whole plethora of people!

So, on this blustery winter day, my suggestion is to change your perspective, and feel the warmth of these puppy pics-and just TRY not to smile!!!!! Feeling warm inside from the cuteness of these adorable puppies is a pretty good alternative 🙂

Miss Pink-I just call her heart stealer……

cuteness overload!  Check out the extra skin on the leg of Mr. Red-he’s sure got his Mama Sugar’s extra skin gene!!!!

Sugar just relaxing on this cold blustery day with her beautiful pups!

Mr. Blue getting comfortable

NOW he’s comfortable!

A little snuggle time with Miss Pink


Day 5: The Gift You Can Only Give Once-Puppies of Purpose Have a Busy Schedule Ahead of Them!

Many people love seeing Service/Assistance Dogs when they are working with clients, but often don’t realize the work that has gone into those dogs over their entire lives to get them ready for the job at hand, and the work begins as soon as they are born.  As a whelping home for my first time in 2015, I was a bit amazed at everything that these puppies are exposed to in the early days of their lives which research has proven has a direct impact on how well adjusted they can be as an adult dog!  I also had to learn that holding and loving these puppies is critical, but it doesn’t replace the other things that puppies need to experience; new environments to experience and changing their environments to teach them to adapt to their surroundings, exposure to a whole variety of sights, sounds and smells, socialization with every possible opportunity once they are old enough (but at the very least with me and my husband handling them frequently until they can socialize with others) creating brain challenges for them to keep their neurological stimulation at its very peak so they can transfer that to becoming a dog that loves to work and help with tasks.

Here are the stages of these tiny pups and what they should experience in order to give them the perfect building blocks for success!

The excerpt below is taken from a Healthy Pets article by Mercola and does a great job of explaining the first 8 weeks of puppy development.

5 Milestones in Every Puppy’s Life

Stage 1: Whelp. A whelp is any just-born carnivorous animal. The word is most often associated with newborn puppies. Whelping means birthing; to have whelped means to have given birth.

Stage 2: Neonate. Neonate refers to a newborn pup from day 0 to day 13 of life. Neonate puppies can’t see (their eyes are still closed), can’t hear (their ears are sealed shut) and can’t pee or poop without stimulation (licking) from mom.

They have no teeth, nor do they have the ability to regulate their own body temperature.

These tiny babies depend on mom and their littermates to stay warm, which is why they tend to snooze in furry little piles. Neonates sleep about 90 percent of the time, and when they’re awake, they’re nursing.

Fortunately, they’re born able to smell, which helps guide them to mom’s nipples at mealtime.

The first milk a mother dog produces is colostrum, which contains the antibodies that transfer maternal immunity to help protect the pups from opportunistic diseases during their first weeks of life.


Virtually all the energy a neonate’s body generates goes toward growth. They typically double their birth weight during the first week of life. Since they can’t yet stand, they sort of paddle around using their front legs. This soon leads to crawling.
It’s during this time (days three to 16) that its beneficial to institute early neurological stimulation (“super puppies,” as some say) which can oftentimes result in more balanced adult dogs.

The U.S. military did studies on raising puppies, and they found that doing certain exercises with puppies during the time of rapid neurological growth, between the puppies third and sixteenth day of life would increase the pups performance in later life. They created a program called the Bio Sensor program consisting of 5 exercises to be done once a day with the pups. They found that not only were puppies able to cope more with stressful situations, and problem solve better than other puppies, but that they were actually physically healthier with higher cardiovascular performance, stronger immune systems, adrenal glands and heart beats.

They are only done for a brief 3-5 seconds so as to stimulate the neurological functions without stressing them too much.


Holding them upright encourages neurological stimulation and blood flow


Holding them upside down for 3-5 brief seconds causes additional neurological stimulation which is different than when they are held upright!


The supine position has them laying on their back or cradled-I can just imagine those brain cells developing as we go through these exercises!


Using a Q-tip on the paws and between the pads is a tactile stimulation that can help them be adaptable in future situations where there is a flooring change, a different surface that they need to manipulate, etc. and keeps them learning to be adaptable to their surroundings



Placing the puppies on a cool, wet rag briefly continues to stimulate the neurological connections that they will use as they grow into adult dogs!

Below is a video explaining neurological stimulation by a veterinarian.

Stage 3: Transition period. The transition period covers days 13 through 21 of a puppy’s life. The ears start to open at around day 14, and the eyelids between days 10 to 16. As you can imagine, these events give the pups a whole new outlook (literally) on their world.

They begin to respond to smells and tastes, and their little puppy grunts evolve to whines, yips and barks. By day 15, most pups are standing up, and within the next several days they take their first unsteady steps. At this point, they go from total reliance on mom to a bit of independence.

Stage 4: Awareness period. The awareness period is day 21 to day 28. By 3 weeks of age, pups are using their senses of sight and hearing to learn. They’re beginning to play with their littermates and explore their environment.

This is also the time during which puppies gain some control over elimination and begin moving away from their “den” (sleeping area) to pee and poop.

Stage 5: Socialization period. The initial socialization period encompasses weeks 3 to 8 in a puppy’s life. It’s during this period that her interactions with other pets and people increase, and she’s able to form attachments.

At about 4 weeks of age, mom’s milk production begins to taper off, and the puppies’ calorie requirements increase. As mom gradually weans her pups, they begin showing serious interest in solid food.

As luck (and more importantly, nature) would have it, at 3 to 4 weeks, the canine teeth begin to push through, and a full set of puppy teeth make an appearance between weeks 4 and 6.

Age 6 to 8 weeks is considered a critical time in every puppy’s socialization period. This approximately two-week window is when puppies are most accepting and least fearful of others.

How quickly a pup’s mental development occurs is a direct result of the environmental stimulation she receives during this period. By week 8, most puppies are fully weaned. Puppies need additional, expansive socialization from 8 weeks to 6 months of age to best acclimate to all life will throw at them as adults. At 3 to 5 months, permanent teeth begin to replace puppy teeth, and by 7 months, puppy has a full set of permanent teeth.

Here is a video that I believe explains the process of Super Puppy Training that Whelping Homes perform with their litters to help them have the best possible start in life on their journey to becoming an assistance dog!


Day 3-The Foreign Language of the Whelping Box; Strangely Familiar and Yet Totally Brand New at the Same Time

The puppies have been in my home for 3 days now, and what I realize is that although it’s not my first litter,  it’s a whole new world that I have to explore again with new eyes.  Every litter, every momma dog,  every experience, and every puppy is different; and every whine, cry, and pant that I had learned to decipher from a previous litter in my home is now only a casual reference point and I have to learn the “language of the box” all over again.  I have to use what I’ve learned in the past to help guide me on this journey, yet I can’t allow the previous experiences to cloud my judgment for what’s in front of my eyes with THIS litter.


A cry from a puppy can be that they are too hot, too cold, hungry, not feeling well, are looking for their mom, or have to go to the bathroom which they need Sugar’s assistance for, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  The possibilities are endless, and as soon as I assume I automatically know what it is without exploring all of my options I’ve lost the benefit of fresh eyes to find the real reason for their vocalization.  Honestly, it’s like learning a foreign language in a record amount of time! Some litters love a warm whelping box, while others don’t; some love being with their littermates and others love to be in the far corners of the box away from everything-yet puppies going off on their own could also indicate something might be amiss.  So, you carefully watch and wait for their next move so you can compile the information and then come up with your best guess as to what’s going on and if it’s an issue or just puppies being puppies.



There’s what the books and the experts tell you about tiny little puppies and then there’s your vision of what you see, your gut instinct, and the interactions between mom and puppies.  It turns you into a detective of sorts until you solve the mystery and you see a reaction in the puppies, the mom, or the environment that tells you either you are right on or try again.  More often, it seems to fall into the latter category, and yet you don’t have the option to get frustrated because being alert to the tiniest of clues is really important. You don’t have time to pat yourself on the back, because a new mystery is waiting just around the corner to present itself for you to solve! The first big hurdle is the birth of the puppies, but sometimes people don’t realize that there are a hundred more hurdles along the way to them becoming 8 week old bundles of joy! Lucky for us, staff is there to guide us along the way with their knowledge and expertise so we don’t have to do the journey alone!


One litter in our home loved a 90-degree whelping box and this litter prefers more like an 80 degree box-but the variables are what played into that difference.  Sugar is spending much more time in the box this time around and so they are cuddling with her nice warm body more often; the days have been sunny and the sunlight in the window can warm the room more than if it were the middle of winter; even my choice of waterproof pads and sheets can affect the level of heat that the floor retains which affects their comfort level. All of these things that change are out of my control and so I have to figure out how to solve it differently this time than maybe previous times. We watch the puppies constantly to watch their body language.  If they huddle they might be cold, if they spread out they are too warm, if they cry it could be either or a combination of anything else!

By the end of the night, your mind feels like you’ve spent all day in a college-level course of a brand new language, and tomorrow you get to do it all over again with a whole new language! My brain loves a challenge, so this experience gives me opportunities in thinking “outside of the box” and to be open-minded.  I honestly believe that my experiences in whelping have directly impacted my views of the real world; I have learned to explore options much more freely and to look for solutions that might not be “traditional”.  It’s taught me to appreciate experiences and people, places and things that I may not have previously because you never know how much effort, training, skill or heart that has gone into what you see in front of you!



Nursing while laying down is EASY!  But sitting up gives you an idea of just how smart I am already!


I never get tired of watching the puppies vie for their Mama Sugar’s attention!