During the time from breeding to whelp, we took care to feed Kora appropriately and to create a comfortable and safe whelping area. She typically slept at the foot of our bed in the evenings, so predictably that was where she was expecting to den. This is the worst area, and continued evidence that human support of domesticated dog breeding is best.
Drawing from long ago experience of my parents’ efforts breeding my childhood German shepherd, Lacy, I knew a bit of what not to do.
My wife provided other vital pieces of the breeding puzzled by discovering the website Leerburg.com.
What we needed was a whelping room.
We felt that the best room in every respect was a basement room with access to the backyard. Unfortunately all the dogs access the backyard through this room.
I divided the room into a 10-foot by 6-foot secured whelping kennel inside the main room. The entire room was scrubbed, painted and a floor drain was installed.
The whelping box was 5-foot by 5-foot, bottomless and about 6 inches tall. I had 12-inch box wall additions ready to install when the pups got bigger. I strategically installed closet dowels at the edges so that a puppy would not be accidently squashed by Mom. My parents lost one puppy out of three litters by that exact happenstance.
For the puppies’ warmth, we opted for heating pads and a heat-lamp. Because the room was not heated by the home heating system, I added a portable electric hot water radiator in the kennel, and a forced-air heater outside the kennel.
To combat humidity, a constant battle in Ketchikan, Alaska, I fabricated and installed a temporary exhaust fan.
With the floor painted in epoxy and the floor drain installed, maintaining cleanliness has proven to be easily manageable.
On her 52nd day of gestation, we introduced her full-time to the kennel. I spent hours at a time with her every day, so that she remain comfortable with my presence during the whelping.
Kora made it quite clear as time for the whelp neared, that she was not happy with any dog passing through the room, even though she was safely in the partitioned kennel. We obliged her and the other two dogs go outside through other doors.
Since Kora is a proven watchdog, and her maternal aggression was in full steam, we were concerned about her mothering. As it turned out, she has been an excellent mother.
An impressive series of storms we received the litter’s first couple of weeks has proven to be the greatest complication.
Kora was very comfortable at a range of temperatures in the kennel for the eight days prior to the whelping. When the little guys arrived, the storm born drafts made regulating the temperatures absolutely stressful.
The pups must have warmth to digest food properly for their first several weeks. Thankfully all survived. I believe the pups are better for it. They all have excellent food drive as a result of the litter size; food was not always available at the slightest whim. They also have experienced a range of temperatures, the extremes of which were certainly uncomfortable at times.
Based upon the puppies scaling the 12-inch whelping box walls after only being in place for a week, and Kora’s preference to spend time out of their reach, we removed the whelping box and allowed Kora more time away from the puppies. This was just after the litter’s third week.
Now that their “world” was doubled in size, we encouraged paper training by establishing a separate sleeping area and elimination area. Most of the puppies caught on to this quickly.
At 4 weeks, we encouraged the puppies to venture beyond the kennel. They were all exploring the adjacent laundry room within several days.
Presently at 5 weeks, Kora suffers through teeth and claws to nurse the pups from time to time. Additionally, over the last week or so, she has been quickly correcting the puppies’ persistent biting and clawing. It is remarkable to watch her firm yet exact mouthing of their little muzzles. The puppies are not only testing each other, they are testing everything, moving or not.
A few hours ago, Pink and then Vader climbed the entire flight of stairs from the basement to the main level. Their achievement was rewarded with a quarter cup of dry kibble all to themselves. Both consumed it with no problem, which is also an achievement because no pup has been offered dry kibble up until then.