Our Puppy Raising Practices
As breeders, we have more power than we think in shaping temperamentally sound puppies. It's up to us to help ensure every puppy we produce has the best start to life possible. Puppy Culture represents the gold standard in puppy rearing and early socialization. This program was developed by Jane Killion, a dog trainer and Bull Terrier breeder. She, combined with her team of experts, has distilled down over a century's worth of combined experience into easy to follow protocols.
The exercises and protocols we cover with our puppies include, but are not limited to, many of the following:
Early neurological stimulation
Emotional resiliency exercises (how to handle frustration/stress without aggression)
Safe early socialization
Puzzles, games & problem solving
Anti-aggressions protocols (resource guarding, playing appropriately with littermate)
Leash walking, recall work, luring through different obedience positions (sit/down/stand/place)
Potty training (litter box training) & crate training
Problem prevention protocols that address resource guarding, separation anxiety, biting and jumping
Puppies go through an imprinting period starting at birth and lasting until 16-24 weeks of age. They will learn more in that period of time than they do in the rest of their life combined. We as breeders have more opportunities to make a dramatic impact on a puppy’s ultimate personality than anyone else ever will. By the time the puppy goes to his new home, much of that opportunity has already been lost.
We start teaching our Lab puppies the foundation for learning by using positive reinforcement with food as a reward. This training begins when the puppy is able to start taking food out of our hands, usually around five to six weeks old. Before your puppy goes home between eight to ten weeks old, we will have already introduced them to leash walking, luring into the different static commands (sit, down & stand), recall, basic manners (primarily not jumping and decreasing puppy mouthing/biting), crate training and will have begun the process of teaching their name (if we were given a call name ahead of time).
In addition to the extensive work we do with the Puppy Culture protocols, we also focus on getting our pups outside to explore the ponds, fields, and woods that our property has to offer. Our breeding and training facility sits on a family owned 100-acre horse farm with miles of trails through the woods, two ponds, and several hay fields for exercising their bodies and minds. For our winter litters, we limit outdoor exposure to short periods of time when the weather permits us to safely do so.
Litter Box Training
I begin introducing a litter box when I see the puppies starting to move away from the nest area to eliminate. This is usually around 3-3.5 weeks of age. Starting it that early, I haven't had any issues with puppies trying to eat the litter. When I go into the pen and wake them up, I'll set them on the box to encourage elimination in that location.
The following album also shows my weaning pen progressions. This is how we decrease the overall size of the box and get them used to moving to the location we ultimately want them to eliminate (the grate above the drain at the back of the run.)
*If viewing this page on a mobile device, you will be unable to see captions/additional information about each image.*
I have two Mason Company 5'x8' kennels that are joined by a guillotine door. These runs are elevated, molded fiberglass with a drain and rest bench at one end.
The rest bench is lifted up to show the drain position.
I use rabbit litter trays from Tractor Supply.
I start with a mix of pine and alfalfa equine bedding pellets. I use the alfalfa pellets to help with the transition to grass since the odor will be familiar, while the pine helps with odor control. Since I use grates on top of the pans, I don't have to entirely cover the bottom or make a thick layer since the puppies won't be walking on/in it.
The top of the grate.
The material is called Versa Pad Pet Mat by Little Giant, and I order from Blain's Farm and Fleet. I attach 2" PVC plumbing couplers with zip ties. Having the grate slightly elevated allows urine and feces to drop through more easily.
I put down two or three layers of washable incontinence pads so I can just peel one away to launder when it gets dirty. The puppies are by no means perfect at the litter box training.
I don't have any photos of the step prior to this, but the side of the whelping box is flush with the litter box. This makes their only option to either be in the bed area or the litter box. As they get better at using the box, I push the whelping box wall back. They're starting weaning so I've added in a gravity fed waterer, more commonly used for poultry.
Front of run set up
I added shower curtain rods to the top of the runs so I could provide privacy for the dam and pups.
The puppies were able to climb over the half door, so I moved the whelping box to Lila's side. The taller barrier is sturdy enough for the dam to jump over both ways.
She can be with her pups when she wants...
..and exit when she's had enough. Her body looks really awkward in this photo since I took a still out of a video. All of the other photos came out blurry.
As they get more consistent with using the litter boxes, I'll change around their set up to add different sleeping areas, crates w/doors off etc.
Pups will be 6 weeks old, so I begin having them spend time together in small groups. I set up both sides, close the guillotine door and put half of the litter on one side and half on the other. I'll open the door when I let the dam back in with them, as well as periodically throughout the day.