The puppies and mother’s health and happiness are our highest priority.
We have fitted out a 10-foot shipping container to be our whelping and puppy-rearing room, about 30 metres from our home. We both work from home.
In the container, we added thick insulation and lined the walls and ceiling. We added adjustable vents top and bottom to allow fresh air to circulate. There’s a heater to keep the room at 24°C, a window to open, a door for humans, soft lights for night time, and a worklight when cleaning. There’s a dog-door, so the mother can go outside to a small fenced yard to wee and poo herself – we clean up the poo every day.
The puppy area is cleaned daily (up to three weeks old, the mother licks the puppies tummies to stimulate them to wee and poo, then eats everything they produce). After three weeks, the mother loses interest in that, so we go through a lot of newspaper each day in an effort to keep the area clean-ish (10 puppies pooing and playing… you can imagine!). We have a set of mats we change out every day as well, wash and dry in the sun. The puppies will get a few baths a week, as necessary.
In the first three weeks, we visit the mother and puppies five times a day, to bring the mother food, and to interact with the puppies. Each puppy gets a few minutes of holding and cuddling, five times a day (at the same time, we check for any genetic defects). As they get older, we provide some stimulation – noises and touching to help puppies get comfortable with their surroundings. From 4 weeks of age, we construct a puppy interaction centre, a range of things for puppies to feel, see, hear, smell and taste.
We take the mother out for short walks and runs in our fenced paddocks once a day – the mother is with the pups 24×7 for the first three weeks, feeding the puppies dozens of times a day.
The mother is gradually removed (“weaned”) – she gets sick of them pretty fast from four weeks, and won’t miss them at all by six to seven weeks. In this transition period, we move the puppies over to solid food.