The Nature of a Puppy — Books

Bare with me here.

I don’t x-ray or ultrasound for puppies for 2 reasons.

  1. We x-rayed once and ultrasounded once, the counts were both wrong. My vet taught me to check the bitch when I thought the whelp was over, and that has always been accurate. And
  2. Why subject infants to either x-rays or ultrasounds if it is not necessary?

There are studies that show it’s perfectly safe and there are studies that show it’s more dangerous than we thought. So why risk it just for a count? Nature has a way of taking care of these things And I still monitor the dam’s temperature for the week before and post delivery. Medical intervention to save their lives is not the same thing as interfering with the natural whelping and rearing of puppies.

I think of this as knowing the nature of dogs, instead of trying to force my idea of their “nature” onto them.

In the same vein, when the puppies are whelped, I will NOT have given moms any of the so-called bitch supplements. I’ve looked into many of them and I don’t see anything there that a healthy, fit bitch eating a super premium diet would need. I’ve never used them but my bitches have all whelped naturally when they are fit. When the puppies come, I’ll sit on my hands and chew my lip and tell mom what a good girl she is. If she gets the placenta off the nose, I let her do her job. If she starts on the butt (sometimes they do), I’ll pull the placenta from the nose and make sure pup is breathing, and then sit back on my hands. This is HER job, she’s supremely fit for the task, and my interference won’t help her or the puppies. That’s not to say I don’t have medical supplies on hand or that I won’t use them, or that I won’t rush a pup to the vet to try and save it — I will, and have. But I want her to do her job, she wants to do her job, and it’s important that she is a good mother. Important for my breeding program, and important for my puppies and their future owners, especially if its me! Because she should know how to do a lot of things besides cutting cords and tearing placentas.

She should know how to clean puppies. She should know how to play with them. She should know how to discipline them. All of these things make for healthy puppies. Because it’s in her nature to do these things, and it’s in their nature to expect these things.

This translates to you as well. Puppy buyers should know the nature of dogs, and not try to impose their idea of the nature of dogs.

Puppies cry at night. Puppies ripped from their warm comfortable and safe litter and plunked into a new home will certainly cry. OF COURSE they will. So take this into account and even if your plans are for puppy to sleep in another room than the bedroom (that’s the best place), than for the first few nights, the crate should be in the bedroom where he smells someone, hears them breathing and turning over, and can at least have that small comfort.

Puppies eliminate after they eat, after they wake up, and after they play. Wishing it were otherwise is a fool’s errand . So make plans to work with the nature of a puppy. Make sure pup is crated for eating. And when he’s done, take him immediately outside to eliminate. I use a verbal cue (which means NOTHING to them at this age, but they will learn) and a click/treat (which they pick up on quickly). I will tell a sniffing puppy, “Go potty.” When they are FINISHED peeing or pooping, they get a click/treat. Not at the beginning, because I don’t want them interrupting themselves to come get the treat. And the treat is tiny.

I use a lot of Simon and Huey soft and tiny training treats. There are 5-600 per pound, and it’s just a taste, which is all I want at that point. Zukes minis are great, too. As are el cheapo chicken hotdogs cut into nickles and then quarters then nuked until the are charcoal. Dogs LOVE these wretched things and they don’t go bad for a very long time.

So the pup has eaten, he’s gone outside, he’s eliminated and been praised for it. Now is when you look at the poop. Sorry, but there’s no delicate way of saying this. If it is small and hard like a tootsie roll, or a long tootsie roll, then you’re right on track. If it gets sloppy or excessively soft, you’ve got an issue. Either pup has eaten too much, or you’ve switched foods, or you’ve stressed pup like by changing the water supply or traveling, or you’ve got parasites. Parasites are last in my mind because they will be regularly dewormed. But you are going to LOOK because you can SEE some parasites. If you see something that looks out of place, get a ziplock, grab the bottom, and turn the bag inside out over your fingers. Pick up the mess, turn it right side out carefully, zip it, and take it to your vet. A fecal check of something suspicious is MUCH more likely to get an accurate answer than a vague “It looked weird this morning.” But if everything is AOK and you get a hard stool (pick it up anyway because the quickest way to get parasites is puppy stepping in stool that has them. If your yard is clean than you reduce your risks considerably. Now what? Well, you have a nice firm stool and a puppy who wants to play. So play with him. You can mix play training in as well. But right this moment you have a 30 minute window where pup probably won’t have to eliminate, so this is a good time to go back inside and play!

The Nature of a Puppy, the Nature of Training & Book Recommendations, behavior & clicker.

But you’re going to keep both eyeballs on the puppy for 30 minutes. Because if his safe window is 20 minutes, there will be an accident in the house and it’s YOUR fault.

So prepare for this and have plenty of paper towels and a product like Odo-ban or Nature’s Miracle. Pick up any pieces of a mess, or soak up what you can with paper towels, than saturate the spot on the floor or rug with your cleaning chemical of choice, than place 20-30 paper towels over the spot, weight down with something heavy (plastic between towels and object may help), and walk away until morning. This is something I learned in Biology class. The stain and liquid will be whicked into the towels. Careful of staining, try an out-of-the-way spot at first. You can also place a small folded plastic tarp over this area for the next few times puppy is out to prevent re-messing the area.

The nature of a puppy… how do you know the nature of a puppy? Well, you’ve bought a couple of books right? If not, now is the time.

1) Turid Rugaas’ book: Calming Signals: On Talking Terms With Dogs
2) Carol Lea Benjamin’s book: Dog training in 10 minutes

3) Karen Pryor’s puppy video: Puppy Love, clicker training your puppy
4) Clickers! I like the I-click from and I buy the coiled wrist keeper at Wal-Mart

These four things will help you understand how to mold the NATURE of your puppy into something you can live with. I have very worn copies of these 2 books & the video, that I re-visit with every litter and every puppy. I use the I-click with every dog, adult or puppy.

There are 2 more books I recommend for older puppies, and they are both by Karen Pryor:
5) Clicker Training for Dogs
6) Don’t Shoot the Dog, the new art of teaching and training. (explains why the clicker works with training dogs, dolphins, cats, and chickens — imagine doing a leash correction on a dolphin, he’s just swim away, it’s a big ocean.)

And I’m having a lot of fun right now training my older puppies with the Clicker Cookbook and Workbook by M. Shirley Chong — very simple instructions, well organized, and successful. I have a 2yo shark dog who grabs every treat and drags teeth over knuckles…. not after 10 minutes of this training session with her instructions.

OK, so we all want a well-socialized puppy that is a joy to be around, one who is responsive to our wishes, and can go places with us. That all means some work.

1) Get a puppy from a breeder who wants the same things
2) YOU must learn how to train the puppy, how to communicate with the puppy is required before training happens
3) formal puppy kindergarten and beginner’s obedience classes
4) a lifetime of reinforcing what you have learned, and YOUR responsiveness to the growing puppy and YOUR catching issues before they become problems.

This relationship between dog and human is an ongoing one.

Classes will help with you stage 2 & 4. But you need a foundation of YOUR learning. When I teach beginner’s obedience classes, the very first day, and every day thereafter, I tell my students — “I am NOT training your dog: I am training YOU. Your dog I could train in 2 weeks, humans take much longer than that!”

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