Our Breeding Practices

Australian Shepherd Züchter aus Krefeld (NRW)

Raising Puppies


Around day 63, the birt­hing pro­cess be­g­ins with our dogs. Ap­pro­xi­m­ate­ly one week pri­or to the due date, we set up the whel­ping box in the li­ving room.

Now be­g­ins the pro­cess of get­ting our dam ac­cus­to­med to the whel­ping box. We do this by fee­ding her and sit­ting with her in it, and gi­ving her bo­nies and other tre­ats while she is in­si­de it.

When, af­ter a few slee­p­less nights, it is time for the birth, we en­cou­ra­ge the dam to seek the whel­ping box, if she has not al­re­a­dy pi­cked it as her birt­hing spot.

The whel­ping box con­sists of a lar­ge pla­s­tic bas­ket that al­lows the dam and her pup­pies to stretch out.

Du­ring birth, we try to pro­vi­de our dam with an en­vi­ron­ment of safe­ty and se­cu­ri­ty, and, ac­cor­din­gly, we con­duct our­sel­ves quiet­ly, calm­ly, and with self confidence.

When the con­trac­tions be­gin, and ther­eby the ex­pul­si­on pha­se, we gent­ly mas­sa­ge the dam’s bel­ly in the di­rec­tion of the va­gi­na, in kee­ping with the rhythm of the con­trac­tions, to help fa­ci­li­ta­te the birth process.

When the pup­pies are born, we help open the sac and re­mo­ve the mem­bra­ne in which it is co­ver­ed, and also cut the um­bi­li­cal cord. In this ex­ci­ting, yet de­li­ca­te mo­ment, we also try to bring the tiny litt­le be­ing to life th­rough mas­sa­ging, aspi­ra­ting the small nose and mouth, or even per­forming mouth to sn­out resuscitation.

As soon as the new­born pup­py is breathing on its own, we check to make sure all its lim­bs have de­ve­lo­ped pro­per­ly, weigh it, and note its sex and mar­kings, as well as any spe­cial cir­cum­s­tances du­ring its birth.

If the pup­py can­not find its mother’s teats on its own, we place it on one of her hind teats so that it can get a ma­xi­mum amount of milk.

We also check to see if the pup­py has pas­sed its first stool, the meconium.

The pup­pies’ suck­ling and mas­sa­ging of their mother’s teats to get more milk re­leases the hor­mo­ne oxy­to­cin, which puts the mo­ther in a hap­py mood. This al­lows her to bet­ter over­co­me the pains as­so­cia­ted with la­bor and birth, and soon let the joy of mo­ther­hood take hold. The hor­mo­ne also trig­gers the sub­se­quent births.

It is im­portant to us that the other dogs that we own have the op­por­tu­ni­ty to be pre­sent du­ring the birth so they can take part in this joyful oc­ca­si­on, and may­be even help with the pro­cess. We also feel that their pre­sence streng­thens the bond of the pack. If we no­ti­ce that the dam does not to­le­ra­te the pre­sence of the other pack mem­bers, we se­pa­ra­te the dogs to give her the peace and quiet she needs.

Vegetative Phase

Du­ring the first 3 weeks of life, the pup­pies act pu­rely on in­stinct and spend their days slee­ping, ea­ting, and eli­mi­na­ting. The dam keeps the whel­ping box clean on her own, but we con­stant­ly ch­an­ge blan­kets and pad­ding no­ne­thel­ess. We make sure all pup­pies gain weight at the same rate, and that me­ans we en­su­re that the mo­ther does not fa­vor a par­ti­cu­lar pup­py, that all pup­pies have ac­cess to their mother’s teats, and that no pup­py has stray­ed too far away to find its mother’s teats and starts to lose body heat. In the win­ter, we use heat lamps and elec­tric blan­kets to keep the whel­ping box warm. We also use the­se in the sum­mer if we no­ti­ce that the pup­pies are clim­bing on top of one an­o­ther, and con­stant­ly try to form a ball.

We of­ten climb into the whel­ping box to sit down with the dam and pet her. We also start pi­cking up the pup­pies so we can pet them, and they can get used to our scent and our hand­ling of them.

The whel­ping box re­mains in the li­ving room, right in the cen­ter of all the ac­tion, so that mo­ther and pup­pies do not feel cut off from the rest of the family.

Af­ter ap­pro­xi­m­ate­ly 10 to 14 days af­ter birth, the pup­pies open their eyes and ears. Now co­mes the most im­portant step in the de­ve­lo­p­ment of the pup­pies, and our trai­ning with them begins.

Imprinting Phase

The im­prin­ting pha­se oc­curs bet­ween the age of 3 – 8 weeks. Sin­ce the pup­pies have now ope­ned their eyes and ears, they take an ac­ti­ve part in their en­vi­ron­ment and be­gin to learn.

Th­rough our pet boar­ding ac­ti­vi­ties, we see first­hand how many dogs dis­play fear or ag­gres­si­ve be­ha­vi­ors. We take our pup­py so­cia­liza­ti­on re­spon­si­bi­li­ties very se­rious­ly, and try to give our pup­pies as many im­pres­si­ons as pos­si­ble so that they can ap­proach new si­tua­tions with a sen­se of con­fi­dence and curiosity.

I stu­dy dog psy­cho­lo­gy and I know that the im­prin­ting pha­se is the most im­portant stage in a dog’s life. What pup­pies can learn ea­si­ly in this stage, they can only ac­qui­re with gre­at dif­fi­cul­ty in la­ter ye­ars. As the say­ing goes (and here it ap­pli­es in the li­te­ral sen­se): you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
Short­ly af­ter the pup­pies have ope­ned their eyes and ears, we pick them up more of­ten to pet and cudd­le them. Fur­ther­mo­re, we ex­po­se them to com­mon noi­ses such as tho­se pro­du­ced by TVs, pho­nes, and kit­chen ap­pli­ances, so that they can get used to them.

In light of our ex­pe­ri­ence with the dogs that board with us, we make sure that our pup­pies are fa­mi­li­ar with the sounds of va­cu­um clea­ners and lawn­mo­wers, sin­ce they will en­coun­ter the­se fre­quent­ly in their dai­ly lives.

As soon as the pup­pies have ope­ned their eyes, we be­gin fee­ding them to re­li­e­ve the mo­ther of some of her fee­ding re­spon­si­bi­li­ties, and to avo­id ha­ving her re­gur­gi­ta­te her own food for the pup­pies. De­pen­ding on de­ve­lo­p­men­tal stage and pre­fe­ren­ces of the pup­pies, we feed them pup­py milk or por­ridge, and la­ter raw ground beef and dry pup­py food. In this im­portant stage of their de­ve­lo­p­ment, pup­pies view peo­p­le as so­me­thing po­si­ti­ve that brings them food, and we the­r­e­fo­re use their ap­pe­ti­te to get them to car­ry out some com­mands, for ex­am­p­le, re­spond to their name.

It is ex­tre­me­ly im­portant to es­tab­lish boun­da­ries, even with the­se litt­le dogs. When­ever the pup­pies start che­wing on us or be­co­me too pushy with us, we use the muz­zle grip, pick them up, or re­mo­ve our­sel­ves from the si­tua­ti­on. In na­tu­re, the mo­ther also uses the muz­zle grip to di­sci­pli­ne her puppies.

As soon as the pup­pies in­crease their mo­bi­li­ty, at around 4 weeks, they are al­lo­wed to ex­plo­re our home and the dog runs out­side. We pro­vi­de them with va­rious toys, tun­nels, see­saws, and bo­xes so that they can make a new dis­co­very every day. Clat­te­ring emp­ty cans and flut­te­ring strea­mers are also used to de­sen­si­ti­ze the puppies.

At the age of 4 weeks, the pup­pies can see, smell, and sniff the other dogs that are boar­ding with us and play­ing in the yard th­rough the mesh of the pup­py runs. This gi­ves them the op­por­tu­ni­ty to meet dogs of every breed, age, and sex ear­ly on. At this time, they should also have made cont­act with our cat, Mi­ckey, who of­ten spends time in the li­ving room. Fur­ther­mo­re, we feed Mi­ckey clo­se to the pup­py runs so that the pup­pies have the chan­ce to ob­ser­ve and sniff the cat.

We also in­vi­te our fri­ends and fa­mi­ly (of va­ry­ing ages and sex), as well as po­ten­ti­al pup­py buy­ers, to in­ter­act with the pup­pies so they have op­por­tu­ni­ty to learn new hu­man scents and ex­pe­ri­ence be­ing hand­led by dif­fe­rent people.

It is also im­portant to have the pup­pies walk on va­rious flo­or co­ve­rings such as ti­les, la­mi­na­te, stone, grass, etc.; so they will not be afraid to fol­low us any­whe­re. We the­r­e­fo­re take small ex­cur­si­ons into the cour­ty­ard with them.

In or­der to ex­po­se them to wa­ter, we set up a splash pool in the yard du­ring the sum­mer, or in­tro­du­ce them to the shower.

With every fee­ding, which oc­curs ap­pro­xi­m­ate­ly 3 – 4 times a day, we take care of each sin­gle pup­py. We try to keep them from stan­ding in their food, and play CDs with sounds of thun­der­storms or par­ty­ing on New Year’s Eve, so they be­co­me ac­cus­to­med even to the­se kinds of noi­ses. Or we work on re­co­gni­zing their names, which, by the way, are ge­ne­ral­ly cho­sen by the new owners.

When, by week 5 – 8, the pup­pies are more ste­ady and mo­bi­le, we start put­ting a col­lar on them for cer­tain pe­ri­ods of time du­ring the day. They are un­der con­stant su­per­vi­si­on so they do not get stuck so­me­whe­re! Du­ring this time, it is also im­portant to us that the pup­pies are left alo­ne or in groups of two for cer­tain pe­ri­ods of time, and that they have ex­pe­ri­en­ced a cra­te from the in­si­de, so that they will re­co­gni­ze this as a place of quiet retre­at in their new homes.

House trai­ning is of cour­se a very im­portant to­pic with us, and we take care that the pup­pies do their busi­ness out­side. We re­fu­se to have the pup­pies uri­na­te on news­pa­pers, etc., and they are not al­lo­wed to tear up news­pa­per or card­board eit­her, be­cau­se we do not want them to think that this is so­me­thing that will be to­le­ra­ted la­ter on.

When we re­lease the pup­pies, we can­not gua­ran­tee that they are 100% house trai­ned, be­cau­se phy­sio­lo­gi­cal­ly, they are not able to con­trol their blad­der at this age.

When the pup­pies are 6 – 7 weeks old, at the la­test, I take them and their mo­ther out on short car ri­des (usual­ly I take them on short ri­des as soon as they open their eyes).

When the pup­pies are old en­ough to ride in the car, we also train them to walk on a leash so that they can go on short walks. At 7 weeks old, I take the pup­pies to the sur­roun­ding hor­se pas­tu­res to let them sniff the horses.

Their first vi­sit to the vet also oc­curs du­ring week 7 – 8. We al­low the pup­pies to ex­plo­re the ex­ami­na­ti­on room along­side their mo­ther, and pet them and cudd­le them while they are be­ing ex­ami­ned and re­cei­ve their first vaccinations.

As you can see, rai­sing pup­pies re­qui­res a gre­at deal of time and di­sci­pli­ne. We fo­cus on each pup­py in­di­vi­du­al­ly and try to ad­dress his/her ”we­ak­ne­s­ses”, for ex­am­p­le fear of cer­tain sounds, ear­ly on. Du­ring trai­ning, some pup­pies the­r­e­fo­re need more ite­ra­ti­ons than others.

We hope you un­der­stand that we can only of­fer li­mi­t­ed vi­si­ting hours sin­ce I need time to train the pup­pies, and to care for my own dogs as well as tho­se boar­ding with us.

Health Measures

At the age of 4 weeks, our pup­pies are de­wor­med for the first time (round­worms); they are de­wor­med a se­cond time just pri­or to re­lease into their new ho­mes. When the pup­pies are 7 – 8 weeks old, they are ex­ami­ned by Oph­thal­mo­lo­gist, Dr. Stau­dach­er of the Ve­te­ri­na­ry Cli­nic in Aa­chen, and tes­ted for ge­ne­tic eye di­se­a­ses. They are also vac­ci­na­ted and re­cei­ve the Tas­so microchip.

Con­tents of ar­tic­le pro­tec­ted un­der co­py­right law. Any re­pro­duc­tion of this ar­tic­le, in part or in its en­ti­re­ty, is strict­ly pro­hi­bi­ted. Lin­king is al­lo­wed. Con­ta­ins ex­cerp­ts of my E‑Book ”Der Aus­tra­li­an She­p­herd” . (The Aus­tra­li­an She­p­herd)