All things Briard
Now that all the puppies have gone home, there is time to reflect on having brought up another litter and the wonderful people who presented themselves as owners. For these 8 puppies, we have both experienced and inexperienced Briard owners. They will all be experienced soon!
What continues to amaze me is the people who come forward to love and cherish these pups. People who have already demonstrated a commitment to the work of having a great dog and the ability to love their Briard like crazy. What a gift to us to be able to put a puppy we have cared for and loved into their hands.
Today I am sad as we have said goodbye to Pink, Piper and Sheldon this past week alone. The house seems empty. As a breeder, what is important to me is that they have great homes, their own families and a life of their own. As a person, I do grieve their lose a bit even though I know it is what is best for them.
If anyone ever tells you it is easy to raise a litter of puppies, please tell them that the cost of raising a puppy is not just money and time, it is loving them enough to let them go. Perhaps the highest cost of all.
Thank you to all our new owners!
I get a good number of questions about our whelping box. It is handmade from birch plywood and pine board for the pig rail. The corners have "door" brackets that allow for us to pull a pin out and dismantle the box. We have had four litters born in this box; 2011, 2015 and 2018 and including a singleton litter by Nuview's Good Golly Miss Molly "Molly", whelped by Molly's owner, Barb Wells in Syracuse. The door to the box is attached with cabinet brackets so it swings open with a sliding bolt to "lock" the door in place.
The puppies will spend the first four weeks of their lives in this box (not full time of course - when they are old enough, they will take trips outside) but for now, they live in this box. Mom goes in and out to take care of their needs.
The box itself is treated with polyurethane - 4 coats. This makes clean up exceptionally easy since whelping can get messy. A word about polyurethane however. When first applied polyurethane is toxic to dogs. So this box was treated, sanded, treated, sanded, etc., well before its first use and left in the garage to off-gas for several weeks.
The pig rail was built by my nephew, Rob, to custom fit the box. In case you don't know the pig rail's purpose it is to allow space for a puppy to go when Mom gets up and down to protect them from being laid on or sat on. The flooring of the box is a rubber mat to protect the wood floor with a blanket overlaid to allow the puppies to "grip" and scoot to mom. The blanket is changed daily to keep everything fresh and clean. Soon we will move to laying paper down over the blanket for clean-up but paper is not needed in these early weeks.
For some reason, I haven't figured out how to attach pictures to a blog so I put two pictures of the box on the "PUPPIES" page if you would like to see. I will work on that.
Well, it seems I got the start time of the whelping correct - 11:00 p.m. but not the date. Katniss decided she would have a shortened gestation period - only 58 days instead of 63. The puppies were obviously ready to come since they all weigh in around a very consistent one lb.
Today is "day 2". The weight check indicated that every puppy had gained weight - about 2 oz.'s over their birth weight. Its a good sign.
Katniss is turning out to be a great mom. You never know what to expect with a first timer. She is in the whelping box with them except for when she needs to go out to do her business but then she is right back asking to go back in with them.
Of course, they cannot see or hear yet but they make funny squeaking noises. What a joy to have puppies in the house.
Last Thursday, March 1, 2018, Katniss had her x-ray to let us know how many puppies to expect. She is due to deliver on Wednesday, March 7. We will see if she cooperates. Today is Saturday and she is panting like a freight train when she is up and walking around. But when she rests, she rests comfortably.
We are all set up and ready for the whelping. The whelping box is up and we have a mat to protect the floor, papers for cleaning up and lots of blankets for changing out the surface the puppies will lie on. We use blankets so that the puppies have something to push against when moving toward mom.
I think most breeders will agree that the most stressful part of the breeding process is to come - the whelping. Katniss will of course do most of the work but we will be present as she delivers each puppy; we will help clean them up, tie off the umbilical cord and get them nursing. We also check weights and place a colored ribbon around their necks to keep track of who is who and how much weight they gain over the next couple of weeks.
The whelping can take anywhere from 20 minutes/puppy to 2 hours per puppy. In general our girls seem to like to start their whelping around 11:00 p.m. to assure that we will have to stay up with them through the night. Brats. Between puppies we wait, feed the mom and pray, pray, pray for the next one to show up. A long delay between puppies is not good and causes us worry.
For Katniss' grandmother, she ended her whelping needing a C-section to get the remaining puppies. She was just plain worn out. Gemma, Katniss' mom, had a much easier whelp - delivering a pup about every hour. Still, very stressful.
Once the pups arrive, Michele and I will take turns sleeping in the whelping room with one eye shut and one eye open. The puppies will be so small that mom could inadvertently lie down on one so we keep an ear open for puppies in distress as well. Once we get past the first 10 days we will relax a bit and Katniss will spend longer and longer periods out of the whelping box. For those first days however, she will be an attentive and ever present parent.
Mom will take care of most of the puppies needs - keeping them clean and fed. For the first few weeks, the puppies eyes and ears will still be closed. We will watch carefully for the one who opens their eyes first, stands first, explores first - that is always the most interesting puppy. Once the whelping is done, the first few stressful days over and we confirm we have thriving puppies, we can relax and enjoy until they all turn into ankle biters with those sharp baby teeth . OUCH!
Briards are funny dogs. People will often ask if they need a lot of room for exercising and living. No. As I explain, all your Briard really wants is to be occupying the same space you are - whether in the kitchen, the living room or the bathroom - all the same to them. If I had a dollar for every time I have told one of our Briards "I can do this without you" as I enter the bathroom, I would be a wealthy woman indeed.
And, unless you train them otherwise, they also enjoy the bed. If you and your partner are also in that bed, you will find that the Briard expands as they sleep. A dog that can curl up at the bottom of the bed as you start the night, will often be pushing you out by morning. Make sure you have a second bed somewhere (not for your dog, for you).
My favorite Briard trick is the "run under the person and hope they lose their balance" trick. Beowulf is great at this. I have seen him put people on the floor and then walk away laughing (I swear).
They are also great trainers. You will find you have been well trained by your Briard in no time. They will train you how/when to provide treats, what areas of the neighborhood they want to walk (today), how much of your meal they would like you to share and how to address their personal needs. You, of course, may attempt to train your Briard (highly recommended) but remember, if you bring a Briard into your home, you must be prepared to serve their needs as your first priority (sorry about the kids).
Briards have great senses of humor. If you don't, you will......