Long before our puppies are even born, they have been receiving the utmost in care while they are in the womb. Pregnant female breeding stock dogs are brought to our California campus whelping kennel about a week before their litters of puppies are due (gestation for dogs is 63 days; "whelp" is the canine term for "birth"). To prepare for whelping, they are put in stalls that contain plastic wading pools lined with newspaper. The whelping kennel building is heated and cooled with an air exchange system that maintains clean air and an even temperature additionally the stalls are warmed with radiant heating coils in the floor. There are number of stalls equipped with closed-circuit cameras that allow the kennel staff to keep an eye on the expectant moms around the clock.
When labor begins, the females start to "nest"—tearing the newspaper into small pieces and settling into the pools. During the whelp, the Kennel staff is present to monitor the labor and delivery and assist when needed. This assistance may involve:
- assessing fetal heart rates
- qualifying uterine contractions
- resuscitating newborn puppies
- clamping bleeding umbilical cords
- feeding females tired from a long whelp
The newborn puppies are weighed daily for the first five to seven days of their lives to ensure they are gaining weight properly. If a puppy's growth is lagging, the pup may be bottle-fed or tube-fed with supplemented milk or formula. As a health precaution for the newborn puppies, only the staff members working in the whelping kennel that day are allowed to go into that kennel.
The puppies spend their first three weeks in the wading pool with their mother and littermates to nurse. At 3 weeks of age, they graduate from the wading pool and are put on the floor on shredded newspaper; they start eating solid food and are slowly weaned. They are fed a high-quality dry puppy food softened with warm water three times each day.
How do we keep track of all the puppies?
A shaved area on the shoulder and/or hip identifies each puppy after birth; this shaved area is used for identification until the pups are weaned. They eventually receive a microchip inserted under the skin by the shoulders. The microchip can be scanned by any veterinarian or rescue organization and will alert them to the fact that the dog is from GDB. Additionally they will have a collar with our information and a shorter unique number that is their ID number here a GDB. Prior to being placed in their puppy raising homes, each puppy is given a name; all littermates are given names that start with the same letter of the alphabet.
When do the puppies meet the outside world?
At 6 weeks of age the puppies are moved to a new kennel (called the puppy kennel) where they share stalls with their littermates. It is there that the pups are first introduced to the outside world. Volunteers known as puppy socializers expose them to strange, new objects, smells and situations, so they will gain confidence and experience. When the puppies are about 8 weeks old, they are ready to be placed with their raiser families living throughout the Western states.