Growing up my family and I had whelped golden retrievers and I knew as an adult I wanted the opportunity to do the same. When we bought Birdie my husband and I had taken this idea into consideration and made sure we vetted her breeders and her background before we bought her. When she turned two we knew we needed to start doing the health testing and pick out a suitor for her to breed with in the future. We had to test her genetics, her knee, hip, elbow, eye, and heart health and then we needed to make sure that her suitor was in perfect health also. As fate would have it, right on the week we had finished all the health tests(this took us about ten months) and had the dad picked out Birdie went into heat and we decided to go for it. The dad we chose is named Stormy, a sweet tempered golden, who also happens to have many accolades as an AKC Master National Qualifier, among many other accomplishments and titles.
We knew early on that Birdie was pregnant, as a very fit dog and overall smaller golden, about 52 pounds, we could tell around three weeks she was getting bigger. By five weeks it was very clear and we were ecstatic but also nervous. As we started to prepare for whelping puppies we found the book “The Whelping and Rearing of Puppies: A Complete and Practical Guide” and read it, twice. Along with reading we talked with breeders, our vet, and of course we watched a bunch of whelping youtube videos. We were ready.
Here is the real list of essentials you need to whelp puppies:
- A whelping box with railings. You want to make the puppies don’t get squished when mom lays down and can breathe if they snuggle into tight spaces. I really like the EZwhelp system but we are using our custom built whelping pen my parents had built in 2004 just because it’s been tried and true.
- A reflector shade to provide heat for the puppies is essential. Keeping the puppies warm and fed is the most important thing in the first few weeks since puppies can not control their temperature. We also wanted something that would not dehydrate mom or puppies or could possibly be a fire hazard.
- Thermometer. When dogs go into labor their temperature drops from 100 to 97/98 and stays depressed. Although we used the puppy calendar and knew Birdie’s due date, she started acting funny and whiny two days before and we checked her temperature and it was lower. We decided to stay home from work and within 6 hours she went into labor.
- Forceps. Just in case mom doesn’t rip off the cord after birth you will just need to clamp and let it sit on the puppy for a couple minutes to stop the bleeding. We only had to use it twice but it was useful.
- Old towels. I asked my coworkers if anybody had any old towels they would like to get rid of and you would not believe the amount of donations. We had about 20 towels washed and ready to go for delivery and after.
- A small whelping box/hamper/container. We used a bigger cardboard box and lined it with towels to put the puppies in while we clean the whelping box. We also used this to transport the puppies to the vet the next day after delivery.
- Floor lining. We have used towels, reusable mats, and disposable mats too to make sure we have a clean and dry box. I have to say I prefer the reusable mats because Birdie likes to push around the towels and disposable mats versus the reusable mat fits right in. That being said the reusable mats are more expensive and will need to be washed daily so we have all three to be realistic with our live and schedules.
- Nail polish. Instead of puppy collars which can be a choking hazard, mark the pups on their back with a little bit of nail polish. The dollar store would be your best place to buy a bunch of colors for cheap.
As she went into labor my husband was home by himself and Birdie became restless. She was unsure of where to go even though we had introduced her to the whelping pen everyday. My husband gated her in and sat with her in the box and soon she relaxed and got to work. She pushed out all ten puppies in 4.5 hours and we were amazed to watch nature do it’s work. We were in awe of her affection for her puppies right out of the gate. We did assist her a little by making sure the placenta could be discarded instead of her eating it after the first few came out because it can cause her to have an upset stomach. We also made sure to clamp cords that needed it but otherwise she did most of the work. It was really a magical memory for us to have with our beloved dog Birdie.
The puppy behavior has been so delightful to watch (Other than the first night when we were up what felt like every 15 minutes every-time we heard a puppy cry to make sure everyone was alright). The puppies can’t see or walk yet so they kind of squirm up to drink milk or cuddle their brothers and sisters. We have some scream feeders, aka puppies who like to just make squealing noises while eating. This is very entertaining during the day but not so much at nighttime. The puppies also love to wag their tails when they first latch on, which is so darn cute. There really has been minimal mess because Birdie cleans them up and licks them to help make sure they go to the bathroom. The biggest change we have seen in the the puppies is that their mouths and feet were pink but have now turned black.
At birth each puppy was about 8-9 ounces a piece! From what I can tell online and from what I remember our puppies weights were they were very small. However, they were a couple days early and in just the first week they all doubled their birth weight. We have kept track easily of weight gain again by marking their backs to tell them apart. This helps us make sure the puppies who are a little smaller feed at every feeding.
We are so in love with week 1 and can’t wait to see what week 2 holds.
Note: The DIY puppy milestone blanket was super simple and easy to make. For a grand total of 15 dollars I bought a fabric sharpie marker, two yards of white cotton fabric, and stencils (all found at your local Walmart). I placed the stencils where I wanted and colored in. I left the one side blank so I can change it up weekly and be creative with how I’d like to decorate it.