I thought this was a good time of the year to start a series of dog training posts that outline how to train a Family Disaster Dog from puppy-hood to adult.
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|8 week old wolf puppies, photo by Amber Higgins|
Healthy puppies are a sight to behold, they run, tumble, growl, and grunt, chase tails and chew on ears. Healthy puppies climb the puppy pile; they snuggle down deep together and wake up quick to come running over your feet heading out the door to the next adventure.
When puppies are present, one of the most important precautions we can take to assure that they are healthy is to observe the puppies in their own environment. If a puppy will be joining your family, this will help to make sure that the puppy is healthy enough to come into your home and grow up in a new environment.
Ask the litter owner or breeder if you can look at the puppies asleep, if at all possible and spend 5 to 10 minutes watching the litter of pups while they are sleeping.
Do not disturb the puppies right away, instead you should do a visual assessment by looking them over from a short distance away.
This can be very helpful when determining the state of health of puppies from newborn and up to adulthood.
Healthy puppies will be laying around comfortable, breathing even, little paws kicking in dreams. They will have shinning coats with pink pads if real young, and pink tongues. In sleep, the healthy puppy will pacify the nursing instinct by making suckling motions like nursing on nothing but sometimes on brother’s foot or sister’s ear.
During the visual assessment, look at the puppy’s bed and make sure it is clean and bug free, and that the puppies have access to a clean potty area. Take a deep breath and does the air near the puppies smell clean or have a bad odor and make sure the water bowl is clean and easy to reach.
|Wrinkledpups Bloodhound by A. Higgins|
Puppies that need attention or medical care have a tendency to lay alone while sleeping or with others who do not feel good either. They get tired easier. They will appear to just be laying there moving very little, mouthing and kicking less until woke up and they will take longer to wake up and run compared to a robust pup. The poor puppy’s fur will look course, drier, dirty, or oily looking and there will be an sick odor when puppies are not well.
There will not be an odor to notice with healthy puppies. Although, it may seem like pup potty smells until cleaned up remember a sick pup poop smells horrible, awful and the odor does not go away with the poop cleaned up and there is a difference if we are observant. Every illness has an odor of its own and if a puppy does not smell good then it will not be feeling well soon.
I was taught by veterinarians to do this type of visual assessment with every animal encountered and now do it simply from habit after so many years. It can save valuable time when we are living with animals and the animal is needs help.
After watching the pups snooze and checking them out, wake the puppies up without food being available or given and watch them play, run and do their thing.
The differences of healthy and unhealthy puppies can be seen when puppies are wormy and sometimes sick by other diseases and how they react by being slower to wake up, then hungry, searching for food with big pot bellies or without bellies, depending upon the cause of the illness. The sick pups will start crying immediately or whimpering when woke up while satisfied puppies who are non- wormy and in excellent shape will go potty, get a drink of water and grab the other puppy by the ear on the way to greet you or after they see you, if you are not offering them food.
Healthy puppies are soon hungry, in five or ten minutes, they will be crying for food if without a mother dog or all over the mother dog if they are with her. Healthy puppies are happy to play around waiting for their food while not so healthy puppies cry for attention because they are not happy.
By watching them, you can get a fairly good idea if they are as healthy as they should be and which puppy is in excellent shape and which is in poor shape.
The next step in determining if they are healthy is to do an individual puppy assessment by examining one in the litter. Any pup will do from the group or the one you favor the most, if you are picking one out to join your family then it is a good idea to do this with that pup too, before you take it home.
|Heading to new home-photo by A.Higgins|
Do Not touch any puppies that are not yours and show signs of illness if you have any dogs at home.
The sickness can very easily be carried either on your clothing, shoes or hands back to your home.
This is so easily done that walking from a wormy puppy area takes worms via your shoe sole to the next place you walk and parvo and distemper are in the air and in the odor of sickness that can be smelt, these living viruses can ride on you to the next dog.
Pick up the puppy of your choice but never pick them up by the scruff this can dislocate the shoulder blades and cause damage to the shoulders. Always support the puppy’s body with your hands.
Smell the puppy. Healthy puppies smell good; clean like fresh air early in the mornings.
Some people say they have a sweet smell. Sick or wormy puppies do not smell good, they smell bad and each illness has its own odor but all smell bad. Smell the inside of the pups ears and see if they look clean. Smell the face of the pup when you snuggle up to it and if it has bad breath that is a bad sign.
The puppy should not have a big fat belly, even after eating the stomach should be as wide as the puppy is overall.
The fur is soft to the touch on healthy puppies. The skin is flexible, you can pick the skin up between your fingertips and when released the skin will pop back into place and the skin moves easily when you rub the puppy showing signs of a well hydrated pup.
Sick puppy’s skin will dry out and lose its flexibility, if pulled up and released it will stand up or go slowly back in place because of less body fluids and the slower it goes back to place the more dehydrated the puppy is.
I hope this article helps you pick the best puppy for your family !
If you have any dog advice or training questions feel free to ask via email.
|6 wk old Liver Bloodhound pup- 1999 by A. Higgins|
Thinking of Breeding your dog...please learn as much as you can first. Here are some good books.
Family Disaster Dogs
Puppy Intensive Care: A Breeder's Guide to Care of Newborn Puppies