Whole Dog Journal's Blog September 16, 2014

Fostering Puppies

Posted at 08:37AM - Comments: (13)

Iíve been fostering a litter of six puppies, who are probably only about five weeks old. And I think I have lost my mind. Iím tired, my sleep schedule is all off, I havenít walked myself or my own dogs for a week, Iíve been eating at weird times (and not with my husband), and I feel alternately so full of love for and weepy about these little guys (they are all boys!) . . . and itís only been a week. Talk about that new-mom feeling!

How did this happen? I wrote an article for the October issue about intestinal parasites Ė worms Ė and I called my local shelter to see if they had any wormy puppies I could photograph. Most puppies have at least one type of worms (roundworms, which they get from their mothers in utero and in the milk! Ack!) and some of our shelter puppies have every type of worm in the book. The shelter vet tech told me she had a young litter with the typically round, bloated look of wormy puppies, which was perfect for my photo.

But when I asked about the puppies Ė Where was their mom? How old are they? Where are our usual puppy foster people? Ė I learned that, basically, we donít know about the mom, they really are way too young to be without her, and our puppy foster people are unavailable. Well, I couldnít just exploit them and leave them there; puppies that small donít always make it at this shelter. So I had to take them home, right?

But it took a few days to figure out how to manage them. Or, more specifically, their poop. They had received a dose of dewormer, and they were all suffering from upset tummies Ė most likely a combination of a too-rapid transition from their motherís milk to wet food and the worms dying. So they were pooping machines! And of course, too young to know to poop away from their food or to try to avoid walking through the gooey, sticky poop. Iíve been employing newspaper (useful), shredded paper (less useful), puppy pads (expensive), old towels and sheets (absorbent but makes for a lot of laundry), and wood shavings (my favorite substrate so far), and lots of paper towels for wiping up random messes made when I let them charge around the kitchen floor (super fun) and for wiping off faces and paws after meals, and puppy butts whenever needed.

Iím feeding them four times a day, and will probably be moving that back to three times in another week or so. For the first five days, there was always at least one or two puppies who wouldnít eat one meal or another, and who was looking a tad depressed and lethargic. I gave those puppies straight milk replacer (fortunately, no one got too sick to be interested in lapping that up) and they bounced right back. But each time one sunk a little, ah, my heart!

I donít know how people raise puppies on a regular basis. Oh wait, right, the puppies usually have mothers who clean and feed them. Then I donít know how people foster puppies on a regular basis. Well, actually, if I was to do this regularly, I would invest in more infrastructure, and now I would know how to better manage the puppies daily demands. But I still donít know how someone would manage emotionally . . . for all my complaints, I think itís going to really hurt to send them back to the shelter when they are big enough and old enough to be placed. For now, Iím just trying to enjoy them, and be happy about the fact that it looks like they are all going to make it.

Comments (12)

I also used kitty litter boxes (potting boxes I bought on Amazon), and the puppies learned to use them very quickly, faster for poop than pee. I used two boxes for eight puppies, and there was a tendency for them all to have to go at once, so sometimes it was close to, rather than in, the box. I also used the kitty litter made of recycled newspaper and it worked very well. No one seemed inclined to eat it.
The traditional "puppuppup" call for food still works now, and the pups are six months old! It's a great thing to train them to.
Basically, you have to sleep when the puppies do! Best of luck to all of you.

Posted by: Margaret T | September 18, 2014 10:05 AM    Report this comment

Keep up the good work. Remember when it's 3 am, and you have just stepped in that gooey poo again, that all of this is worth it. Those pups will become well adjusted dogs because they were loved. It's not easy, but nothing worth anything is easy. You are a blessing to these helpless beings, and for that you will be blessed. Now, curl up on the sofa with a pup or 2, you're gonna need a nap!

Posted by: Dogma7 | September 17, 2014 1:46 PM    Report this comment

A friend uses the recycled newspaper type of cat litter for her puppies. Puts it in a paint roller pan.

Posted by: susanschnauzer | September 17, 2014 11:12 AM    Report this comment

Ah, the joys of babies :-)

in my experience fostering ANY baby is as exhausting as mothering a human baby.

Of course the advantage is that puppies, kittens, kids, joeys or magpie chicks DO grow up quicker than human babies :-)

Enjoy while you can :-) You will look back on this experience as wonderful :-)

I hope for you that all the pups find lovng homes :-)

Posted by: Jenny H | September 16, 2014 8:26 PM    Report this comment

Great job! I'm about to retire, and I'm thinking about fostering. I'm not sure how well my cats would take to puppies though. I think my dogs would be fine with it all.

Posted by: 95Genghis | September 16, 2014 7:13 PM    Report this comment

I've got to second the suggestion of wood pellets (type used in horse stalls). I watched a VERY experienced GSP breeder use that for her puppies once they became mobile. She put a drip pan (the type that goes under refrigerators (or used to) down to hold the shavings or pellets. (You might be able to get away with using a metal crate pan.) Kennel-Aire USED to have deeper metal crate pans, once upon a time. Dish pans are too high & usually made out of DYED plastic.

The GSP breeder also set up a "type" of agility course and/or mobile for the puppies. OK (before you think I've LOST my mind) it was very "modifed". She made some PVC pipe into a structure (frame) & hung metal, plastic & wood spoons/ forks from it (like large BBQ utensils). She set up some wooden boxes for the puppies to walk or tunnel thru & climb on TOP of. Even a few very low, A-frame like structures. She also suppled some squeaky toys & those that could be turned ON (to make sounds or move). She made sure to start taking the puppies outside to potty, ASAP starting at 4 weeks. She lead them around the perimeter of her fenced yard. She taught them to COME by calling "puppy, puppy" & throwing some kibble bits on the floor to get them back In the X-pen she was using.

Posted by: Betsy | September 16, 2014 3:37 PM    Report this comment

We foster puppies and we put in a second washer and dryer to handle the enormous amount of laundry. Thank you for saving those puppies!!

Posted by: Olivia | September 16, 2014 2:52 PM    Report this comment

Great job

Posted by: Biggirl | September 16, 2014 11:13 AM    Report this comment

Good job! I'm lucky to have a Super Mom who takes charge of the cleaning....Enjoy the puppy breath, they grow up fast.

Posted by: HerdingTrainer | September 16, 2014 9:57 AM    Report this comment

What exhausting fun! What lucky pups to get to foster with an dog loving expert. I puppy sat 2 of my pup's totally healthy siblings for a couple of days to give them some in-home time while the breeder was away. My house took a hit that I barely noticed and they had me laughing so hard a lot of the time it was hard to do anything else. Silly, active, wonderful fun. I used the wood chips and a tarp for the poo catching. Thank you for taking care of the passel of pups!

Posted by: Chaosbean | September 16, 2014 9:37 AM    Report this comment

I have recently found that litter training puppies using pine (soft wood) pellet horse bedding works extremely well for potty training in the house. It is reasonably priced and you just put it into a suitable sized litter box or shallow plastic type container. The first time I used it I put a slightly used piddle pad on the bottom for scent purposes to train the puppies to go into the box. Once they start using it, cleaning up after them is much easier. It is a natural product and biodegradable and it has a light clean smell to it as well ! ( Works better than shavings as it does not stick to their coat.) You can find it at farm supply stores in some areas. Good Luck with raising and finding homes for this litter.

Posted by: D. F.S. | September 16, 2014 9:25 AM    Report this comment

I love that you are doing this. We rescued a small dog from our neighborhood who was pregnant. Finally tracked her down and caught her. 2 weeks later she had 5 girls. We birthed them 4am and they took over our lives. It is hard to sleep even with a momma there as she didn't want to sleep with them much after the first few weeks. I would have to get up and let her into pen and after clean them up and put them back to bed. Trust me, she did not clean them much;) But what a joy!! We still have her and 2 of her pups, one which came back to us from the adopted parents as they couldn't care for her anymore. We already had 2 other rescues from previously so now we are 5. Great joy though watching them grow hoping hoping hoping they go to good homes. Don't get too discouraged, but it is like having a new baby in the house. Very exhausting. You are the BEST!!

Posted by: marti1234 | September 16, 2014 9:02 AM    Report this comment

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