Whole Dog Journal's Blog October 27, 2014

Thoughts On (Foster) Puppy-Raising

Posted at 01:54PM - Comments: (17)

I know that all of my blog posts have been about puppies or puppy care or puppy food lately. That’s because I’ve been overrun with puppies since September 10th, when I agreed to foster six too-young puppies that were brought into my local shelter. Taking care of them has been a challenge, because neither my house nor my office was really set up for puppy care (though they are now), and because if you want to raise them right, puppy care and training takes a lot of time and energy. I haven’t spent so much time with so many puppies since I was a little kid; my parents were animal lovers, but they also were also completely inexperienced with and ignorant about the needs of animals and responsible animal care and control, and so we were forever looking for homes for litter after litter of “accidental” puppies.  But despite the investment of time – and money! – I spent on my foster pups, overall it was a great experience, one that underscored quite a few things I’ve learned over the years that I’ve edited Whole Dog Journal. Allow me to share some of the bullet points with you.

  • Good food makes a huge difference. When I got the puppies, they were in rough shape. They had big, round bellies – full of worms. Their coats were rough and aside from the bellies, their body condition was poor. I started them out on really good quality canned food, to which I added puppy formula (milk replacer). When they all developed the inevitable respiratory infections that pretty much all puppies at the shelter come down with, and were started on antibiotics, I added a goat-milk-based probiotic/digestive enzyme supplement (Pro Bloom made by The Honest Kitchen) to their daily regimen. That helped them handle the antibiotics and their poop went from goopy, disgusting messes to nice firm poops within a few days. When they were about 8 weeks old, I started offering them a quality kibble, and left some in their bowl to snack on between the canned-food meals. Of course, the deworming helped, but I think the top-quality food really helped improve their health and coat quality.

(It also cost a small fortune. The canned food I fed them cost $3 a can; they were eating 3-4 cans a day. The Pro Bloom is $24 for 16 packets, and I fed them one packet a day for about a month.)

  • Good “management” gear makes everything easier. I can’t imagine raising puppies without baby gates, exercise pens, and crates to keep them out of stuff they shouldn’t get in and safely enclosed where you want them. I bought one exercise pen on the day I brought the puppies home and it was so helpful I bought another within the week, so I had two safe environments to keep them in. That way, I could release them from one pen and feed them in a clean pen; I’d clean the first pen while they ate, then take them outside to potty and put them back into the first pen.

  • Socialization is critical to raising a well-adjusted dog. These pups were handled by everyone I knew who wanted to meet them. My son and his (young men) friends played with them endlessly. My two-year-old grandson romped NEAR them (but didn’t actually enjoy being mobbed by them, and I was worried about his stepping on one, so they played on opposite sides of the x-pen). My girlfriends stopped by to visit a lot more than usual. A friend brought over her elderly aunt, who used to raise German Shepherd Dogs but now has dementia. She spoke to them in German and had to be physically prevented from bringing one home. I showed everyone how to ask them to sit, and they were reinforced with treats, praise, petting, and attention. Because they had such frequent, varied, and uniformly enjoyable (not stressful) experiences, they readily approached any human confidently, happily, and without going “over the top” with frantic energy.

  • It’s never too early for training. From the beginning, when the pups were just tiny  (they were estimated to be about 4 ½ weeks old when I got them), I rewarded any puppy any time I saw him sitting. I’d bend down and rub him, feed him a little treat (I used tiny cubes of Natural Balance roll or bits of cooked chicken when I had recently made some), or toss him a toy. I’d make eye contact and say “You’re such a good boy!” As a result, by the time they were six weeks old, I could get the entire group to sit quietly and watch me on cue – a feat that did not go unnoticed on the occasions when I took them back to the shelter for vaccinations (and continued deworming – boy, were they full of worms). The veterinary technician who administers most of the healthcare wasn’t surprised by their behavior on these occasions (I have also taught the shelter volunteers how to teach the shelter wards how to sit politely in front of their kennel doors) but she was impressed by the six little guys lined up on the floor of her exam room, waiting their turns for shots (and treats). On the day I brought them to the shelter for neuter surgery, immediately prior to their being made available for adoption, even the shelter director noticed how quietly and calmly they were in the recovery room cages before and after their surgeries; all the rest of the puppies who were being spayed or neutered that day cried and whined and pooped and whirled in the poop in their cages. But “my” pups were used to being crated at night and intermittently for short periods during the day, and were calm (and kept their cages clean).

All of the puppies got adopted very quickly. I agreed to hold one for 10 days past the adoption date because the adopter was going on vacation the day after she met the puppies (a friend heard she was considering getting another dog and brought her to my house), and one of the others for 20 days past the adoption because the adopter, a lovely young woman, was still in escrow on her first home. She has since closed and is moving in and will pick up her puppy this coming weekend, when everything is in place to keep him well-managed. She’s come by to visit with him and is doing a great job of preparing for his care and training. It’s been fun spending time with him on an only-puppy basis – it really sped up his training and good manners to be around only my well-behaved adult dogs this past week, instead of spending 24/7 with another rowdy puppy. I admit I will miss him (and all the puppies), but boy, oh boy, am I looking forward to spending time with ONLY my adult dogs.

Comments (16)

Yep. Puppy foster is a lot of work, and it is YOUR responsibility to help shape those puppies into dogs that will live long, happy lives with their owner.
I have done it a few times (fortunately with only one or two at a time!), and find that the longer I have the puppies, the pickier I get about the owner!

Posted by: MadderScientist | January 31, 2015 9:21 AM    Report this comment

Reading Wingedfoot's October 28 comment, I have a couple of suggestions based on experiences w/ my now 14 month old female shepherd (a rescue, and, sadly, spayed at about 3 1/2 months). We adopted her at approx 4 months old. She came to us with a URI that my vet said was pneumonia, based on her coughing at night, worms and giardia. Needless to say she was on a lot of meds that first month. The pneumonia cleared, but the giardia was persistent, so she had two courses of metronidazole, still very messy poop, notwithstanding boiled chicken and rice. The next fecal check showed a few giardia cysts in her sample and vet wanted to give the metronidazole again. I happened to mention this to my friend, who is a nurse, and her response was that metronidazole is a tremendously potent antibiotic and could be adversely affecting her gut. So I opted not to dose my dog. I added organic yogurt to her kibble (Blue Buffalo Adult sensitive systems, turkey and potato), and some cooked oatmeal instead of rice. Slowly the situation corrected - took several weeks. Next fecal when she had loose stool again a few months later was completely clear. The culprit - a knuckle bone - raw - that she chewed for about 10 minutes!

Now I know her system does not tolerate the high protein, fat and fiber content of puppy kibble and some adult foods - they are too rich, and for large breeds, makes them grow too fast. Thus I have had her on kibble since the age of 5 months that is min 22 % protein, 12% fat, 4-5 % fiber. To that she gets about 8 ounces of beef or organic chicken for training treats. She has grown at a slow, steady pace to 70 lbs at 14 months.

Hope this helps. The thing is, like us, all dogs are different and have their digestive quirks - Good luck!

Posted by: Em | November 2, 2014 6:57 AM    Report this comment

Nancy, congratulations on a job well done, and a very entertaining read.

Posted by: Carolyn M | October 29, 2014 2:40 PM    Report this comment

Re Natural Balance Rolls - they are reformulated.
Sugar is now further down the list. A review of Natural Balance Turkey Formula on Dog Food Advisor lists the 1st ingredients as Turkey, wheat flour, sugar...
This product is reformulated as Duck & Turkey Formula:
Duck, Turkey, Chicken Liver, Pea Protein, Chicken, Dried Egg, Brown Rice Flour, Sugar ...
Following the review on Dog Food Advisor of the old formula are comments from users of both old & new formulas.

Posted by: MonkeyMusic | October 29, 2014 12:58 PM    Report this comment

I would love to see WDJ going back to doing more reviews of dog products again. You used to do many more items, than it seems you do now. While the food reviews are probably the most important, I do often wonder about products I see in catalogs etc. And perhaps a particular emphasis on puppy items or toys might be of interest, after this litter.

While I do NOT think pee/potty pads are a good idea, I cannot tell you how many people (from online reading) are using them, usually with bad results as they seem to generally teach the puppy it is OKAY to "GO" indoors. Puppies do NOT seem to discern the fine-line difference between the pad ON the floor and the floor, when not tightly contained to a very small floor space, with virtually no choice about where to eliminate.

Posted by: Betsy | October 29, 2014 2:24 AM    Report this comment

To Wingedfoot:
My GSD had very loose yellow stools, didn't know that the GSDs are prone to have INSUFFICIENT PANCREATIC ENZYME , Vet will have to prescribe powder to be sprinkled onto food for rest of dog's life, it is DOABLE, but of course expensive!
There is also a test the Vet can do to confirm this problem. If the dog does not get his "artificial" enzymes, he /she will slowly but surely "waste away", all food will just pass thru his system without any benefit.
Other than that , it would be helpful to feed PUMPKIN (can), Probiotics, over the counter enzymes, yoghurt, and digestive aids from places like "Only Natural Pet" Company.
Believe me, I know, for I have a Rottweiler now that gets all that "daily" or his stools are soft.
Good Luck!

Posted by: Bambi's Mom | October 28, 2014 11:29 PM    Report this comment

To Wingedfoot, had the same problem with my 2yr old Dobe rescue. Mushy stools is an understatement, like trying to pick up pudding with a shovel. I agree completely with margeam, could be the chicken. After weeks of chicken and rice diet with very little improvement, I stopped the chicken and all treats with any chicken, also switched from Blue Buffalo(again chicken formula) to Eukanuba Salmon recipe with beet pulp which helps to improve stool firmness. I have also found out that she doesn't handle fiber too well, it seems to trigger an irritable bowel situation. Whenever I see her poops getting a little softer than should be, I give her a couple of doses of 21st Century Anti Diarrhea Liquid with Kaolin & Pectin (think I got it at Petsmart), it gets her right back on track. One other thing, after she eats she goes into her crate for at least a 1/2 to keep her quiet while she begins digesting. Don't know if that helps or not, but it doesn't hurt. Remember 2 things, make any changes in food very slowly, and the price of the food you buy doesn't make it the best for Your dog, I bought small bags of food to try until I found what began to work for Nikki. Hang in there, it's a lot of trial and error, but you'll find out what works for your pup, Good Luck.

Posted by: Dobewankinobe | October 28, 2014 9:29 PM    Report this comment

So much fun to read about the puppies. Now, every time I'm tempted to adopt one, I'm reminded of how much work it is! I would love to have another dog that I've raised from a puppy with a blank slate but they ARE a lot of work and all this brings to mind the reason that so many dogs end up in shelters---most people are not prepared for what is involved in raising a well adjusted, well mannered baby dog (let alone six!). Thank you for getting this litter off to a good start!

Posted by: PJKutscher | October 28, 2014 3:25 PM    Report this comment

Surrounded by puppies - what a treat! Loved your excellent tips on puppy care. Wondering if you could address sugar in dog foods? I trusted Natural Balance Limited Ingredients for my severe allergy dog and it worked. But Natural Balance rolls have sugar as one of top ingredients??? I guarantee my dogs would eat meat rolls without the sugar. So why is it an ingredient in any dog food?

Posted by: SundogsHawaii | October 28, 2014 2:51 PM    Report this comment

Surrounded by puppies - what a treat! Loved your excellent tips on puppy care. Wondering if you could address sugar in dog foods? I trusted Natural Balance Limited Ingredients for my severe allergy dog and it worked. But Natural Balance rolls have sugar as one of top ingredients??? I guarantee my dogs would eat meat rolls without the sugar. So why is it an ingredient in any dog food?

Posted by: SundogsHawaii | October 28, 2014 2:51 PM    Report this comment

Wingedfoot a couple of things come to mind about your puppy's loose stool. First, was he checked for coccidia? Second, if he has been declared free of coccidia, are you feeding the same food he was fed at the shelter? I have an 11 month old GSP who almost always has had anywhere from a soft stool to a loose stool except when he has been reduced to chicken and rice. Turns out it was the food I was feeding him. I have completely switched him to a different food and his stools are nice and firm now. He was parasite free, although I hadn't had him tested for coccidia, which is a separate test. I had also tried Forti-Flora (probiotic), which usually clears up diarrhea or a loose stool in a couple of days, but it didn't help either. Since he is at an age where he is old enough to come off puppy food and I decided to change foods.

Posted by: czygsps4me | October 28, 2014 12:58 PM    Report this comment

The early spay and neuter policy of puppies is the reason I don't get shelter dogs from rescue groups or shelters. They used to require a refundable deposit now its standard practice to alter the puppies in total disregard for their long term health.

Posted by: addictedtolabs | October 28, 2014 12:09 PM    Report this comment

Note to Wingedfoot:
Your dog may have a food allergy, possibly to chicken or to grain(s).
I had a similar goopy-stool problem when I purchased my miniature Australian Shepherd puppy in 2011. The breeder had been feeding him chicken-rice kibble, which I continued to feed him. He had goopy stools when I got him, and the vet prescribed something that did indeed firm up the stools -- for five days! I concluded that he was not tolerating the food (i.e., he was allergic to something in it). So I immediately switched to Natural Balance Limited Ingredient kibble (no chicken in any form; they make Venison, Fish, Lamb, and Buffalo kibble) and his stool firmed up within two days. Subsequent accidental "tests" of his ingesting chicken or chicken based treats proved that he indeed could not tolerate chicken in any form. I have mostly kept him on the Natural Balance kibble with occasional changes to other brands of canned dog food and kibbles that do not have ANY form of chicken or chicken meal or chicken fat. I also added Fresh Digest which I sprinkle over his canned food as an additional aid to digestion and firm stools.

Posted by: margeam | October 28, 2014 10:27 AM    Report this comment

Wingedfoot - Our female mini aussie was ill a few weeks ago. She would not eat and had bloody diarrhea. The vet put her on the Metronidazole, and gave her a probiotic for 10 days. She was fine after that. Her test were negative for parasites, and giardia. Try a good probiotic (ask vet) and see with that will help with the bowel problem.

Posted by: Patriciag | October 28, 2014 10:22 AM    Report this comment

Our dog is a 9 month old Golden Retriever mix (German Shepard, we think). He's a rescue dog. Ever since coming to us his stools have been more or less "goopy". During his initial vet checkout, we were given a prescription for Metronidazole. He's on his 3rd refill with minimal change in his bowel movements. In July, while still in the shelter system, he was found to have Parasites (hookworms) and was treated for same. When our vet performed his initial check-up in early September, including a fecal check, no worms were found. He does not have a big round belly. Not sure what to do about his continuing mushy stool issue. Suggestions from anyone? Thank you.

Posted by: wingedfoot | October 28, 2014 9:45 AM    Report this comment

I puppy sat the siblings of my new pup for a single overnight while the breeder had a clinic for grown up dogs (she didn't want the puppies to feel neglected with all the hubbub) and found it daunting so your weeks of dedication deeply impress me. We had so much fun with the puppies though and it is a fun memory to enjoy while my now grown, fully trained dogs wander about majestically (or floppily depending on who is doing the wandering about). Puppyhood doesn't last long in reality but lingers in the memory for a very long time. Thanks for getting those pups started in life in a positive way.

Posted by: Chaosbean | October 28, 2014 9:02 AM    Report this comment

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