You have no idea what you’re in for. I hear ya, you read all the books and watched all the DVDs, maybe you’ve even delivered human babies. You still have no idea what you’re in for. People think it’s two months of roly poly puppies full of adorableness, and that part is wonderful, but there’s more to it than puppy breath.
Preparing for the Breeding
They make it sound so easy, what with progesterone tests and vaginal cell smears. “Just wait for the progesterone peak and two days later you should breed her.” You’ll be constantly worried that you missed her progesterone peak and wonder, hmmm, spend money on a probably unnecessary test or sooth my worried brain? When did she come in? Why is this taking so long? So you do the test and it’s a big fat “not yet.” Ugh. You’ll email the stud dog owner every other day with meaningless updates as you try to figure out when to drop your leave chit at work so you can roadtrip to the stud. If you’re breeding her to an in-house male you don’t have to worry. Yet.
Your female will not enjoy this, in fact she might hate it. It’s not something that dogs do for fun and it’s painful for the female so she’ll probably whine or even shriek with pain. There’s also the chance that they just won’t be into each other, and some males have lousy libidos. If they do tie she’ll probably try to get away and might even try to bite him — this strange dog is hurting her in strange ways! Since that would be really painful for the male you are the cruel person who whispers sweet nothings while restraining her. It can be traumatizing for both of you. And you get to do it three times over the next few days. You’ll feel like a terrible person.
You bred her, woohoo! But, is she pregnant? You won’t know this until halfway through the pregnancy and even then there’s the chance of fetal reabsorption. There’s also the possibility that she didn’t take and it was all a false pregnancy. Skip the ultrasound and get an X-ray a week before her due date so you know how many puppies should be born. I say should because she could miscarry or have stillborn puppies. This sounds all gloom and doom but the worry is real!
Oh em gee, your bitch made it full-term and is showing signs of labor! Rent a few movies and order takeout, this could take a while. You’ll think she’s about to start pushing and then she’ll take a nap. Chances are she’ll keep you guessing for two days before finally starting real labor at 4am after you’ve been awake for 36 hours. This is actually the scariest part because you want to help but you’re not quite sure how to do it safely. Don’t pull to hard or you might hurt the puppy, but don’t wait too long or they might suffocate. Has it been too long between puppies? What do I DO???? This is when you freak out if you don’t have an experienced person with you.
First Two Weeks
You thought it was going to be easy sailing after they were born, but no. For the first two weeks puppies can’t regulate their own body temperature, see, or hear and they need to eat every 1-2 hours. Even though you’ve been up for 48 hours you’re going to hover over the whelping box making sure nobody gets accidentally suffocated, they’re warm but not too warm, and holding puppies up to the nipple every 10min. Now you’re a helicopter parent who obsessively checks the heating pad and critically examines how mom jumps in the whelping box to see if you can make it safer somehow. You’ll fret over the runt, making sure they’re still alive every chance you get and holding them up to the nipple every 2min just in case. Are you sure you’re not hungry? Buy a webcam because eventually you do need to return to your day job or at least leave the house, but this way you can spy on them.
This part is sad — these are your babies! It’s also terrible because as soon as one puppy leaves the others realize that the group dynamic has changed, and they start fighting viciously. This will scare the crap out of you in addition to being highly inconvenient, so it’s best to have them all picked up on the same day. After the last puppy leaves you’ll feel like a bear coming out of hibernation as you ease back into “normal” life and wonder how to fill your suddenly empty days. Even though you once thought “I wish I could keep them all!” now you’ll be thinking “phew, glad that’s over.” Six months later you might find yourself thinking you want to do it again.
My point is that your first litter is going to be trial by fire, probably much like having your first human baby. Now I understand why so many breeders are retired or don’t work outside the home! Is it a ton of work? Yep. Is it worth it? Yes! It’s a wonderful privilege to watch your puppies develop from birth and know that you had a hand in creating these amazing little creatures.