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Anatomy of A Litter

My wife, Susan, and I like to have a new puppy come into the family approximately every five years.  That formula ensures that we always have a dog at the top of their game.  At the present time, we have a 10 ½ year old male (Dillon) and a five year old female (Dena).   About one year ago, we began discussing a new puppy and where to find this new puppy.  After much discussion, we decided to simply breed Dena.  She’s an outstanding hunting dog and coupled with a good male, we felt she would produce a litter of top-of-the-line future hunters.

We chose a male, Top Gun Prince William, from Top Gun Kennels in Iowa.  Susan and I have been familiar with Top Gun Kennels for many years. Their dogs are highly recognized across the country for their field performance.

Now the hard work begins.  Due to the distance, we chose a chilled semen artificial insemination.  We chose Broadview Veterinary Hospital in Rochester, NH to handle the process.  When Dena came into season, she had to go to Broadview to determine exactly the precise time for breeding.  This involved measuring progesterone levels in her blood multiple times.  When the tests showed it was time, then Top Gun Kennel had to take Prince William to a vet in Iowa to capture the semen.  The semen was then sent in a chilled container by overnight delivery.  At Broadview, the semen was then inseminated to Dena.  This process was done twice.  After four weeks, with fingers crossed, Dena was tested for pregnancy by doing an ultra sound.  The test was positive…we had puppies in our future.  However, we had no idea how many.

At this point, we did a Breeding Announcement which we posted on Facebook.  We also posted a video of Dena’s hunting skills on YouTube.  We quickly had deposits on three puppies.  Considering that we were keeping one, we weren’t sure whether to accept additional deposits.  That concern was eliminated when, on the 62nd day of pregnancy, Dena was x-rayed at Broadview and we were told that she had eight puppies.

A short paragraph on how we selected the buyers.  German short-haired pointer puppies are in great demand.  We’ve had over 80 inquiries about buying a puppy from our litter. There were two decisions we made that help sort through all the inquiries.  We decided we would not ship a puppy; our rule was that a buyer had to be within a day’s drive.  We also had a very carefully constructed questionnaire each applicant had to complete and return.  If they weren’t going to train and hunt their pup, they were not considered as a buyer.  This process gave us seven buyers we are very happy with.

On April 6th, Dena delivered her eight beautiful puppies.  All healthy and squirmy.  Each day, for four weeks, Susan and I weighed them and held them for a few minutes.  We wanted to make sure they were consistently gaining weight and that they had human interaction.

Around the fourth week, Dena was beginning to lose interest in nursing them.  She still did it but not with great enthusiasm.  So, we introduced kibble (soaked in warm water).  There was little hesitation by the puppies…they ate it enthusiastically.  There is one item to consider when introducing puppies to kibble; the mother will no longer clean up all the poop and pee.  Up until that point, the mother keeps the whelping box clean of all puppy poop.  Once she stops, be sure you have a weaning box attached to the whelping box.  The pups will quickly learn to pee and poop in the weaning box.  Of course, that means picking up poop several times a day.

For us, serious poop detail lasted about ten days.  After ten days, we began putting the pups outside three to four times per day.  That began at about five weeks. Introducing the pups to the outdoors dramatically cut down on poop detail.

On the sixth week, we had a puppy party for everyone who had given us a deposit.  Puppy buyers were given a sheet with each puppies litter nickname and they had to give us their preference.  As litter owners, we have first choice.  As of writing this column, we’re in the seventh week and will be making our decision at the end of this week.  All the puppy buyers are anxious for us to choose.  This is very hard since we love every puppy.  We’ll let you know next month which puppy we choose.

Paul Fuller is a lifelong sportsman.  He’s been an outdoor writer since 1971. He’s the host and producer of the award winning Bird Dogs Afield TV show ( and produced the epic video Grouse, Guns & Dogs. Paul shot over his first German short-haired pointer in 1961.

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